On June 29 at dawn I spoke with Anyelo Troya for the last time. “How’s it going brother? This here is on fire, ”he told me on WhatsApp. “Tell me, bro,” I replied. “Nothing. To say hi, bro ”. “Yes, brother, of course, you are loved.” It was that, it seems like nothing and it was both. No extra explanation, no string of misfortunes, no complaints.
It reminded me of a time in Cárdenas, my municipality, when a grandfather went to the town park at night to connect to the local Wi-Fi to communicate with his grandchildren in Miami and forgot to carry the flashlight to illuminate himself. After a while, you don’t want to see the one who left. You want, with all your might, that the one who left see you. Shining a flashlight on you and someone, after all, can tell you if you still have a face or not.
Anyelo —25 years old — is a photographer. On July 11, he went out to document the protests against the Cuban government in his neighborhood of Old Havana and was taken to prison. Under the accusation of “public disorder”, they have just sentenced him in summary trial to one year in jail. His relatives and lawyers found out about the sentence when Anyelo had already been tried.
Actually, the punishment comes because Anyelo is the director who recorded the shots of the rappers Maykel Osorbo, the Funky and the artist Luis Manuel Otero in the video clip of the song Homeland and Vinea, anthem and slogan around which Cubans who demand political change in the country, or who simply cannot take it, have gathered. That part of the clip was filmed at night, clandestinely, in a half-built building in Havana.
In addition, Anyelo has recently photographed the most prominent members of the San Isidro Movement and of the cultural dissidence on the island. The expressive force, the fury contained in black and white and, at the same time, the marks of severe experience and the intimate aesthetic of resistance in his portraits make him an artist, between the documentary and the vaguely essayistic, who accesses the agitation of public strife with graceful serenity and plebeian elegance.
Before Anyelo, Maykel Osorbo and Luis Manuel Otero were also arrested on charges of “attack, resistance and contempt” and both await trial in prisons outside of Havana. The political police are locking up all those who helped to build a package of renewed symbols, re-signified ideas and intervened icons that would allow people to practice the ritual of protest.
The plastic artist Hamlet Lavastida remains in the Villa Marista prison after his return to Cuba from Germany, for having received alleged instructions from the Polish intelligence, or something like that, to destabilize the political and governmental order. Tania Bruguera is interrogated for eleven hours for following Lavastida’s orders.
The delusion that builds crime also builds, contrary to its will, virtue. Suspicion alerts, in the same way, the watched individual, who sets about looking for the hidden keys of a non-existent conspiracy and, since he does not find them, because there are none, then he invents them and turns the neurosis of subversion into a possibility. rational. Once totalitarianism has reached its fullness, it inevitably begins to generate its own sabotage, since it subsists thanks to the assumption of an imminent threat. Without interest for the gringos, for the Russians, or for anyone, the power had to pretend that Cuba still mattered to someone, and having nothing better at hand, pretended that it mattered to the Cubans, the only ones who were minimally willing to believe it.
Cancer eats itself, the cure comes from excess disease. Nobody thinks that there is a possibility of change until the power does not indirectly filter the coded message of the dismantling, hence the skepticism of half a country and three-quarters of exile has had to retrace its steps almost overnight, and imagine that there is still everything where, frankly, there is nothing left. This happens to the dominant institution in spite of itself, and that is the reason why the economic or administrative measures that the late Castro leadership has taken in recent years seem to us secretly destined for the ultimate end of its devastation.
The lesson that the sentence of Anyelo Troya pursues gives us the measure of its importance. Elementary justice, something that rarely happens, is then the result of the most refined political calculation. The arrests, beatings, denunciations, arbitrary convictions, moral disqualifications and the lack of information about family members in prison are thus, as a whole, a factory for dissidents. New faces for the lens will emerge from this night of repression.
I met Anyelo in December 2020, the day some of the San Isidro barracks were allowed to re-enter the Movement’s headquarters, in Damas 955, after the political police raided the place, took us all out to the force and dilute the hunger strike that a part of the group maintained in solidarity with the eight months in prison imposed for contempt of rapper Denis Solís. Anyelo took pictures of him, discreet, at the instant of the violence that had happened, something that, by experiencing it, none of us had been able to see. It documented that frozen azure, a decomposed stillness. I have not yet heard of those images, I do not think he has published them anywhere yet, but what he captured has been disseminated, and it would not have been able to be disseminated if there had been no one willing to capture it.
Days later we ate pizza in Old Havana. Anyelo accompanied me to exchange a few dollars and told me, with strange enthusiasm, how she had been able to buy her first camera. Self-taught, his art is also the journey to get there. At night, as if I did not remember him, he sent me the first message, which was followed by his photos: “Good evening, brother. I am Anyelo Troya, the photographer friend of Luis and Maykel ”. He is such a friend, and has accompanied them so far, that now he also shares a prison.
Carlos Manuel Alvarez is a Cuban writer and journalist.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.