Cuba: an artist's view

There is one thing that does change in Cuba, irrespective of political and other circumstances - the heat. Every year it gets hotter, and this year the summer seems to be making everything boil. Since the 1 January 1959, the temperatures in Cuba have been unrelenting, although news of it has only periodically surfaced on front pages in the outside world.

Inventing a socialist revolution in the Caribbean has not been easy. After 47 years, Cubans are still inventing it, with a fortitude which is frankly awe-inspiring. The agreements and disagreements are endless; so much so that sometimes the country itself seems to be an infinite discussion, in which its people, its politicians, its friends and its enemies all participate. So, of course, do its artists.

I come from a generation which, in the 1980s, wanted to change the face of the country. At that time, we seemed to be experiencing an economic bonanza, and the state was open to discussion and change. Artists took advantage of this not only in the galleries, cultural centres and art schools, but also in the streets. Some put on "happenings" and "performances", while others transformed their homes into theatres. Irreverance was the order of the day: the first Cuban choreography to feature a naked man was called, simply, Without Permission. We were reclaiming people, words and behaviours which had previously been erased, and setting ourselves new limits.

With the fall of the Berlin wall, our image of the world also went tumbling. Cuba was suddenly thrown into spiritual, political and economic isolation. In our books and works of art, the old idealism became impossible. We had to embark on a painful process of reinvention. Many people left, and continued the discussion in far-flung places, with a passion, faith and resentment which has sometimes blinded us.

For the artists who stayed, the cultural landscape had changed. Workers, artists, the marginalised, gays, whites, blacks, prostitutes, the young and old, rockers and salseros, women and children; they are all waiting, and hoping. Many pass the time staring at the sea, dreaming of escape. It has not been easy.

Tourists often visit Cuba without seeing any of this. They lose themselves in the fantasy of an enchanting tropical country, and never discover its secret. An interested visitor can see evidence of the real Cuba in the falling-down houses, the sun-beaten parks, the atrocious transport, and the beauty of the sea which surrounds us. In our books, our paintings, our songs and our dance you also see the real Cuba - the one we are all hoping for.

The author is a Havana-based playwright