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VOC Museum


Cuban Communist Prison

Since January 1959, thousands of people have been imprisoned in Cuba for dissent, opposing a repressive system that has curtailed all individual freedoms. We do not know exactly how many political prisoners there have been. We have never known how many jails, how many re-education centers, how many police barracks, how many schools turned into prions, how many prisoners were murdered, how many hunger strikes were carried out. All the figures used in this exhibit are compiled from independent investigations, devoid of the shadows of disinformation sown by the Cuban State Security. These numbers, therefore, are a statistical approximation of the pain of the Cuban people.

The reality is that Cuba is a huge island prison. There are 11 million Cuban prisoners in different levels of confinement. The bars of Cuba are its coasts. The cells are the destroyed streets, where many silent Cubans wander daily, looking for basic foodstuffs. Other Cubans in the great prison cry out for their rights. They face imprisonment in their own homes, in hundreds of prisons of greater or lesser security, in re-education and interrogation centers distributed throughout the country. Those exiled are still held captive through the remittances they send to relatives who remain on the prison island.

As curator Valia Garzón Díaz writes, “This exhibition includes a timeline of transcendental events in the history of the Political Prison in Cuba from 1959 to date. One of the cases is that of Mario Chanes de Armas, who died in 2007 and served a complete 30-year prison sentence for opposing the Cuban regime. He spent six years in solitary confinement, in a walled cell where he could barley stand up. In those years, Mario Chanes recalled, ‘I watched men get shot, point blank, beaten with bayonets, arbitrarily pulled out and punished. But we were alone. The world didn’t know.’

Despite the efforts that have been made in recent years to publicize the reality of political prisoners in Cuba, information about them, the impact of their lives on the lives of their loved ones and on the fibers of our nations is still not widespread enough. The world doesn’t know everything about the Cuban Communist Prison, and we will not rest until everyone does.”

The participating artists of this exhibit, several of whom have been imprisoned or ostracized for their political views, are now recognized internally for their work:
Tania Bruguera, Hamlet Labastida, Annelys PM Casanova, and Anyelo Troya.


Tuesday – Saturday:
9:00 AM – 3:00 PM


900 15th Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20005