In the wake of Cuban dissident Yosvany Arostegui’s death in police custody last Friday, August 7, artist and activist Tania Bruguera has summoned a virtual “chorus of voices” to acknowledge and honor the political prisoners on the island. On her Facebook page yesterday, she posted a list of 102 current prisoners and asked supporters to record themselves reading the names out loud, uploading the videos with the hashtags #JusticiaParaYosvani (#JusticeForYovani) and #CoroPresosPoliticosCuba (#ChorusPoliticalPrisonersCuba).
“In his name and those of all the political prisoners who have been jailed for the only crime of thinking differently, let’s start a chorus to make them and the great injustices against them known to the world,” Bruguera wrote.
As reported by El Diario de Cuba, Arostegui, an avid critic of the Cuban government and human rights activist, was imprisoned in the Camagüey province under charges of domestic violence, which he denied. While in detention, he staged a hunger strike, a non-violent form of resistance used by numerous political dissidents in Cuba. One activist told El Diario that Arostegui was “driven to the limit” and “allowed” to die, adding that police selectively choose when to offer hunger strikers medical intervention. The Camagüey-based curator Anamely Ramos González and the National Cuban American Foundation have also taken to social media to denounce Arostegui’s death.
Among the voices heeding Bruguera’s call is that of art historian Yanelis Núñez Leyva, who co-organized the #00Bienal de la Habana with artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara in 2018. Leyva, Alcantara, and Bruguera have all been detained by the Cuban government on different occasions, notably while on the way to anti-government protests. Most recently, Bruguera was arrested in her home in Havana before a demonstration against police brutality she planned on attending.
Last month, 14 organizations — including PEN America, Reporters Without Borders, and Movimiento San Isidro — signed a letter denouncing the “arbitrary arrests of journalists and artists” in Cuba. On June 30, the day on which Bruguera was detained, at least 132 people were victims of arrests and internet service cuts when they attempted to participate in or reported on protests, the letter states.
The artist plans on compiling the uploaded videos to create a collective audiovisual artwork with the help of three collaborators: writer Lien Carrazana, filmmaker Alain Rafael Dueñas Estevez, and musician Luis Alberto Mariño Fernández.