Art & politics marching together in the U.S.
By Agustin Blazquez and Jaums
Let’s not kid ourselves: politics are a factor in the selection of who
gets in and who gets out in the art field in the U.S. as in it is in
totalitarian Cuba. Whoever says it isn’t so is either naïve or lying.
The laying of the foundation of the bias has been underway for decades
as communists, socialists, progressives, liberals and all other enemies
of the U.S. -- all with a definite far-left political agenda – have
specifically sought employment and other associations with the
information and art media. This privileged position affords control of
what is seen and heard via the media that pervade our lives affecting
the opinions of the population and easily tilting the political balance
of the country.
A stealthy tool of this agenda is the installation of self-censorship
into the minds of the people by pressing “political correctness,” that
has become so pervasive in the learning centers of America. It dictates
what is acceptable to like and what is not. Resisting results in being
ostracized and harassed on the campuses of America or denying tenure to
professors who think differently as in the case of Cuban American Juan
J. Lopez at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
In my article with Jaums Sutton “Political Correctness: The Scourge Of
Our Times,” published in 2002 by The Washington Dispatch, NewsMax and
CubaInfoLinks, I discussed the origin, the developers and the purpose of
this aberration ruling America today.
I looked it up. It was developed at the Institute for Social Research in
Frankfurt, Germany, which was founded in 1923 and came to be known as
the “Frankfurt School”. It was a group of thinkers who pulled together
to find a solution to the biggest problem facing the implementers of
communism in Russia.
The problem? Why wasn’t communism spreading? The “answer”? Because
Western Civilization was in its way. What was the problem with Western
Civilization? Its belief in the individual - that an individual could
develop a valid idea. At the root of communism was the theory that all
valid ideas come from the effect of the social group of the masses. The
individual is nothing. And they believed that the only way for communism
to advance was to help (or force, if necessary) Western Civilization to
destroy itself. How to do that? Undermine its foundations by chipping
away at the rights of those annoying individuals.
One way to do that? Change their speech and thought patterns by
spreading the idea that vocalizing your beliefs is disrespectful of
others and must be avoided to make up for past inequities and
injustices. And call it something that sounds positive: “Political
Inspired by the brand new communist technique, Mao, in the 1930s, wrote
an article on the “correct” handling of contradictions among the people.
“Sensitive training” – sound familiar? – and speech codes were born.
After Hitler, in 1935, the Frankfurt School moved to New York City where
they continued their work by translating Marxism from economic to
cultural terms by using Sigmund Freud’s psychological conditioning
mechanisms to get Americans to buy into Political Correctness. In 1941,
they moved to California to spread their wings.
But Political Correctness remains just what it was intended to be: a
sophisticated and dangerous form of censorship and oppression imposed
upon the citizenry with the ultimate goal of manipulating, brainwashing
and destroying our society.
As an artist in the U.S. for 20 years, I have noticed this constant
rejection because I was a Cuban American exile. The famous Cuban writer
living in London, Guillermo Cabrera Infante, had warned me about it. But
I was naïve and thought that since my art doesn’t have any connection
with Cuban politics; I would be able to overcome it. But I was wrong
because I was an exile. That automatically made me a person who didn’t
like the Castro regime and Castro is an icon of the left, in charge of
the art field in America.
It is not that my art wasn’t good. I specialized in Egyptian art of the
pharaonic era (as far away from Cuba and politics as I could get). For
the quality of my work I was honored to receive an official invitation
from the Egyptian government to visit their country. All in the middle
of an Egyptian art craze because of the 1976 Tutankhamun exhibit at the
National Gallery in Washington, DC. The Egyptian Embassy sent a press
release announcing the invitation and trip. I never got a single comment
I had many great exhibits but none was ever reviewed. They gave me the
silent treatment. One time, the reviewer from The Washington Post came
to my exhibit! The front entrance of the gallery had a huge banner
advertising my show, which occupied the first and most of the second
floor of the gallery, except a little room on the back displaying
another artist. His subject matter was dissected bodies showing the
The reviewer wore blinders like a horse because she apparently didn’t
notice my work. Instead she gave a glowing review to the other artist.
But what made me decide that I shouldn’t continue fighting the wall of
rejection in the art field in the U.S. was my presence at the People
Magazine 10th anniversary party in Washington, D.C. Since my work wasn’t
getting any attention, I decided to dress very bazaar, as other artists
do. When I entered I certainly got a lot of attention.
Two yuppie-looking female reporters from the magazine approached me and
started a conversation. They seemed to be very interested in me and my
work, which wasn’t even part of the exhibit, for as long as they thought
that I was French, Italian or from some other European country. But they
keep asking me where I was from. I kept not answering. But the answer to
that question became their only focus, so I finally said, “I am from
It was as if I had pressed their magic button. Both reporters did a
Michael Jackson half spin and left me in the middle of the room, as they
would throw away a used piece of toilet paper. They both knew and
followed the rule precisely. So in 1988, I gave up.
It’s not just my case, Cuban American exiles in the art field have been
suffering this discrimination for decades. It is true that we are free
to create art, write or produce any documentary or film we wish to do,
but they don’t let us in and play. The doors are tightly shut. And it
all boils down to politics. They don’t accept us because of the
political agenda of the people in power.
The late Oscar-winning cinematographer Nestor Almendros received the
same treatment from the people in charge of the film festivals in the
U.S. and from PBS because of his documentaries “Improper Conduct” and
“Nobody Listened.” I was a personal friend of Nestor and I know what he
went through. I also collaborated in a project with the brilliant writer
Reinaldo Arenas who was constantly rejected by the U.S. literary
establishment and died ostracized in abject poverty.
Other talented Cuban American documentalists and filmmakers in exile,
like Mari Rodriguez Ichaso, Jorge Ulla, Orlando Jimenez Leal, Leon
Ichaso and others have experienced this rejection from film festivals in
Actually these in control reactionaries of the far-left don’t want our
message to reach the American people. They don’t want the public to see
anything that contradicts their dictums. That is very unhealthy and
un-American, because it is censorship, which it is the opposite of what
the Founding Fathers of this great nation had in mind.
As a writer and as a documentalist, my work has suffered the same fate
as the others. Recently, my third documentary of a series, COVERING CUBA
3: Elian, in spite of being invited – because of its merits - to
participate in the 2003 Miami Latin Film Festival, was rejected by the
2004 Sundance Film Festival, which never even bothered to reply to my
application or my letters. The usual silent treatment.
PBS did the same and never replied to my letters. The PBS series Point
of View (POV), as it did with my prior documentaries, rejected my newest
one. The Documentary Educational Resources in Massachusetts and the
Maryland State Arts Council also rejected my documentaries. [Award of
government and private foundation grants also depend very much on
political considerations. If you are not from the anti-American left,
you don’t get anything.]
The American Films Institute (AFI) showed my first documentary of the
series “COVERING CUBA,” in 1995 at a sold-out screening at the Kennedy
Center. But this time in their wonderfully restored location in Silver
Spring, Maryland, they told me after eight months, after viewing about
10 minutes of it, that my documentary was too controversial and they
wouldn’t show it by itself.
I proposed having a Cuban American Filmmakers Festival so it can be
shown in the context of other films made by other Cuban Americans. The
film programmer seemed interested, but based on my experience and the
status quo, I am not holding my breath. He advised me to send my latest
documentary to the annual SILVERDOCS AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary
But they also rejected it.
In spite of what the rejection notification I received via email said,
deep down the real reason is pure and simple politics. What Cuban
Americans do in the art field that is contrary to Castro, is
Other controversial films and documentaries with an anti-America,
pro-Castro, pro-communist slant or that are ambiguous about the crimes
of the leftist regimes and critical of the right, are readily exhibited
by the AFI , PBS and our educational centers in the U.S.
Also, while Castro's official artists get GRAMMY nominations,
opportunities to sell and promote their CDs as well as very good press
in the U.S., the real (and free) Cuban singers and musicians in exile
suffer discrimination and closed doors. They would rather hire Castro’s
official singers and musicians living in Cuba performing officially
sanctioned music than exiled ones.
The hatred toward Cuban Americans was clearly exposed during the Elian
Gonzalez affair, when the exiles were ridiculed, misrepresented,
maligned and offended in radio, television and the press by their
coverage riddled with derogatory terms created by the Castro regime.
In their places of employment in the U.S. Cuban Americans were
intimidated to silence their opinion about the Elian case. Many felt
like they were in Nazi Germany. And the final outcome with the shameful
storming of the house of a humble Cuban American family in Miami proved
that they were not far from reality.
This hatred is incomprehensible. Cuban Americans are a highly
successful, hard working and law-abiding community that has been an
asset to this nation and have contributed to the prosperity of South
But according to the “Political Correctness” that is ruling this country
now, it is all right, even encouraged to discriminate against Cuban
Americans for political reasons in the arts. They claim that art and
politics are not mixed, in Castro’s Cuba or the U.S., but in the
practice we know that is a great lie.
So, I encourage all Cuban Americans in the U.S. to call all their
senators and representatives to urge them to stop this political
discrimination against Cuban American artists in exile.
© 2004 ABIP
Agustin Blazquez, Producer/director of the documentaries
COVERING CUBA, CUBA: The Pearl of the Antilles, COVERING CUBA 2: The
Next Generation & COVERING CUBA 3: Elian presented at the 2003 Miami
Latin Film Festival and the upcoming COVERING CUBA 4: The Rats Below
Author with Carlos Wotzkow of the book COVERING AND DISCOVERING and
translator with Jaums Sutton of the book by Luis Grave de Peralta Morell
THE MAFIA OF HAVANA: The Cuban Cosa Nostra.
For a preview and information on the documentary and books click here: