It is common to think that culture is one of the sectors less affected by the US economic blockade.That is a false perception. The blockade is a reality that tremendously affects us although that is an understatement. Let us begin with something so simple like musical instruments,theatre equipment , school materials the art teaching… We could buy them in the United States, but the blockade does not allow it; we have to invest a lot more money to acquire them in faraway markets.
It also affects the presentation and promotion of our artists. Those who travel to the United States go as part of cultural exchanges, with many limitations. For example, they cannot receive payment for their performances, only meals. All the US artists who want to come to Cuba are subjected to approval and licenses. Not all of them can come. The possibility for thousands of US tourists to come to Cuba to enjoy what distinguishes us the most which is not our beaches nor our weather, but culture, is also denied.
Is the historical cultural dialogue between the two peoples affected?
Of course. Here, the best of US literature was always read and is still read; the best music was and is still listened to; the best of that country's cinema as well as the worst by the way is also watched. Some are afraid that 'avalanche' will bury the national culture; I am convinced that our culture is very strong; it can stand that onslaught and can benefit from the best of that mixture. In the same way, the US culture could benefit much more from our contributions if the relationship were normalized.
Some Cuban artists live abroad, what is the policy towards them?
It is inclusive; it has to do with the inclusive vision of our culture. More than a few artists abandoned the country for economic or personal reasons; they have the doors open. Beyond the right they have to come back to Cuba as citizens, they can also access the cultural spaces here. There are some examples. They have sung and performed again for their audience, to receive the encouragement of the nation.
Of course, living abroad is not a merit nor a discredit. The quality of the work is important. We welcome them with open arms, as long as they do not quit the spirit of this people and do not ignore their commitment of more than half a century, in order to achieve as much social justice as possible. The biggest economic and military world power of all times is 90 miles away. That power blocks us and tries to isolate us. Those effects cannot be ignored.
So,when people say about Cuban culture being just one, no matter where its creators live, is it just a phrase?
The bases of Cuban culture are in Cuba – that is obvious. They are in the everyday life of this people. The Cuban who travels around the world, who resides in any country carries with him or her that immense legacy – whether wanting it or not. There are many artists who travel as part of their careers; they present in international venues; they experience other realities; they live abroad for periods of time. Cuban culture has nurtured them from their formative years. Think about our great artists, the indispensable: Alicia Alonso, Wifredo Lam, Alejo Carpentier, Benny Moré, Virgilio Piñera, Rosita Fornés, Chano Pozo, Vicente Revuelta. They lived in other countries and it is evident that their work is authentically Cuban.
How is the relationship between the artist and the institutions in Cuba? How much can the institutions establish limits on creation?
The artist is a person with a particular sensitivity; a capacity to do things that touch you. The institution has to clearly bear that in mind. They have to try to offer the artist the necessary conditions to do their job and guarantee the audience can have access to the result of that work; because it is there where the creation circle closes.
Creative freedom is guaranteed in Cuba. It is enough to see what appears in the theatres, what is published and exhibited at the galleries. The reality of this country is very complex. And that reality, with all its aspects, is up on the stage. Artists are covering an extremely wide spectrum from an outstanding conceptual, aesthetic and metaphorical height. Art is not just a decoration; it is transgressor, irreverent, polemic. It can call attention to certain situations. Of course, it does not necessarily have to solve those problems.
Most Cuban writers and artists make a kind of art that is committed to Cuba's reality and its people. And the institutions support them; they do not tell them what they have to do.