By Virgilio Toledo López
On Saturday, January 9, 2010, they purified Pinar del Rio. Not from the filth flowing everywhere from a broken sewer onto the streets of our city, which I thought would have been easier, but from the impurities that generate so much arbitrariness, violence and intolerance, which I thought would have been more difficult. But I was wrong, to my delight. All it took was the sensitivity of an artist, Yamili Perez, the simplicity of a yoga teacher, Sergio Abel Suarez, and the dreams of a young poet, Maikel Iglesias, who decided to share their art with their people through a performance.
In almost every corner of the world this would be commonplace, indeed, it would almost pass unnoticed, because not being “famous” actors, the media was not hounding them, and this performance would not be news. But in Cuba –alas!– in Cuba — how this hurts! — many repressive forces, many institutions, many people, even the Minister of Culture, “worried” about this performance. And it didn’t end there. They summarily “directed” the Provincial Directorate of Culture to suspend all cultural activities in the city and prepare for “countermeasure” acts in Independence Park and Bailina Park, places the artists had chosen to express themselves.
Yes, you read that right: the full force of the repressive apparatus of a regime to counteract the art of three people. Yamili, Sergio and Maikel were barraged with warnings and threats. But they stood firm with the strength that comes from logic and reason, “We just want to share art with our community.”
Why so afraid? Why interpret it any other way? Well, they not only interpreted it another way, but they repressed it, disproportionately and violently. They screamed accusations at them — that they were mercenaries, that they were not Cubans, that . . . they even beat Sergio with an umbrella, knocking him to his knees next to Yamili, opposite the Palace of Justice in Pinar del Rio, How ironic! A few minutes earlier they had kidnapped Maikel on the porch at Yamili’s house, from where they were going to leave to create their art, to interact with people. What kind of justice is that . . . ! Well yes, the justice becomes the sum of the injustices it seeks to control everything, even the slightest exercise of citizens’ freedom and sovereignty, which is so extreme to undermine our culture and identity, which remains unperturbed by this anthropological and cultural genocide that Cubans live.
Fortunately for Pinar del Rio, for the Cuban people, we have an advantage over Abraham, the father of the faithful, who in his bargaining with God to save Sodom, only had one. Here there are three righteous, enough to save Cuba.
God bless you, Yamili, Sergio and Maikel, for purifying us, for saving us. History and The Always Right, The Immovable, will reward you.
Ing. Virgilio Toledo (Pinar del Río, b. 1966)
Member of the Editorial Board of the journal Convivencia (Coexistence)
Prize essay 2006 Herald competition