Censorship began in Cuba during the mid 20th century and continues today, but artists have always found a way to speak their mind. This is the view from Cuban artist Yulier Rodriguez's window. Yulier used to have a public studio and gallery, but it was sh info

"I was kidnapped inside my own home," Yulier Rodriguez, 30, of Havana, Cuba, said. He is a visual artist, a quite prolific one, in fact. Before 2017, Yulier's politically-motivated street paintings were estimated to have covered over 200 walls in Havana. Now, Yulier calculates, there are only about 20 full paintings left. Most have been covertly destroyed by the government at night. The morning after, the murals look like they’ve succumbed to the natural decay that affects Havana’s buildings.



“You start to be censored when you (have) a level of credibility or promotion that affects the image of the government,” he said. And for Yulier, censorship wasn’t the only punishment for his political art; he was also kidnapped and thrown in jail. “They kidnap you, they interrogate you for five hours … they throw you between shit and trash and between criminals,” Yulier said.



Jail wasn’t the only punishment the Cuban government inflicted — it also threatened his family: it threatened to expel his girlfriend from her university and eliminate his mother’s prescription medication that she needed to survive.



But Yulier still paints. “I am part of a generation that grew up in fear. What I do is the result of all of that fear … All the frustration, all the impotence with which the Cuban people live. Fear, hunger, misery … all that accumulation of resentment,” he said. And Yulier’s work manifests these ideas. “My work talks about…part of the history that I have had to live and of which I am witness.”



When Yulier was imprisoned, the Cuban government forced him to sign a document saying he would never again paint on public walls. Yulier hasn’t painted on them since, but he’s found other ways to display his work in public; he doesn’t want people to continue to be brainwashed by the government. So — he continues to paint. He’s painted on rubble and on top of taxis so that the Cuban people can still see his messages of dissent everywhere.



When asked why he still paints despite threats and imprisonment, he said: “I am simply a person who decided to live without fear and decided to live free. And in front of me, I will not endure injustice.”


*For readability, quotes have been translated from Spanish to English.

Yulier pauses for a moment in his new studio to think about his painting. Yulier sells his art privately. He used to own a gallery, but the government forced his landlord to kick him out. Now, Yulier sells his art under the table. His new studio is at a p info
Yulier buys a snack to share with his girlfriend after a long day of painting in the heat. info
Yulier Rodriguez, a contemporary Cuban artist, sits at the dining room table in his house in Centro Habana, Cuba, on June 3, 2019. The eyes of one of his paintings peer over his shoulder. Creating work with anti-government messages like he does is isolati info
Yulier paints the bottom of his canvas around a worm. The worms represent the powerless feeling Cuban people have against the government, he said. info
Yulier talks on the phone after dinner, while his fiancee Igmay sits at the table. Yulier's mother (far right), watches TV in their living room. Yulier, Igmay, and Yulier's mother all live together. Yulier was very concerned when the government threatened info
Yulier shares a lot of his anti-government work on Instagram and has many followers on the app. Here, he checks his phone while at dinner with his girlfriend. info
Yulier and Igmay enjoy a sunset on the Malecon. They plan to get married soon and will have a child together next May. info
Yulier places one of his "gifts" on a pile of rubble on the side of a busy street in Centro Habana. info
Yulier's paintings used to be on hundreds of walls in Havana, but now, very few exist. Slowly but surely, the government has been taking them down overnight. Many passerby associate the destroyed paintings with the decayed buildings, so most people don't info
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