People of Word (32)

New Report: Two Years After Historic July 11 Demonstrations in Cuba, the Plight of Writers and Artists Forced Into Exile Underscores the Drastic Deterioration of Artistic Freedom on the Island

11 July: Two years after the historic July 11 peaceful demonstrations in Cuba (also known as 11J), the island’s artistic and cultural landscape has been drastically undermined, following a swift government crackdown on dissent which resulted in the detention of nearly 60 writers and artists. Of them, at least 13 remain behind bars, while 13 others were forced into exile. In a new report on the second anniversary, PEN International, PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) and Cubalex, profile 17 exiled cultural professionals —demonstrating their resilience— while documenting the repressive and sometimes violent tactics by the Cuban state that forced them to flee.

Método Cuba: Independent Artists’ Testimonies Of Forced Exile, details the forms of repression employed by the Cuban state to silence and force dissident writers and artists out of the country. The report centers their lived experiences in the broader discussion on art, culture, and human rights, underscoring the shared forms of repression faced due to their creative expression. The publication also spotlights the journey that led them to leave the island and the challenges they currently face in exile.

The report calls for the immediate release of all political prisoners, including all writers and artists who are jailed for peacefully expressing their ideas and creative work. It also urges the governments of Latin America and the human rights community to investigate allegations of human rights violations against artists, writers, cultural workers, and activists in Cuba as it relates to restrictions on freedom of artistic expression, arbitrary detentions, and patterns of forced exile.

Writer and poet Katherine Bisquet said: “It is not our decision to be in exile. We do not go into exile for an economic benefit or to go on vacation in some country. It was not our decision at the time. I had to leave it all behind, I had to leave my books, all my things. In the matter of a day, I had to pack a suitcase with everything that made up my life to that point, all 29 years of it… I only had a one-way ticket.”