Blacklisted in 21st Century Cuba

Lynn Cruz

HAVANA TIMES — I have been witness to the most absurd experience in my life as an actress. I only had testimonies of actors such as Pancho Garcia, Rolen Hernandez and Mirian Munoz as a reference from the well-known “Five Grey Years” (a period of witch hunts, persecuting intellectuals, artists, homosexuals, religious people and followers in the ‘70s),. I always saw these things as events in the past, but reality surpasses the imagination.

As I explained in previous posts, I was recently expelled from the state-led agency Actuar for arbitrary reasons. The agency’s director, Jorge Luis Frias, carried out the measure without taking into account the fact that he was violating the clauses of my artistic representation contract, which I have had with this company for over 10 years, by blindly obeying his superiors.

Taking the Labor Ministry’s advice, I filed a written complaint. People at the Human Resources department, where Actuar’s Labor Justice Committee (OJL) resides, were very nice to me. Everyone was surprised about my situation and couldn’t understand why Frias wouldn’t tell me the reasons for my expulsion. I was also dumbfounded.  Even when I suspected what the reasons were, I refuse to take part in this nonsense.

I left them with a copy of the letter which explained what had happened. Frias has committed two violations. First of all, he canceled my contract without waiting the established 30-day period to tell the worker why this company has decided to revoke the contract. Secondly, he went behind my back and colluded with the International Film School of San Antonio del Los Banos’ management, who knew about the measure before I was told anything and it prevented me from attending a workshop that I have worked at for the past six years as an actress.

Last week, I received a call from the OJL secretary to tell me that Friday April 20th, they would meet with me to answer my complaint. I arrived at the agreed time, however, I had to wait because the OJL boss was running late. He arrived wearing shorts and flip flops. The assembly began ten minutes later. Approximately 15 people attended.

Frias coldly admitted that he had violated my contract and the solution he offered was to reopen the contract for 30 days and then decide to revoke it again. A completely insane idea. Basically, the procedure they were using with me was the most similar to the labor trials that took place in theaters in the ‘70s.

I saw myself wearing a scarf on my head, or like Mirtha Ibarra in Hasta Cierto Punto, a Tomas Gutierrez Alea movie. I had to keep myself from smiling in the face of so much nerve and absurdity. I wouldn’t call it a lack of respect as that would be taking it too seriously.

Everyone who had treated me nicely before fell into the situation. Most people were offended because Frias, like a programmed robot, said: “She has been expelled for her protests online against the people who govern this country.”

I looked over all my assessment papers as an actress, my work contracts and it didn’t say that an artist had to be a hypocrite and dishonest anywhere. It doesn’t say in writing that an artist has to stop being free to say what to think. Everyone who was gathered there to judge my case abused and ignored the fact that their wages depend on artists work and the funds generated.

It’s even more twisted when it comes from a company that has apparently been “representing” me all this time yet hasn’t sought out a single job for me. These offices have become just another part of our bureaucracy, which has nothing to do with the reality of actors living in Cuba. Actors’ work depends on the rules of the market. Every co-production that is processed via these companies give large sums of hard currency to the country and they take a 7% cut out of our personal wages. This is what really sustains the bureaucrats who were incriminating me. 

I was assisting a blacklisting assembly in the middle of such an ambiguous reality. A system which doesn’t have its values defined. A veiled market economy, without a truly structural change which at least articulates a coherent discourse. More than making me sad, it made me feel like I was inside a madhouse. But, it’s better to watch the video for yourselves.

Lynn Cruz

It's not art that imitates life, its life that imitates art," said Oscar Wilde. And art always goes a step further. I am an actress and writer. For me, art, especially writing, is a way of exorcising demons. It is something intimate. However, I decided to write journalism because I realized that I did not exist. In Cuba, only the people authorized by the government have the right to express themselves publicly. Havana Times is an example of coexistence within a democracy and since I consider myself a democrat, my dream is to integrate this publication’s philosophy into the reality of my country.

3 thoughts on “Blacklisted in 21st Century Cuba

  • April 29, 2018 at 9:04 am
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    Blacklisting artísts based on their political beliefs is not new to Cuba. McCarthyism is the US reflects our own vulnerability to out-of-control political correctness. The only lasting solution to this problem is market competition. Tragically, for artists in Cuba, this solution is only available to the most famous and already successful artists.

    Reply
    • May 3, 2018 at 10:05 pm
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      Moses, I presume that you are referring to artists of international standard for example Frank Fernandez and Alicia Alonso. If so, you will know that they have had financial rewards far in excess of those of 98% of Cubans and have cow-towed with the Castros for decades. Fernandez has been rewarded by writing the music for the TV channels and only recently performed in Venezuela, raising his clenched fist upon completion of his performance. Alonso fawned upon and was fawned upon by Fidel and has the theatre named after her.
      Their behaviour does not prevent me from admiring their talents or their achievements. Both have made major contributions to Cuba. But I question whether they would have achieved such levels within Cuba if they had not supported the regime.

      Reply
  • May 3, 2018 at 9:52 pm
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    The very interesting and in my view significant comment in Lynn Cruz’s article is:

    “She has been expelled for her protests online against the people who govern this country.”

    Here is evidence that the communist regime does indeed monitor the Internet and with that, the Havana Times. Contributors should note! Communism will not tolerate opinions which run contrary to Marxist/Leninist philosophy, it is intolerant by its very nature. Freedom of thought and expression of individual opinion are anathema to the communist dictatorial system. which is dependent upon absolute power and control.

    Reply

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