Pablo Leon Dela Barra‎,  Tania Bruguera, and Gean Moreno in Havana (photo courtesy Pablo Leon Dela Barra‎'s Facebook page)

Guggenheim curator Pablo Leon Dela Barra‎, artist Tania Bruguera, and Cuban-American curator Gean Moreno in front of Bruguera’s home in Havana earlier this month. (photo courtesy Pablo Leon Dela Barra‎’s Facebook page)

Artist Tania Bruguera was detained by Cuban police yesterday in her Havana home after concluding the final reading of her project, the Hannah Arendt International Institute for Artivism. Coinciding with the opening of the Havana Biennial, Bruguera started a 100-hour long reading of Arendt’s seminal book, The Origins of Totalitarianism, on May 20. The choice of the Arendt text, a political history of the 20th century from imperialism through totalitarianism, highlighting the crisis of the public domain, couldn’t have resonated well with the state-sanctioned art to be showcased in the Biennial, which ironically promised an engagement with the public space of Havana.

Initially it was reported that Bruguera’s Arendt reading was part of collateral events of the Biennial, which was later refuted by associates of the artist. As the reading started, it was temporarily suspended when the local Public Works department casually began working across Bruguera’s home, but that didn’t prevent some art world figures from attending, including art historian Judith Rodenbeck and the curator Pablo Leon Dela Barra. On Saturday, Bruguera visited the National Museum of Fine Arts for an exhibition opening and was denied entry to the institution. On Sunday, a number of people took notice of what they suspected were numerous undercover police stationed throughout her neighborhood. The final reading, scheduled for 3pm ET on Sunday, continued until shortly after 4pm, when Bruguera was led away by police, reportedly detained, and reappeared at home hours later.

Reports on Bruguera’s ordeal were limited to Facebook posts by her sister Deborah Bruguera and a number of activists. Strict censorship and a lack of independent media in Cuba make these reports impossible to verify independently. As the art world descends onto the Caribbean island nation for the Havana Biennial, a number of activists and journalists are reported to have been arrested or prevented from reaching Bruguera’s home. This is only the last chapter in Bruguera’s troubles with the Cuban regime since her arrest in December that prevents her from leaving the country and has placed her in an indefinite bureaucratic limbo.

Arie Amaya-Akkermans is a freelance writer and art critic based in Beirut, his research focuses on visual culture in the Middle East, politics of memory, and architecture.

14 replies on “Artist Tania Bruguera Temporarily Detained During the Havana Biennial”

  1. These white Cubans are the biggest racists and oppressors of black people the world have ever seen. They talk about human rights but are silent on Cuba racists and sordid history of slavery and anti-lack racism. The reason these white SKKKumbag Cubans hate Fidel and The Revolution is because he and it told them that ALL Cubans are equal and they could not legally suck the blood of the Black man any more, so they fled to AmeriKKKa ( Miami) where they can continue to suck the black man;s blood like the vampires they are. Fidel and Raul are to kind to these white racists posing as human rights activists.. Yeah they want more Human Rights for white Cuban racists to oppress the Black Cuban even more. Cuba should expel these bastards to Miami where they can join White AmerikKKan racists to plot more oppression against Black Americans and Black Cubans. But they should know NEVER AGAIN will we let these white parasites enslaved the Black Cuban people and Black Americans again. President Barack should work with Raul and Fidel… but do not forget the sick and racist blood-soaked history of White Cuba. Tania want human rights for White Cubans,,,she quotes Vaclav Havel but is silent on Mandela and Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, ,the REAL Freedom Fighters under her big white nose 90 miles away from her.

    1. N.Y. TIMES: Editor Who Wrote of Racism in Cuba Loses His Post, Colleagues Say – by RANDAL C. ARCHIBOLD – April 5, 2013

      MEXICO CITY — The editor of a publishing house in Cuba who wrote a
      critical article in The New York Times opinion section about persistent
      racial inequality on the island, something revolutionaries proudly say
      has lessened, has been removed from his post, associates said on Friday.

      The author, Roberto Zurbano, in an article published March 23, described
      a long history of racial discrimination against blacks on the island
      and said “racial exclusion continued after Cuba became independent in
      1902, and a half century of revolution since 1959 has been unable to
      overcome it.”

      On Friday, The Havana Times blog reported that Mr. Zurbano had told a
      gathering of Afro-Cuban advocates that he had been dismissed from his
      post at the publishing house of the Casa de las Americas cultural
      center, leaving the implication that the dismissal was connected to the
      article. Other associates said Mr. Zurbano told them he had been removed
      but would continue working there.

      Reached by telephone in Havana, Mr. Urbanism would not comment on his
      employment. “What is The New York Times going to do about it?” he asked.
      He angrily condemned the editors of the opinion section for a change in
      the headline that he felt had distorted his theme.

      The article’s headline, which was translated from Spanish, was “For
      Blacks in Cuba, the Revolution Hasn’t Begun,” but Mr. Zurbano said that
      in his version it had been “Not Yet Finished.”


      1. I hear you.

        However I cant lay this ant-black racism solely at Brother Fidel’s feet. I can not and will not fully condemn Fidel and the Revolution for white Cuba hatred and contempt for Black Cubans. its in in white Cuba ‘s DNA to hate black people/ Cubans. Not even God himself can rid white Cuba of insatiable desire to suck the black mans blood. White AmeriKKKa and White Cuba they were both built on the bones, marrow, and blood of the black man. To the Caucazoind Neanderthal vampire from the caves of European.. Black blood is the sweetest blood there is to drink, not even Fidel can stop their blood lust and hatred for the black man. I will not forget what Fidel did for the black man in Southern Africa and i will not forsake him or join those white lunatics and racist in Miami to condemn him. He was was our friend and brother and we will never join his enemies to speak ill of him. he may not have been perfect but he is hell of lot better than those white SKKKumbags in Miami and across White AmeriKKKa. He did give black some semblance of pride and basic human dignity, which a hell of lot more than those Spaniard devils and pieces of dog $hit would have given the black Cuban. Now they want to go back to Cuba to enslave the black man again, Black Cubans should get ready for them and make a bigger Bay of Pigs for them…it wont be like the good ole days all over again when Cuba was their whore house for the Mafia WOPS, Hebs and assorted white AmeriKKKan perverts, nuts and racists.

        1. Sixty African-American scholars and professionals condemned the Cuban regime’s apparent crackdown on the country’s budding civil-rights movement. They issued a statement called “Acting on Our Conscience” which also called for the immediate release of imprisoned Afro-Cuban civil rights leaders. The public rebuke of Castro’s racial policies signed by prominent African-Americans like Cornell West, Ruby Dee and Mario Van Peebles just to name a few, may indicate a changing of the tide:

          We, the undersigned, join the growing international outcry against the unjust imprisonment by Cuban authorities of Dr. DARSI FERRER, an internationally known Afro‐Cuban civil rights leader and courageous man who for 17 days has endured a hunger strike and placed his life at risk to draw attention to the conditions of racism and racial discrimination in Cuba that has hitherto been ignored.


          1. Hey I respect these brothers and sisters who signed ( Cornell need to check his Ego at the door..against President Obama) . However I repeat I am not going to lay this at Fidel doorstep. God him self can not wipe clean the bloodstain racist past and present of White Cuba and AmeriKKKa. It is for my 70% black Afro-Cuban brothers and sisters in Cuba to rise up and if necessary with arms to put these white bastards Spaniards in their place once and for all. Like in KKKuba and Brazil Black people must know that FREEDOM from white racism is not FREE and it will accept only one price and that is BLOOD. The white devil will not give up his white skin privileges with out the spilling of blood. They like to suck black blood… so Black Cubans and AmeriKKKans must know this and must take the fight to them. The white man and ISIS is are the same type of beast, they will only accept blood as payment. Black people every where should know this and act accordingly, even in KKKuba, notwithstanding our love and gratitude for brother Fidel. I am sure when our brother Fidel passes on to join the ancestors Black Cubans will no longer feel the need to lay low out of respect for Fidel, maybe then they will rise up and take back their country from these racist Spaniards.

    2. WIKILEAKS BARBADOS – “Cuba’s Big Black Lie” – Afro Cubans catching hell

      ¶3. (U) Moore’s lecture followed on the heels of the publication
      of an open letter he wrote to Cuban President Raul Castro entitled
      “Cuba’s Big Black Lie.” In the letter and in his lecture, Moore derided
      as deceitful past declarations by Cuba’s ruling elite that racial
      discrimination in Cuba had been eliminated. “Wherever we look in
      socialist Cuba,” Moore contended, “our eyes are confronted with a cobweb
      of social and racial inequities and racial hatred against black
      people.” In his lecture, Moore shared that, as a young man, he had
      strongly supported the revolution and been a devotee of Fidel Castro.
      However, this support quickly turned to disillusionment because of what
      Moore called the revolutionary government’s ineptness at destroying the
      legacy of white supremacy and racism against Afro-Cubans.

      ¶4. (U) Moore was among those imprisoned for protesting the
      revolution’s refusal to advance racial integration. He said he spent 28
      days in jail, and was subsequently sent to a labor camp for 7 years
      before escaping to the Embassy of Guinea and eventually making his way
      to the U.S., after which he lived in exile in several countries for 35
      years, still a committed Marxist with strong criticism both for
      America’s Cuba policy and for Cuba’s institutionalized racism.

      1. Again I hear you.. but Fidel has earned his stripes with the Black man and he is our blood brother and we will NEVER sell him out. He can not change the hearts of white Cubans, he can only point them in the right direction. yeah maybe he could have done more , but he also knows how deep the racism is in Cuba and could not lose the Revolution because he was too much of a Nigga Luva in the eyes of the white Cubans who supported the Revolution…. that my friend is Real Politk, When it comes to race ….not even Fidel could order equality for the black man in Cuba. like AmeriKKKa i RACISM was and is Cuba;s original sin….. and the third rail of the revolution. Race TRUMPS every thing, even political ideology my friend, NEVER forget that.

        1. YOUTUBE: Racism in Cuba – English -Pichon: Book on racism in Cuba – Carlos Moore

          Dr. Carlos Moore An ethnologist and political scientist with two doctorates from the prestigious University of Paris-7, France, CARLOS MOORE was banished for three decades from his native Cuba as a result of his opposition to the racial policies of the Castro regime. Fluent in five languages, he lived and worked in many lands throughout his 34-year exile, and traveled extensively on ethnological research projects in South-east Asia, Africa and the South Pacific. His political and professional career began in 1962 when, aged nineteen, he was recruited into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a translator in the Asian Division.

        2. Guillermo Fariñas Hernández (born 3 January 1962) (“El Coco”) is an Afro-Cuban doctor of psychology,[1] independent journalist[2] and political dissident in Cuba. He has conducted 23 hunger strikes over the years to protest various elements of the Cuban regime.[3] He has stated that he is ready to die in the struggle against censorship in Cuba.[2]

          Fariñas was born in Santa Clara. He won medals in 1981 while a Cuban soldier in Angola, when he fought under Colonel Antonio Enrique Luzon, and he was wounded in battle during the war. In 1982 Fariñas went to the U.S.S.R. to Tambov for military education. In 1993 he was elected in Cuba, as the General Secretary of Healthcare Union Workers. In 1995 he was sent to jail after attacking a woman, an official from the health institution where he worked as a psychologist.[4] In an 2007 interview with Harper’s magazine (“The Battle of Ideas”) Fariñas described State Security officers detaining him in Santa Clara, forcibly committing him to a psychiatric hospital ward overnight, and supervising his injection with unknown drugs.

          Fariñas’s father was also part of the Cuban military forces, and fought in the Congo under Che Guevara in the 1960s.

          Jorge Luis García Pérez (known as Antúnez, born 10 October 1964, Placetas, Cuba) is an Afro-Cuban human right and democracy activist in Cuba.[2][3].Antúnez was jailed for 17 years from 1990 to 2007. Other dissidents have referred to Antúnez as Cuba’s Nelson Mandela.[4]During a demonstration in March 1990 State Security heard him saying that communism is an error and a dystopia. Saying that was a crime and he was sentenced to five years in prison. In prison, he refused to wear the uniform and participate in “communist re-education”, which meant a violent beating, nine months in solitary confinement and more years in prison.[5] He escaped from prison to see his sick mother, but could not find her and was free only for a day. His mother died a month later. He was found guilty of “attempted sabotage”.[5] One of the charges was failure to respect the Cuban leader Fidel Castro.[3]

          Antúnez continued nonviolent resistance in prison, where he gave birth to a political prisoner group named after Pedro Luis Boitel, an imprisoned dissident who died in a hunger strike in 1972.[4] His courage received worldwide attention. Pope John Paul II, when visiting Cuba in 1998, asked the regime to release him.[3]

  2. AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: Cuba urged to revoke repressive laws: “Cuban laws impose unacceptable limits on the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly,” said Kerrie Howard, Americas Deputy Director at Amnesty International. “Cuba desperately needs political and legal reform to bring the country in line with basic international human rights standards. “The long imprisonment of individuals solely for the peaceful exercise of their rights is not only a tragedy in itself but also constitutes a stumbling block to other reforms, including the beginning of the dialogue needed for the lifting of the US unilateral embargo against Cuba.”

    Several articles of the Cuban Constitution and Criminal Code are so vague that they are currently being interpreted in a way that infringes fundamental freedoms.

    Article 91 of Cuba’s Criminal Code provides for sentences of ten to 20 years or death for anyone “who in the interest of a foreign state, commits an act with the objective of damaging the independence or territorial integrity of the Cuban state”.

    According to article 72 “any person shall be deemed dangerous if he or she has shown a proclivity to commit crimes demonstrated by conduct that is in manifest contradiction with the norms of socialist morality” and article 75.1 states that any police officer can issue a warning for such “dangerousness”. The declaration of a dangerous pre-criminal state can be decided summarily. A warning may also be issued for associating with a “dangerous person”.

    Law 88 provides for seven to 15 years’ imprisonment for passing information to the United States that could be used to bolster anti-Cuban measures, such as the US economic blockade. The legislation also bans the ownership, distribution or reproduction of “subversive materials” from the US government, and proposes terms of imprisonment of up to five years for collaborating with radio, TV stations or publications deemed to be assisting US policy.

    Local non-governmental organizations have great difficulty in reporting on human rights violations due to restrictions on their rights to freedom of expression, association and movement. International independent human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, are not allowed to visit the island.

    1. FOOK Amnesty International ..I dont hear them condeming all the extrajudcial killing, murdering and torturing of black people in AmeriKKKa by white terrorist KKK KKKops and other governmet backed white supremacist organizations. They should be writing about blacks been murdered every day by white racists KKKops and Prison Guards. Amnesty International is just another mouthpiece for the oppressor. they should focus on the AmeriKKKan Gulag before supporting those white $hit disturbers in Cuba who speaks about Human Rights but piss on black Cubans every day. Fookem is all I got to say!

      1. THE DAILY BEAST: Cuba’s 12 Most Absurd Prohibitions That Tourists May Never Notice – It’s getting easier to go to Cuba, but not necessarily to live there. Sometimes it’s the little things that make you crazy. But, then, there are big things, too. – by Yusnaby Perez
        HAVANA — Here’s a list of the 12 most absurd prohibitions and limitations that we Cubans have to endure in our homeland. It is worth highlighting that the socialist Government of Cuba applies some of them exclusively to Cuban citizens, while foreign residents and tourists do not suffer from the bans. A curious double standard, no? And worth remembering if you are planning a visit and discover your new Cuban friends can’t joint you in the fun.

        1-Cubans can’t access the Internet from their homes or on their cell phones. ETECSA is the Cuban state-owned telecommunications monopoly. According to its policy, Internet access in private homes is not a service provided to Cuban citizens. It is exclusively provided to state-owned and foreign businesses, and to foreigners residing in the country, as its website makes clear.

        2-No sailing on tourist boats. There is not an actual law that forbids Cubans getting on boats and ships, but authorities have applied this restriction for many years. According to Cubatur (a state travel agent) “Cubans—no matter where they live—may not be sold a tourist package that includes a catamaran or a yacht. This enjoyment is exclusive to foreign tourists.”

        3-No cable TV. The socialist firm Telecable is the only one that provides cable TV. This service is exclusive to the tourist infrastructure (mainly hotels), diplomats, foreign companies and foreigners residing in Cuba. Telecable offers a selection of international channels such as CNN, Discovery, HBO, ESPN…

        The Cuban population, for no other reason than being Cuban, cannot access this service and can only consume national state-owned TV channels and Telesur (a socialist Latin American channel).

        4-Can’t live in Havana (without a permit). Can someone from L.A. live in Washington D.C.? The answer is obvious. But in Cuba, can someone from Bayamo live in Havana? The answer is NO, unless he or she has a permit. The Decree-Law 217-1997 on “Internal migrations regarding the city of Havana” dictates that people from other provinces may not live in the capital without a “transitory” document; that is, an authorization issued by the Ministry of the Interior. This violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which says, “Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.” Not here.

        5- No public demonstrations allowed. The Constitution of Cuba (1976) recognizes the right to demonstrate under certain regulations while the Penal Code, in its article 209, warns that “he who participates in meetings or demonstrations celebrated without respecting the dispositions that regulate this right, is committing a felony against public order.” But in the 39 years that have gone by since 1976, no law has been adopted to regulate the right to demonstrate in Cuba. It’s a Catch-22. Not to belabor the point, “Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association,” according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


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