Reynier Leyva Novo
Coco Fusco: In your opinion, what are the most important aspects of the November 27th protests?
Reynier Leyva Novo: The most important thing for me is the protest itself. In Cuba there is no culture of protest against the government or outside the state. This civic culture ended, paradoxically, in 1959, when the Cuban Revolution triumphed. The protest emerged as an imagined possibility for Cubans who for decades have been silent or protesting quietly within their homes, so that the Big Brother would not hear them. After the police raid on the headquarters of the San Isidro Movement, people felt deep indignation and decided to take to the street. At first, there were only 30 of us outside the Ministry of Culture, but within a few hours there were more than 300 people united by a common idea: freedom. Freedom of expression, freedom to dissent, freedom of association. That day people began to think differently and turn their thinking into action. It was important that our demands extended beyond the sphere of art. We have civic demands that spoke to our basic rights as citizens, which are the rights of all, not of a privileged minority. Artists and intellectuals in Cuba in the last 60 years have rarely taken on that responsibility.
What do you think of the current situation in Cuba with regard to the 27N movement?
27N definitely opened a door. The government seems destabilized, it seems to be casting stones everywhere, looking for an enemy or misguidedly creating one. The government doesn’t seem to be able to face this historical moment and doesn’t seem to have concrete answers to our demands. Or perhaps they don’t want to have answers, which would be worse. The truth is that people saw the light. It is sad that a government does not listen to the legitimate demands of its citizens. The 27N movement is an energy that lives in many Cubans on and off the island. It is an energy that extends beyond our borders.
What are the artistic projects that have been created by 27N that represent the group’s efforts at raising awareness?
The 30 representatives that were appointed by consensus on the night of the protest to meet with officials at the Ministry of Culture have formed a heterogeneous alliance that seeks to give shape to the spirit of social justice that crystallized on November 27. Since several of the protesters have been harassed by police, we have directed our creative actions toward social networks. Artistic projects are being generated through open calls for people to join from digital platforms. One example is the “video reconstruction” of the 27N, in which people are asked to explain in 40 seconds why they went to the November 27 protest. The idea is to create a collective memory of the demonstration from the participants’ point of view. The San Isidro Movement has invited people to join a collective whistle every night at an appointed time. For another #challenge (#IpayIsavings) people are invited to turn off the television when the National Television Newsletter (NTV) is on to protest the defamation campaign against the protesters, and also in reaction to the steep rise in electricity prices in Cuba. I called from my Instagram and Facebook pages for people to brush their teeth in public with the slogan of #noaladifamasion and #caretakuverb. Another poetic action was carried out by poet Katherine Bisquet and visual artist Camila Lobón. After being subjected to house arrest for 13 days, they painted the following text on a bed sheet—“13 days of deprivation of illegal liberty. We have the right to express ourselves freely”—and hanged it from the top of a building. 27N is creating a fresh and colorful graphic campaign in response to urgent issues such as house arrests, the criminalization of free thought, and the government’s baseless claims that independent creators and journalists work for the CIA. While the government represses with violence, we respond with creativity, intelligence, and culture.