Fair Weather Freedom Fighters

The Latin Grammys got the headlines, but brave and bruised theater director Alberto Sarraín got the honors

By contrast Larry Siems, director of the PEN American Center's Freedom to Write programs, sees the two struggles as inextricably linked. In a letter responding to Cuza Male's column NOT YET PUBLISHED, Siems describes PEN American Center's ongoing efforts on behalf of 24 writers currently being persecuted in Cuba. "In our advocacy work," Siems says from his New York office, "we are always maintaining that if Cuba is violating that right, it puts us in a difficult position if we are seen as not fully abiding by that principle ourselves. It's seen as inconsistent to send the message that in Cuba you can't persecute certain artists, but here in the United States our government can decide who will be funded based on the content of their art." Siems goes on to say that the right to freedom of expression must be protected, especially in cases where it is not a dictator but the sentiment of the majority in a community that opposes free expression. "The First Amendment," he notes, "exists to protect minority points of view even in the face of strong consensus to the contrary."

Alberto Sarraín challenges Miami to be more than simply tolerant
Steve Satterwhite
Alberto Sarraín challenges Miami to be more than simply tolerant

Soon after being recognized at a PEN American Center gala in New York City on April 23, Sarraín will challenge the local consensus once again. While many of Miami's Latin-Grammy boosters are gambling that no Cuban artists will actually perform in this year's show, Teatro La Ma Teodora is bringing 23 Cuban artists to Miami to participate in the First International Monologue Festival. Sarraín believes the appreciative audiences La Ma Teodora has drawn to plays by Cuban authors over the past five years bodes well for the reception the community will give to this first-ever encounter of thespians from across the Cuban diaspora. "The exiles in Miami were more tolerant than we had thought," he observes. "I mean tolerance not as weakness but as altruism. There is a space where the people from here and the people from there spoke in the same language."

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