A controversial new decree threatens to derail a thriving cultural scene in Havana. Gallo is a professor at Princeton University. The decree requires artists to obtain government approval before performing or displaying their work, while also regulating the artwork itself. During a recent meeting with high-ranking cultural officials, a group of artists cautioned against a regression to a form of censorship that has not been seen in Cuba for decades. One of the most eloquent voices against the decree has been that of Mr.
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A controversial new decree threatens to derail a thriving cultural scene in Havana. Gallo is a professor at Princeton University. The decree requires artists to obtain government approval before performing or displaying their work, while also regulating the artwork itself.
During a recent meeting with high-ranking cultural officials, a group of artists cautioned against a regression to a form of censorship that has not been seen in Cuba for decades. One of the most eloquent voices against the decree has been that of Mr. Arrufat, an year-old poet, playwright and novelist who has lived through the ups and downs of the Cuban Revolution. In the end the censor will be forgotten and the work will live on. In the aftermath of the scandal, Mr.
Arrufat lost his job at a Havana theater and no press or journal would publish his work until he was rehabilitated in the s. During this time, Heberto Padilla , a poet and friend of Mr. The Padilla affair, as the case became known, led many staunch supporters of the revolution — including the author and Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa — to break with the Castro regime. The effects of these restrictive policies were disastrous for Cuba: The vibrant cultural scene sparked by the revolution of collapsed as dozens of writers, including many of Mr.
Abroad, news of the ill treatment suffered by figures like Mr. Arrufat, Mr. Padilla and later Reinaldo Arenas darkened the image of Cuba. The nation went from being hailed as a center of creative freedom and experimentation — as it had been in the early s, when Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Allen Ginsberg flocked to Havana — to being denounced for its oppressive bureaucracy and mistreatment of artists.
The tide began to turn for Mr. Arrufat and other blacklisted artists in the s with the rise of Abel Prieto, a poet from a well-connected family who headed an influential, state-run publishing house and eventually rose to the position of minister of culture in the s.
Prieto undertook the project of rehabilitating figures who had been marginalized in the s. In Mr. My books were withdrawn from libraries across the country. But I kept on writing because that is the one thing they could not take away from me. A new kind of cultural tourism has developed — foreign art collectors, literary agents and television and film crews are flocking to Cuba in search of new talent.
Today, Cubans enjoy a degree of freedom of expression that astonishes many visitors: Plays and films deal overtly with politics, sexuality, censorship and other topics that in the past would have gotten figures like Mr. Arrufat in trouble. Arrufat has also benefited from this wave of newfound artistic freedom. And in , Mr. Arrufat opened his own cultural center, the Ateneo de La Habana, in an elegant mansion that the government had put at his disposal. He has been entirely free to create his own eclectic cultural program, which includes poetry readings, painting exhibits, book presentations and panel discussions with visiting academics.
Arrufat has decried Decree as opening the door to the type of censorship he experienced in the s. Arrufat said. In theory, inspectors would have the power to shut down a poetry reading at Mr. Though Mr. The authorities must reconsider their outdated attempt at cultural regulation — just as they recently reconsidered a series of widely opposed new regulations against entrepreneurs — lest they destroy one of the most vibrant, sophisticated and creative sectors of Cuban society, one that has brought the country international prestige as well as much-needed hard cash.
The new government has a clear interest in breaking away from the old Cuban tradition of censorship. As recent decades have shown, Cuba thrives most when its artists are left alone to do their work. Carpenter Jr.
ANTON ARRUFAT PDF
Arrufat, whose punishment was to clean the library for six months, is gay. This public rehabilitation is visible as well in the palatial salon-cum-residence to which he was recently assigned, just off the Prado, where he welcomed us one January day. I had come with two translators, one Cuban, one American. Waving from a balcony amid the bougainvillea, Arrufat seemed especially spritely—for a man past eighty—when only moments later he unlatched the downstairs door for us.
Is This the End of Cuba’s Astonishing Artistic Freedom?