Yunior García: "I discovered another Cuba that they didn't teach me in school, and I still fear for my life"

Playwright García Aguilera, alias 'Yunior', generates tension in the Cuban government and discrepancies on his arrival in Spain
Thousands of Cubans took part in protests against the communist government

AFP/YAMIL LAGE  -   Thousands of Cubans took part in protests against the communist government

On 27 November 2020, more than 500 Cuban artists and intellectuals publicly demonstrated outside the Ministry of Culture in Havana in protest at the arrest of several dissidents from the San Isidro Movement. As a result of this episode and the mobilisations on 15 November to call for a Civic March for change on the island, the 39-year-old Cuban playwright and writer Yunior García Aguilera created the citizens' platform Archipiélago. He takes on board the discrepancies he has provoked on arriving in Spain. At the end of the interview, Yunior wants to bear witness to the fall of the myth of a revolutionary ideal of equity and social support, as well as the need to leave his son a better country from which he has been banished, without forgetting the precarious public health, despite the exploitation of medical missions abroad, who have to pay 80% of their salary back to the government.

Yunior García

Do you consider yourself an emblem of the peaceful opposition on the island from an artistic point of view?

I am an artist who is beginning to think like a citizen. My works are now banned. I have done what my conscience dictated to me, despite the negative consequences of this change in my life. Not only for me, once I arrived in Madrid, but for my whole family. I am the driving force behind the Plataforma Archipiélago, a plural platform with more than 30,000 members, where the least important thing is to feel right-wing or left-wing. The main thing is to have a commitment to democracy and to recover spaces for fundamental rights in Cuba. After my departure, many Cubans were disappointed to think that my activism was intrinsically linked to obtaining a visa. My aim is to unite all dissidents under the same umbrella. To change reality peacefully.

At what point in your life do you question the Cuban system?

In Cuba, we were all indoctrinated by the regime from an early age. We had an oath: "We will be communists like Ché!!!". And every morning in front of our school classrooms, we shouted that slogan. I discovered another Cuba that I wasn't taught in primary school, thanks to censored literature that you don't see in bookshops and libraries. Knowledge, through reading, makes you free, makes you aware. In 2003, with the Black Spring and the arrest of 75 detractors to the system, my life took a 180-degree turn. The inculcated myth vanished before my eyes. I needed to get involved in a new reality to transport to art. I was very critical in my plays. I needed to act on a civic level.

Can you explain what is the concept and meaning of the new Archipelago Platform?

The young people of the San Isidro Movement formed a symbol of peaceful resistance. In Damas Street, in the San Isidro neighbourhood, Cuban security forces attacked them on 26 November 2020, and the next day, some 500 artists decided to protest in front of the Ministry of Culture. The Archipiélago Platform, virtual and chaired by me, announced a Civic March, scheduled for 20 November 2021, but the repressive Cuban authorities rushed it to 15 November. The government declared the 20th as National Defence Day. Our interest was peaceful, and it was not our aim to confront the military. For all these reasons, we brought the March forward to the 15th, and I was the victim of acts of repudiation. 

Un hombre es detenido durante una manifestación contra el Gobierno del presidente cubano Miguel Díaz-Canel en La Habana, el 11 de julio de 2021
AFP/YAMIL LAGE - A man is detained during a demonstration against the government of Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel in Havana, on July 11, 2021.

European and American dissidents allude to a very characteristic way of proceeding on the part of State Security: engendering personal discredit, even suspicion between one and the other. Could it be that this situation is the success of the Cuban Revolution?

It is an intelligent way of keeping quiet because silence is the death of the activist and the success of a dictatorship. The regime has tentacles everywhere. I have been privileged, having left Cuba 17 times. And, now, I could not go back. I would serve 30 years in Combinado del Este. For the agents of the Cuban government, all activists are members of the CIA. They said that I was trained by Felipe González. I can only laugh. Any dissident is harassed, threatened, discredited. Last 11 July 2021 we decided to go in front of the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television. In this protest, we were thrown into a truck of rubble and, from there, into jail, not to mention the detention of minors. It is quite possible that I am being watched here in Madrid. For security reasons, I am not revealing my address or my personal mobile phone number.

When will there be another day of demonstrations against the dictatorship in Cuba? 

It is difficult to predict, but I bet they will take place, because we are witnessing the worst economic situation in the last 25 years, plus a high incidence rate of COVID, despite official figures that mask the reality. 

Manifestantes contra el Gobierno cubano (I) se enfrentan a miembros de los Proud Boys, incluyendo al líder Henry "Enrique" Tarrio (R), durante una protesta en Miami el 11 de julio de 2021
AFP/EVA MARIE UZCATEGUI - Protesters against the Cuban government (L) clash with members of the Proud Boys, including leader Henry "Enrique" Tarrio (R), during a protest in Miami on July 11, 2021.

Can you give me an update on the outcome of the trial of the Toyo protesters, and what news has reached you from there?

Since I arrived in Spain, I have been in contact with Cuba until five in the morning every day of my life. Between 31 January and 7 February, the trial of the Toyo demonstrators took place, for alleged sedition, where six minors will face sentences of up to seven years in prison. The right to demonstrate does not exist in Cuba. This was demonstrated during the demonstrations of 11 July last year and after 15 November; therefore, the government does not deserve the seat it occupies in the United Nations. I proposed, through the Archipelago Platform which, as I repeat, I lead, to march alone, carrying a white rose on 14 November, and 200 security people, disguised as neighbours, surrounded me in order to repudiate me. A few days before, I found two decapitated pigeons in my house, in a clear warning to my wife and me that if we continued to insist on the demonstrations, they would kill us. I am outraged that MEPs in Brussels refer to a representative democracy in my country.

Carmen Chamorro García, CIP and ACPE director