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Artists and Power

The massive rebellion of July 11 in Cuba owes much to the courage of the San Isidro Movement, and the song “Patria y Vida.”

Daniel Ortega, in his speech on July 19, 2021, said that there are no indispensable artists. In a country like Nicaragua, whose most celebrated hero is a poet, a country that has produced music, painting and some of the most vigorous literature on the continent, it is a shame that its President says such a thing.

I am one of those dispensable artists, according to Ortega, but this isn’t about me. It is a reality that can’t be concealed under a finger. The music of the Mejia Godoy’s, the painting of “Grupo Praxis,” the poetry of Ernesto Cardenal, Carlos Martinez Rivas, Michelle Najlis, Ana Ilce Gomez, the works of Sergio Ramirez, aren’t expendable, because they are part of our identity. Just as our national pride is marked by Darío; Nicaragua’s artistic creation distinguishes us in Latin America, as a privileged country.

Nicaragua is its history, and within this history, its art is one of the enduring legacies that this country has given to Central America and the Spanish language.

Today I was reading Silvio Rodríguez’s position, asking for amnesty for people imprisoned following the events of July 11th in Cuba.

Speaking truth to power has also been a strength of art. Silvio may not be able to go all out. Risking everything twice in a place like Cuba must be very difficult, I think, but his words do weigh heavily. Don’t tell me that Cuba can forgo Silvio, Pablo Milanes, its great poets and painters.

Like Cuba, Nicaragua shines through its songs, books, paintings, and artistic expressions. It is a sign of soul-sickness when culture becomes the object of contempt by those in power because it does not think like them.

It is a short-sighted vision that accuses a country’s own artists of being elites or egocentric when they are ambassadors and bearers of the history and the splendor of the land where they were born. If they are good artists, art transcends them and even their defects.

The massive rebellion of July 11th in Cuba owes much to the courage of the San Isidro Movement, of the artists that showed up in front of the Ministry of Culture, and above all to the powerful song “Patria y Vida” (Homeland and Life). That song called by its name the situation of oppression faced by the majority. Daring to identify it was the first step for others to follow suit.

That’s how it was in our country. The Somoza dictatorship was also defeated with poems, songs, and art. There is a lot to say about this, but I did not want to let this pass by without offering at least this brief reflection.

*This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by Havana Times

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