HAVANA (AFP).- Cuban performance artist Tania Bruguera, detained for trying to stage an open-mic show in Havana, says a government crackdown may actually have helped her make her point.
The 46-year-old artist was detained twice this week along with 50 other dissidents as authorities moved to stop her show in Havana's Revolution Square.
Bruguera had organized the "participatory performance" for Cubans to share hopes and fears for their future and that of the communist island.
But, she said, the mass arrests ended up telling a different story.
"The government did the work for me," she told AFP during an interview Thursday.
"They changed the meaning of the work, giving a lesson in intolerance ... All they did was create chaos."
Bruguera, who divides her time between Cuba, the United States and France, now faces charges of holding a "performance aimed at inciting public disorder and resistance to the police."
She said she must remain on the island, because Cuban authorities confiscated her passport.
Bruguera, who calls herself a "woman of the left," said the performance had been designed with "great professionalism, order and full transparency."
She promoted the work on social media and went to the island last week to prepare it. She denied it was a provocation and dismissed claims that US companies were somehow behind the piece.
"There's no American company behind it, there's nobody. I also am not a CIA agent," she said.
She said Cuban security agents had treated her cordially during her hours of detention.
We must start to forgive
"The idea was to put microphones in a public plaza so Cubans can talk about these moments we are living through, the worries they have," Bruguera said, referring to the historic thaw in relations between the United States and Cuba.
On December 17, US President Barack Obama and Cuban counterpart Raul Castro announced an end to 50 years of hostility between the former Cold War foes.
Obama said he would work to revive diplomatic ties and ease a trade embargo.
Castro in turn said he was ready to discuss any topic with Washington after the historic bilateral rapprochement, but warned not to expect political change.
"Why can't they trust that there are some Cubans who, in a moment like this, would give an enthusiastic response and say they want to be a part of these changes," Bruguera asked.
Her project was rejected in advance by the National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba, which called it a "political provocation."
The Ministry of Culture's National Council of Fine Arts said it was a "reality show" and not a work of art.
"I really did not expect that reaction," she said. "I don't understand why they're afraid."
She said she didn't realize the string of arrests had caused the first friction between Washington and Havana since the announcement of the thaw.
Her only intention was to make "people with different points of view come to the same space to hear each other out," she said.
"I think that for Cuba to become the place that Raul (Castro) and Cubans want, we must start to forgive and to forget many things. If not, it will be a disaster."
"The government needs to rethink the system to address some issues," Bruguera added, insisting that even though she never got to perform it, her show nonetheless "was a success."
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