A New "Political Imaginary"

Cuba cannot open itself up to the world without first opening itself up to Cubans.
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Reestablishing diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States will be a positive event for Cuban families, for peaceful coexistence in a globalized world and, most of all, for the individual and collective freedom of each Cuban.

In the open letter I sent to President Obama, President Castro and Pope Francis on December 17, I congratulated them on this historic moment, which Cubans have spent half a century waiting for. Hate and embargos accomplish nothing; only through dialogue and acceptance of mutual differences can we all grow and thrive.

This letter also led to the creation of #YoTambienExijo ("I Also Demand"), a nonpartisan, volunteer public platform. Through the key phrase of this missive, "Yo Exijo" ("I Demand"), Cubans are asking for the fulfillment of their civil, political, economic and cultural rights. Why? Because it's impossible to talk about the future of Cuba without taking Cubans' rights and opinions into account. It's not healthy for a society to think only of possible economic improvement. It's not healthy for us to think that Cubans' only future is to be consumers.

It is urgent that Cubans -- not only the government but civil society -- strengthens itself and discusses in diverse environments what concept of a country and future it wants for itself. It is urgent that each Cuban be able to speak for themselves outside of the official institutions established during more than half a century of Cold War. And it is urgent that this discussion brings forth new structures, institutions, laws and rights that guarantee Cubans happiness, quality of life, sovereignty and well-being in the coming years. It is important that Cubans be citizens.

As a Cuban, I demand we be informed of what the plans of the Cuban government are with our lives. I demand that, as part of this new step, a process of political transparency be established, in which we all have a place to participate and the right to a different opinion without being punished for it.

I proposed an artistic performance in the Plaza de la Revolución in Havana on December 30 as an example of political art. Political art is uncomfortable, legally uncomfortable, civically uncomfortable, emotionally uncomfortable. It affects us. Political art is the processing of uncomfortable knowledge.

I've heard many times in Cuba that this isn't the right time to criticize, to use a metaphor or to create a piece of art. Often, I censored myself as an artist as a result of these words that magically place the blame on a doubt or opinion. Today, I know that the right time for an artist is ALWAYS, but most of all when ways of evaluating society and humanity are suspended. The "right time" can't be a government directive, because the result would be propaganda, not art. The artist would be in the service of the government, not society.

I know that now is the right time for the discussion to leave presidential offices and to include all of society, as the most important political decisions on Cuban daily life under these new conditions have yet to be made.

Changes in Cuba cannot be real if the decision comes from above, is simply told to us, and we are obligated to accept it without questions. Changes in Cuba cannot be real if a different opinion is given only when the government allows it. Changes in Cuba cannot be real if Cubans are afraid of certain words, such as Human Rights. Changes in Cuba cannot be real if Cubans are afraid that having an opinion will cost them a job. Changes in Cuba cannot be real if the Cuban government is only interested in its citizens' money, not their ideas.

The December 17 announcement has been very positive, because it created a new "political imaginary" (the theory espoused by Hannah Arendt and Cornelius Castoriadis). Now, we have to fight for this imaginary not to be limited by old behaviors and new censors -- because Cuba cannot open itself up to the world without first opening itself up to Cubans.

This post is part of a Huffington Post blog series called "90 Miles: Rethinking the Future of U.S.-Cuba Relations." The series puts the spotlight on the emerging relations between two long-standing Western Hemisphere foes and will feature pre-eminent thought leaders from the public and private sectors, academia, the NGO community, and prominent observers from both countries. Read all the other posts in the series here.

If you'd like to contribute your own blog on this topic, send a 500-850-word post to impactblogs@huffingtonpost.com (subject line: "90 Miles").

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