We, the contraventores
"There is no law that supports us, at least with the musical distribution. In that world there is no such thing as being able to stay underground for a long time, "the director of a Cuban independent music label explained to me a few months.
It referred to the border wall that divides the state sector linked to music, with all the guarantees and legal rules in its favor, of another at risk and account, independent, and that even without legal personality or current accounts or licenses of some kind, exhibits operating models with greater efficiency and adaptability.
Right there, in the dividing line that marks that wall, is it resolved? that is today´s Cuban fight against the demons of criminalization and censorship in the field of art.
Decree 349, published in the Official Gazette on July 10, can be qualified as a border rule between administrative and criminal law. It stipulates what from its implementation, on December 7, will be considered violations of the cultural policy of the Cuban State that do not amount to crimes (hence its name "softened" of contraventions); its levels of seriousness and the measures that a group of officials and inspectors of the Ministry of Culture will have the authority to apply to offenders.
As regards the provision of artistic services and their remuneration, these are prohibited when they have not been approved and contracted. "by the corresponding cultural institution ". The figure of managers or representatives is also penalized "Without official authorization", and the cultural activity of artists who are not professionalized in schools or by state agencies.
It will also be contraventions to market books "with harmful content to ethical and cultural values", perform "abusive use of electronic devices or means", to commercialize plastic arts "without the corresponding authorization ", among others similar.
Regarding cultural policy, the use of audiovisual media with sexist, misogynistic, vulgar, obscene, violent, pornographic, discriminatory or any other content that infringes will be considered a violation "the normal development of our society in cultural matters".
This is inaccurate and ambiguous in all cases.
In Cuba, where there have been informal networks of production, distribution and cultural consumption for some time -some with truly successful models and dynamics-, this is a key moment for defining the paths to follow, in order to raise the possible links between the state sector and the rest of the management forms.
Until today, the first steps leave much to be desired. The very fact that most requests for interviews in this regard have been rejected, because "we prefer to stay on the sidelines" or "I do not think that affects me", "I do not know what my opinion could give", highlights the apprehension generated before a more restrictive future and the most logical option that many have found in pursuit of survival is to remain low profile. The beards, soaking.
In a scenario in which many cultural projects -of different nature and in a wide amalgam of talent and artistic values- suffer from the absence of positive legislation; criminalization, both administrative and political, should be the last step in the construction of a full of scheme cultural management.
There is not yet a public registry of independent filmmakers in Cuba, nor are they clearly defined or transparent, as we know, the alternatives for non-academically trained natural talent in music, a field in which there are more and more relevant artists they did not go through schools. There is no legally recognized a way for independent record labels to license their works, which is the first step to introduce them in the large distribution platforms outside the country. Nor is there a totally legal way for musicians to decide the person they want as a manager, outside the representation agencies. (Managers are called support staff in the templates of state companies to which the artists they represent belong). The process of professionalization of artists has as many faults today as there were apples in La Puntilla, crossed by that systemic shadow that is corruption. Because where there is no clarity, there is, or can sneak in, a cat locked.
That is to say, we think that an inclusive process is far from being concluded, through which a space for independent creation and the most spontaneous manifestations of art and culture in our society will be granted.
Before the release of a decree like 349, the debate and the dialogue with those involved have been lacking, a negotiation that pursues the true purpose of the laws in a society where they must represent the will of the citizens. At least, among the sources questioned, nobody realized that this process had taken place.
That debate is absent and incoherently in the midst of a broad popular consultation on the aspects to be modified of the current Constitution in Cuba. In the project that for these months is discussed among the population, it is established, with regard to the educational, scientific and cultural policy (subsection h of article 95), that "artistic creation is free and in its content respects the values of the Cuban socialist society. "And this follows: "The forms of expression in the art are free."
I repeat: "The forms of expression in art are free."
Compared to Decree 349, the draft Constitution contains a spirit much more oriented to the future, even though it restricts artistic creation based on respect for the values of our socialist society. For its part, the "Guidelines for economic and social policy of the Party and the Revolution," as a government program, validate the need for the State to focus on priority activities for the development of the country and to distribute other responsibilities.
In cultural politics there were then few moves more counterproductive than the Decree of yore. The high hierarchy and importance of the previous documents can not prevent, if necessary, that in daily practice the 349 have serious concrete repercussions for the Cuban cultural panorama.
This rule not only establishes a margin of protection quite limited to those involved from an administrative and civil point of view, by making it impossible to appeal punitive measures, once an appeal has been lost, to an "impartial" third party; but, in the absence of agreed criteria by which to govern its implementation, could naturalize censorship, serve the abuse of power and / or encourage discrimination for political reasons.
It seems that the role of cultural institutions in society has been disrupted: instead of promoting culture from the most diverse models, they promote penalties. The playwright Norge Espinosa, the only one who offered his testimony to Tremenda Note portal, focuses it bluntly: "The time of the country that issues this regulation should be marked by a more intelligent opening, taking into account that other issues, no less worrying, should claim the same, if not more attention by our leaders. "
... and the content
Cockfight in Bertolt Brecht Cultural Center. The jury has warned that it will not accept racist or offensive lyrics to women, nor any major insults. But in the heat of the competition, rappers make use of the mentions of other brides and their physical attributes. Another day, in any school, a reggaeton streak is heard loudly at the end-of-year party or perhaps the teacher's day; children, happy and innocent, revert as adults. Also, in a house of culture, a troubadour sings about the critical migratory situation of the country; tells how many young people are going to make their lives in another place, making use of the strongest words in Spanish.
As regulated by Decree 349, all these scenes could be punishable. Those involved can be fined 2 thousand Cuban pesos if it is considered that in all of their music or artistic presentations are made in which "violence with sexist, vulgar, discriminatory and obscene language", Qualified violation as "very serious" according to the document. Even, "In accordance with the seriousness of the event", which will be determined by culture inspectors, may be subject to seizure of property.
There is a possibility, which also remains at the mercy of the decision of the authorities, that the warning be used (a kind of warning call) when valued "que from the point of view of the political-cultural impact", The situation analyzed does not merit the imposition of a more severe measure. Here is the opportunity to save or sink the contraventores, which could be either the education authorities, a rapper or a troubadour. In fact, we could all be us.
Regulate the recruitment and links between different entities that currently, to a large extent, do not pay taxes or declare profits is not bad. It is one of the obvious intentions of 349. But it seems, clearly wrong, that is penalized in the same way to activities with different scales and impacts.
The State, which could free itself from administrative activities that it does not carry out efficiently, leaving its regulated management in other hands, tries to regulate through administrative control when fiscal control would be sufficient.
The existence of this Decree has generated multiple manifestations of rejection and a large group of people who could see their personal projects tied in straitjackets and their limited creative freedoms. In short, a new network of problems and contradictions has arisen that was not in the first place, and that, moreover, will not extinguish those that already exist.
Coda with parentheses, question, touches of reality and moral
(Sexism, misogyny, vulgarity, and obscenity are not exclusive problems of the cultural field, they are, first of all, questions of education, and their existence evidences the failures that this public system in Cuba is going through cultural policy).
Wouldn´t help the fact that civil society really had more voices so that it´s not the administration, but the society itself who decides on the cultural products that they want to listen to, consume, at what times, etc.?
Brushstrokes of reality:
- The bride, while trying on a magnificent white dress, remembers to call the musician's representative. You want that and not another to be present at your wedding. They agree on payment and a schedule, and everything is ready. In Miramar, the birthday girl who reaches thirty, her friends and family surprise her with a serenade of mariachis in her own home, "estas son las mañanitas ...", tralala. In the end, and in cash, the payment.
- In a restaurant that swarms in Old Havana, the small group of musicians without diploma entertains the dinner with a varied repertoire of traditional music; they also accept more modern requests. In a while you will spend one of the sets with a hat up on the tables and a small group of CDs for those who want to buy them: "Collaborate with the Cuban artist," he says. During the day, the corner trumpeter who surprises with a beautiful jazz every time also leaves the trunk of the instrument open at his feet. Live from those tips.
- When the Puerto Rican duo Calle 13 was invited to play in Cuba by Cuban producers, they spent months requesting an interview with the authorities of the Ministry of Culture to obtain the permits and the corresponding coordination. The day of the delayed appointment arrived, only so that both discovered that the Cuban Institute of the Music functionary didn´t know the music of the Puerto Rican musicians. Meanwhile, in Cuba their songs went from one USB to another, and Atrévete was an obligatory hit in many parties, because that was much more than reggaeton. When people had already understood perfectly what Calle 13 was going, that official thought that they did not deserve a Cuban stage because "they say a lot of bad words". Luckily, his criteria did not prevail.
The way to constrict and penalize has not been, and probably is not in our case, the one that can draw lasting patterns. Something is wrong when a legal rule places us, any of us, as possible offenders.
Cuban music magazine, without distinctions of genres or geographies.