Plaza de la Revolución in Havana, the site of Bruguera's first planned performance
Plaza de la Revolución in Havana, the site of Bruguera's first planned performance
Image via Wikimedia Commons

After Long Struggle With Cuban Government, Artist Tania Bruguera Can Return To United States

On July 10, the Cuban government returned artist Tania Bruguera's passport. The government had previously seized the document after the artist attempted a performance in Havana's Plaza de la Revolucion in December 2014. The planned performance was inspired by a dissident movement who uses the online hashtag #YoTambienExijo (I Also Demand). Bruguera had planned to set up a microphone where Cuba's citizens could freely express their opinions about the future of Cuba, in particular their thoughts about renewing relationships with the United States. The performance never came to fruition, Bruguera was arrested en route to the Plaza. 

The arrest for the December performance was the beginning of an ongoing legal battle between the artist and the Cuban government. Bruguera is undoubtedly a provocateur and the government—showing shades of the old hard-line regime—refused to back down. In May of this year, Bruguera was detained during the Havana Biennial shortly after she performed a ten hour reading of Hannah Arendt's book, The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), a radical critique of suppressive regimes. Since that arrest, Bruguera had been unable to leave the country. 

But now the Cuban government has returned her passport, giving Bruguera a green-light to leave the island nation. Bruguera, however, says that she is unlikely to leave the country immediately.

“My argument has never been about leaving Cuba; my argument is about working so there is freedom of expression and public protest in Cuba. People should feel free to say what they think without fear of losing their jobs or university standing, of being marginalized or imprisoned,” she said in a statement. Furthermore, Bruguera has said that she will not leave Cuba until she's given official paperwork "that legally guarantees [she] can come back without any problems." Cuba has said that it will provide the paperwork by the end of July. 

During the artist's final tangle with the Cuban government, the New York City department of cultural affairs and the mayor's office of immigrant affairs announced that Bruguera will become the inaugural artist for its residency program. Bruguera will help recruit undocumented immigrants for the city’s new identification card program.

The city said that they were in the planning process when Bruguera was arrested, yet decided to move forward in order to show support for her "artistic practices." 

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