On the morning of November 27, 2020, a group of Cuban intellectuals and artists began a sit-in in front of the Ministry of Culture (MINCULT) in Havana in solidarity with the protesters of the San Isidro Movement (SIM), whose headquarters had been violently evicted the night before. The protesters had staged a hunger strike in the previous days to demand the release of rapper Denis Solís. unjustly imprisoned for his political stance.
What began as a solidarity sit-in quickly turned into a demand for greater freedoms for independent art in Cuba. After hours of gathering in front of the Ministry’s headquarters demanding to be received, around midnight thirty representatives —among the hundreds of demonstrators who remained at that time— were admitted and met with Fernando Rojas, Vice Minister of Culture, and other officials, to present their demands.
At the meeting a series of agreements were reached, among them, to open a channel of dialogue that would include an upcoming meeting with the Minister of Culture.
From then on, the group of artists and intellectuals who participated in the meeting organized themselves under the acronym 27N. A week later, on December 3, the 27N group sent an email to the MINCULT requesting the Ministry to include members of the SIM —including its leader, artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara— in the dialogue. The group also asked that journalists from the independent media were given access to the negotiations.
The response of the authorities was to cancel the dialogue. On December 4, Minister Alpidio Alonso issued a statement attributing the decision to the fact that the artists and intellectuals intended to “unilaterally impose who, with whom and for what purpose they will agree to dialogue.” “The Minister of Culture will not meet with people who have direct contact with and receive financing, logistical support and propagandistic backing from the United States Government and its officials. Nor will he do so with press media financed by U.S. federal agencies,” the note read.
In the following days, several of the artists and intellectuals who participated in the negotiations with the MINCULT were threatened and harassed by State Security officials. Some remained under close police surveillance for several days. Likewise, governmental organizations called students and workers to acts of repudiation against members of the SIM and 27N, who were presented in the media as terrorists and mercenaries at the service of “anti-Cuban agendas in exile.”
A month after the protests, the 27N group ratified, in an open letter addressed to the country’s cultural authorities, its willingness to dialogue and its rejection of discrimination and harassment for political reasons against citizens: “We reaffirm our willingness to continue the dialogue initiated on the night of November 27. We want to be part of a truly inclusive conversation, respectful of differences and that considers all the nuances of our reality.”
Since then, the members of the SIM, the 27N and the independent media have been strongly attacked in a powerful discrediting campaign deployed in the main propaganda media of the Communist Party of Cuba.
Who are the protagonists of the 27N?
Alejandro Alonso Estrella
Alejandro Alonso Estrella (Pinar del Río, 1987). Filmmaker. Graduated in documentary directing at the Escuela Internacional de Cine y Televisión de San Antonio de los Baños (EICTV). His films have been screened in more than 25 countries, at festivals such as Rotterdam, IDFA, Visions du Réel, Cinema du Réel, DocumentaMadrid, Ji.hlava IDFF, among others. His film El Proyecto won the FIPRESCI Award at the Dok Leipzig Festival. His short films have won awards at the Mar del Plata Film Festival, the Popoli Festival, FICUNAM and FULL FRAME. He was a fellow of the Maison Européenne de la Photographie and the Cité International des Arts in Paris. Between 2017 and 2019 he coordinated the Master’s Degree in Alternative Cinema organized by the EICTV.
Alfredo Martínez Ramírez
Alfredo Martínez Ramírez (Havana, 1991). Graduated in Civil Engineering at the Instituto Superior Politécnico José Antonio Echeverria (ISPJAE). He is a contributor to the independent magazine Tremenda Nota and is a member of the Grupo Anima, a group of independent artists interested in rescuing historical memory. He has collaborated with the project El Parque Horizontal, a space for autonomous art and thought in Cuba.
Amaury Pacheco del Monte
Amaury Pacheco del Monte, Omnipoeta (Matanzas, 1969). Poet, sculptor, performer, audiovisual producer and activist for cultural, artistic and civil rights. Creator and director of the OmniZonaFranca project and the Poesía Sin Fin festival (1997-2017). With the aim of supporting projects and organizations of the Cuban independent civil society, he developed the method Poéticas Operativas, based on the link between poetic procedures for literacy and civic activation. He is founder and vice-coordinator of the San Isidro Movement.
Aminta D’Cárdenas (Havana, 1985). Producer and cultural manager. She has a degree in Accounting and Finance. She is an editor and manager of audiovisual contents on Cuban current affairs. She has worked as coordinator and producer of shows and events. As part of the Matraka group, she participated in the organization of the Rotilla festival. She has worked in the production of the documentary Offline (2013) and in the New York Film Academy’s workshop (New York, Los Angeles, 2015).
Camila Acosta Rodríguez
Camila Acosta Rodríguez (Isla de Pinos, 1993). Journalist. Graduated in Journalism from the University of Havana in 2016. Worked at Canal Habana, of the Instituto Cubano de Radio y Televisión. She has made two documentaries on Freemasonry in Cuba. She has collaborated with several independent press outlets, such as Periodismo de Barrio, El Toque, OnCuba, Árbol Invertido and Diario de las Américas. She currently works as a reporter for Cubanet and as a communications specialist for the Club de Escritores y Artistas de Cuba (CEAC).
Camila Ramírez Lobón
Camila Ramírez Lobón (Camagüey, 1995). Visual artist. Lives and works in Havana. Graduated in 2019 from the Instituto Superior de Arte. Her work is focused on the narration and illustration of an individual social and political memory as a counterpart of the totalitarian imaginary. Among her exhibitions are El país perdido (Avecez Art Space, 2019) and Personaje de Largas Orejas (CDAV, 2018). She is the coordinator of the Instituto de Artivismo Hannah Arendt (INSTAR).
Claudia Genlui Hidalgo Moreno
Claudia Genlui Hidalgo Moreno (Granma, 1990). Art curator and activist for human rights in Cuba. She holds a degree in Art History from the University of Havana. Between 2017 and 2019, she served as senior specialist at the contemporary art gallery Factoría Habana. She directed the independent art project RICINA. She has developed, individually and in collaboration with other curators and artists, independent curatorial projects such as Sobrevivencia (2017), Paranoia (2018), #LaBanderaEsDeTodos (2019), among others. She is a visual arts advisor for the Movimiento San Isidro.
Daniel Díaz Mantilla
Daniel Díaz Mantilla (Havana, 1970). Writer and editor. He holds a degree in English Language from the University of Havana. He has published Las palmeras domésticas (narrative, Calendar Award 1996), en.trance (narrative, Abril Award 1997), Templos y turbulencias (poetry, 2004), Regreso a Utopía (novel, 2007), Los senderos despiertos (poetry, Matanzas City Foundation Award 2007), El salvaje placer de explorar (short stories, Alejo Carpentier Award 2013, Critics Award 2014) and Gravitaciones (poetry, 2018). His work has been included in anthologies published in several countries in the Americas and Europe.
Gretel Medina Mendieta
Gretel Medina Mendieta (Cienfuegos, 1981). Filmmaker. Graduated in Sociocultural Studies and Film Directing from the Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana. She has worked in the coordination of the Documentary Chair of the Escuela Internacional de Cine y TV de San Antonio de los Baños and since 2014 she leads the Polyvalence Chair (of the first course) in that institution. Her debut feature Puro sentimiento, currently in post-production, has been supported by IBERMEDIA Program, the Norwegian Fund for Cuban Cinema and the first edition of the Fund for the Promotion of Cuban Cinema.
Gretell Kairús Pérez
Gretell Kairús Pérez (Holguín, 1982). Cultural manager and accountant. She has a bachelor degree in Accounting and Finance. She is in her last year of her Bachelor’s Degree in Humanities at the Instituto Eclesiástico Félix Varela. She worked as a professor at the Faculty of Tourism at the University of Havana. She has produced alternative events such as Green Party Fiesta Única. She works as an accountant at the Instituto de Artivismo Hannah Arendt (INSTAR).
Henry Eric Hernández
Henry Eric Hernández (Cuba/Spain, 1971). Interdisciplinary artist, independent researcher and editor. He has a PhD from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid and a B.A. from the Instituto Superior de Arte de La Habana. He has received grants from The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, The Pollock-Krasner Foundation, The Christoph Merian Foundation-International Exchange Studio Program, The Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park and the Fundación Botín. He has published the books La revancha, Otra isla para Miguel (Perceval Press, 2008) and Mártir, líder y pachanga. El cine de peregrinaje político hacia la Revolución cubana (Almenara, 2017). He has edited the compilations El fin del Gran Relato and Pan fresco. Textos críticos en torno al arte cubano.
José Luis Aparicio Ferrera
José Luis Aparicio Ferrera (Santa Clara, 1994). Filmmaker. Studied film directing at the Universidad de las Artes de Cuba. His short and documentary films have been screened at festivals in Cuba, the United States, Spain, Germany, Mexico, Argentina, Panama, Guatemala and Chile. His film El Secadero (2019) deserved the award for Best Fiction at the Bannabáfest in Panama and Honorable Mention at the Cinema Ciudad de México, as well as Best Production and Audience Award at the Muestra Joven Cuba. His documentary Sueños al pairo (2020, co-directed with Fernando Fraguela) was censored by the Instituto Cubano de Cine (ICAIC), but received great critical and public acclaim. Together with Katherine Bisquet, he founded the Cine Cubano en Cuarentena initiative in 2020. He is a member of the editorial staff of Rialta.
Juan Pin Vilar
Juan Pin Vilar (Havana, 1963). Journalist, screenwriter and film and television director. He holds a degree in Art History from the University of Havana. He has directed audiovisuals for television for more than 40 years. He is the founder of Xpin Producciones. His works have been broadcast on public and private television stations in the United States, Mexico and Spain. Between 1989 and 1991, he directed the highest rated comedy program in Cuban programming at the time, Conflictos. Between 2008 and 2012, he directed the weekly program En el mismo lugar, dedicated to trova and avant-garde music on the Cuban and international scene. In 2017 he directed the documentary Pablo Milanés, winner of the Lucía Award at the Gibara International Film Festival.
Juliana Rabelo (Pinar del Río, 1991). Social researcher. She actively collaborates with several cultural magazines, independent theater initiatives and the Instituto de Artivismo Hannah Arendt (INSTAR). She has participated in research programs in Germany and Mexico on topics related to art, activism and alternative higher education. She is currently working on a master’s thesis on technologies of representation.
Julio Llópiz-Casal (Havana, 1984). Visual artist. His work combines installation, performance, photography, design and writing. Studied Art History at the University of Havana. He has participated in the group shows Landlord Colors: On Art, Economy, and Materiality (Cranbrook Museum, Detriot, 2019) and Cada forma en el espacio es una forma de tiempo que se escapa (Estudio Dagoberto Rodríguez, Madrid, 2020), among others.
Katherine Bisquet (Nuclear City, 1992). Writer. She has a degree on Literature from the University of Havana. She has published the poetry books Algo aquí se descompone (Colección Sur Editores, Havana, 2014) and Ciudad Nuclear mon amour (Ediciones Sinsentido, Havana, 2020). She was one of the organizers of the #00 Biennial 2018 in Havana. In 2020, she was selected for the writers’ residency Can Serrat Primavera, Barcelona. She has published poetry, chronicles and interviews in magazines such as Vice, El Estornudo, Hyperallergic, Hypermedia and Rialta Magazine. Together with filmmaker José Luis Aparicio, she founded Cine Cubano en Cuarentena, an initiative for the rescue, promotion and research of Cuban cinema. She was one of those protesters at the headquarters of the San Isidro Movement in November 2020, where she and other artists and activists went on a hunger strike to demand the release of rapper Denis Solís, unjustly imprisoned for political reasons.
Liatna Rodríguez López
Liatna Rodríguez López (Havana, 1986). Curator and art historian. Graduated in Art History from the University of Havana. Between 2011 and 2015 she directed the Servando Gallery in Havana. In 2015 she founded, together with Christian Gundín, the project El Apartamento. She currently works as an independent curator, mainly in spaces outside the traditional exhibition circuit in the city.
Mauricio Antonio Mendoza
Mauricio Antonio Mendoza (Havana, 1998). Independent journalist. Abandoned his medical studies to devote himself to journalism. In 2019 he began collaborating with Havana Times. He is currently a reporter for Diario de Cuba and a contributor to Puente a la Vista. He writes about culture, society and issues related to Cuban youth.
Michel Matos (Havana, 1980). Cultural manager and activist. Graduated in History and Philosophy at the University of Havana. Founder and director of the Festival Rotilla (1998-2011), one of the largest independent events of alternative culture in Cuba. Director and co-founder of the production house Matraka (2005-2017), focused on film creation and dissemination of young art in Cuba. Producer and co-founder of the independent hip hop festival Puños Arriba (2008-2015), dedicated to the promotion of independent rap creation. Currently, he is a member and vice-coordinator of the Movimiento San Isidro.
Mijail Rodríguez (Havana, 1978). Filmmaker. Studied dramaturgy at the Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA) and screenwriting at the Escuela Internacional de Cine y Televisión de San Antonio de los Baños (EICTV). He has worked as an analyst and scriptwriter at ICAIC. For more than fifteen years, he was part of the organizing committee of the Muestra Joven Cuba, and was a founding member of the board of directors for young filmmakers of that event. He was a member of the G20 group, focused on the struggle for the legal recognition of independent Cuban cinema. He is a member of El Cardumen, a project that brings together Cuban filmmakers in protest against film censorship. He currently works as an independent screenwriter.
Miryorly García Prieto
Miryorly García Prieto (Havana, 1978). Researcher, essayist and editor. She has a master’s degree in Art History. Her book El mito Hemingway en el audiovisual cubano was published in 2011 by Ediciones ICAIC. She collaborates in specialized magazines such as Cine Cubano, Noticias de Arte Cubano, La Gaceta de Cuba, among others. She is a member of the Asociación Cubana de Comunicadores Sociales, la Unión de Escritores y Artistas de Cuba, y la Unión de Historiadores de Cuba. She currently works as a researcher at the Dirección Municipal de Cultura del Cotorro and as an editor at Ediciones ICAIC and Editorial enVivo.
Nelson Julio Álvarez Mairata
Nelson Julio Álvarez Mairata (Sagua la Grande, 1996). Reporter and youtuber. He abandoned his studies as an Art Instructor to devote himself to independent journalism. He has been a contributor to Tremenda Nota and ADN Cuba. In 2020, he created the blog Residente Cuba dedicated to social issues, with special interest in the LGBTI community.
Reinier Díaz Vega
Reinier Díaz Vega (Havana, 1991). Actor. He studied acting at the National School of Art. Since 2010 he has been a member of the company Teatro el Público where he has worked in the plays Noche de Reyes, El jardín de los cerezos and Los cuentos del Decamerón. He acted in the television series Mucho ruido. He has worked in the feature films La Partida (2013, dir. Antonio Hens), Inocencia (2018, dir. Alejandro Gil), El extraordinario viaje de Celeste García (2018, dir. Arturo Infante), among others.
Reynier Leyva Novo
Reynier Leyva Novo (Havana, 1983). Artist. His work interrogates History and the verticality of totalizing discourses from an eminently conceptual approach and a multidisciplinary projection. He has participated in numerous exhibitions and important events of the contemporary art circuit, among them the biennials of Venice, Havana, Shanghai, Pontevedra, Montevideo, Ghetto Biennale, the Fresta Triennial of Sorocaba and the Aichi Triennial. His work has been exhibited in different cultural institutions around the world and is part of prestigious public collections: Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Havana; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D. C.; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Perez Art Museum (PAMM), Miami; Bronx Museum of the Arts, NY, among others.
Sandra Ceballos (Guantánamo, 1961). Artist. Studied painting, sculpture and engraving at the Escuela de Artes Plásticas de la Academia Nacional de Bellas Artes San Alejandro. She is the director and curator of Espacio Aglutinador, an autonomous project for the arts created in 1994. Her work is represented in the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (Cuba), Bronx Museum, Museo del Barrio (New York), Museo Carrillo Gil, Museo Michoacán, Centro Wifredo Lam, among others.
Solveig Font Martínez
Solveig Font Martínez (Havana, 1976). Art curator. Graduate in Sociocultural Studies. Worked for 8 years at the Villa Manuela Gallery of the UNEAC. Between 2013 and 2015 she worked as a curator at Fábrica de Arte Cubano. In 2014 she founded Avecez art space, an independent art space based in her home in Havana. Among her latest curatorships are A quien pueda interesar (Espacio Aglutinador / Galería La Central Power House / CDAV) and Cada forma en el espacio es una forma de tiempo que se escapa (Estudio Dagoberto Rodríguez, Madrid, 2020). She is a contributor to Rialta Magazine.
Tania Bruguera (Havana, 1968). Artist and activist. She has been awarded an Honoris Causa by The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and selected as one of the 100 leading world thinkers by Foreign Policy magazine. She has received the Prince Claus, Guggenheim, Herb Alpert, Radcliffe and other awards. She was recognized as a Yale World Fellow. In 2013 she was part of the team that created the first document on artistic freedom and cultural rights with the United Nations Human Rights Council. Her work is in the collections of MoMA, Tate Modern and the Van Abbemuseum. She is founder and director of the Instituto de Artivismo Hannah Arendt (INSTAR), a space for civic education through art based in Havana.
Ulises Padrón Suárez
Ulises Padrón Suárez (Havana, 1987). Philologist by training and human rights activist. He has a degree in Literature from the University of Havana. He contributes to the independent magazines Tremenda Nota, Q de Cuir, Magazine AM:PM, among others. In 2015 he created the blog Espiral de Isla, where he writes about Cuban society and culture.
Yunior García Aguilera
Yunior García Aguilera (Holguín, 1982). Playwright, actor, theater director, screenwriter and audiovisual producer. He studied acting at the Escuela Nacional de Arte and dramaturgy at the Instituto Superior de Arte. He is a graduate of the International Residency for Emerging Playwrights at the Royal Court Theatre (2011). In 2004 he founded the Trébol Teatro space, where he has premiered most of his plays. He has won the Calendario (2010) and Milanés (2014) playwriting awards. The staging of his play Jacuzzi (2017) was awarded the Aire Frío and Villanueva de la Crítica awards. He has written for television and film. His short film Cerdo won Special Mention at the 40th International Festival of New Latin American Cinema in Havana. He hosts the podcast El Enjambre, of the independent magazine El Toque. He is a member of the Unión de Escritores y Artistas de Cuba (UNEAC), the International Society for the Performing Arts (ISPA), and a member of the Sociedad General de Autores y Editores (SGAE).
* The young musician Ian Benavides, a sociology student at the University of Havana, was one of the 30 participants in the November 27 meeting at the Ministry of Culture. He participated in the first meetings of the 27N group to define the agenda of the dialogues planned with the minister, but left the group some time later.