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    The Punk Who Didn’t Cry For Fidel

    The Punk Who Didn’t Cry For Fidel / 14ymedio, Pablo De LLano

    14ymedio, Pablo de Llano, Miami, 22 January 2017 — Minutes after the
    announcement of the death of Fidel Castro, last November 25, Danilo
    Maldonado Machado passed by his mother’s house and knocked on the window
    of her room. Maria Victoria Machado opened and her son asked: “Mom, are
    you afraid?” She, who had heard the news, told him no: “You know this is
    my bedtime.” He continued: “Well, I’m going to warm up the track.” Mrs.
    Machado assumed that her son was going to paint some anti-Castro slogan
    in a city, Havana, that that night had been mute, silent, empty. Free
    for the cats and for the crazies.

    “Have you ever asked him not to expose himself so much?”

    “No,” said the mother from Havana. “I admire my son.”

    El Sexto, the artistic alias of Maldonado, left and reappeared a while
    later at the side of the Habana Libre Hotel. With a mobile phone, he
    broadcast live on Faceboo, speaking directly to the screen and mocking
    Fidel and Raul Castro, recalling dead regime opponents, moving through
    the desolate streets: “Nobody it outside,” he said. “Rare,” he
    scoffed. “Nobody wants to talk. But how long will you not want to talk,

    He wore a white Panama hat. Sunglasses hanging from his shirt. Under the
    right eyelid, tattooed barbed wire. Headphones around his neck. He was
    an eccentric putting on a comedian-politician show in an empty but
    guarded theater. The most risky sitcom of the year in Havana. Then he
    asked some squire, “Papi, where’s my can?”

    El Sexto took out a spray can and on a side wall of the Habana Libre,
    the former Havana Hilton and the hotel where the father of the Cuban
    revolution had immediately taken possession of to set up his first
    headquarters after conquering the capital, he scrawled: “He left.”

    Live. His face in the picture. Risk level one hundred.

    He enjoyed it. He looked at the camera and said, “I see panic in their
    faces.” Six feet five-and-a-half inches tall, thin, bearded, exultant. A
    Don Quixote crossing the line.

    Hours later, according to the reconstruction of his mother, he was
    forcibly removed from his apartment by a group of police and locked up
    in the maximum security prison Combinado del Este, outside Havana,
    accused of damage to state property. Only this Saturday, two months
    later, was he released.

    “They gave me my identity card and said I would have no problem
    traveling outside the country,” the artist told 14ymedio a few hours
    after he was released without charges. “I am in good health and I am
    very grateful for the solidarity of all those who were aware of my

    During the time he was imprisoned, Amnesty International declared him
    a prisoner of conscience. A campaign on collected about
    14,000 signatures for his release. Kimberley Motley, an African American
    lawyer specializing in human rights, traveled to Cuba in December to try
    to visit him in prison, but was detained and returned to the United
    States. The vice-president of the German Parliament, the Social Democrat
    Ulla Schmidt, declared herself his “political godmother.”

    This was his second time in prison. In 2015 he spent 10 months locked up
    for planning a performance art piece with two pigs painted with the
    names of Fidel and Raul. In his 33 years El Sexto has become a heterodox
    figure of dissent. More a provocateur than an activist, he is
    essentially a natural punk, a creative thug who in another country would
    only have paid a fine for painting a wall, but to whom 21st century Cuba
    dedicates the punitive treatment it considers appropriate to a threat to
    the security of the State.

    When they released him in 2015, after a hunger strike, El Sexto traveled
    through different countries and explained in a talk that in the
    beginning he defined his political stance as that of an artist in
    response to the official propaganda so abundant on the island: “If they
    have the right to violate my visual space, I also have the right to
    violate their visual space,” he maintained.

    Years earlier Cuban government proclamations were calling for the return
    of five Cubans imprisoned in the United States for espionage. They were
    called The Five Heroes. It was then that Maldonado adopted his nickname
    “El Sexto” – the Sixth – and emerged as a graffit artist.

    “Danilo says that art has to be brave and try to impact people,”
    explains his girlfriend, Alexandra Martinez, a Cuban-American journalist
    he met in Miami. She says that El Sexto is a fan of Estopa, a Spanish
    rock/rumba duo, and Joan Manuel Serrat, a Spanish singer-songwriter. She
    tells how impressed he was when he went to New York and visited the
    studio of artist Julian Schnabel, director of Before Night Falls, the
    film about Reinaldo Arenas, a Cuban poet who died of AIDS in exile, and
    also the director of Basquiat, about the artist who began is career
    using the tag SAMO (for Same Old), on his graffiti in the streets of

    Mrs. Machado says that in the case file the cost of erasing her child’s
    graffiti at Havana Libre was recorded as 27 Cuban pesos

    Martinez likes a drawing he has done in his current prison stay,
    titled Cemetery of living men. It’s a three-level bunk with a man in the
    bottom, the middle bunk empty and a cockroach in the upper
    bunk. “Someone,” his mother says, has been sneaking out of prison the
    pages he painted and publishing them on his Facebook page. They have a
    surreal style.

    He also writes. He talks about his nightmares – zoomorphic guards who
    mistreat him; he takes notes of the language of the prisoners –
    “fucking: synonymous with food”; and directs messages to his audience –
    “I still have not received news of my case,” “I draw little because of
    my allergy, the excessive dampness and the lack of light, “ “the boss of
    my unit beat me,” “only the cosmic knows the true purpose of this ordeal.”

    Mrs. Machado says that in the case file the cost of erasing her child’s
    graffiti at Havana Libre was recorded as 27 Cuban pesos, the equivalent
    of one dollar and one cent US. “But they do not forgive what he
    painted,” she says. Maldonado has written from prison: “Imagine how many
    people laugh about me. I’m already famous in jails and prisons.” Fidel
    Castro left. The bars remain.


    Editor’s note: This text is reproduced here with the permission of El
    País, which published it today.

    Source: The Punk Who Didn’t Cry For Fidel / 14ymedio, Pablo De LLano –
    Translating Cuba –

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