Lien Carrazana Lau

* 1980

  • “Regarding the magazine, something very curious happened: at some point I began to censor myself because I wanted to put things as they were and I knew this would bring me problems. When I started to write, a lot of people approached me and said: ‘hey, be careful, because you're sending this by mail, people are circulating it, this reaches people.’ It was very nice because it also reached people outside of Cuba who began to write to me, exiled people from here [Spain] who told me: ‘I like your magazine, we are going to invite you to publish here’, and I published in foreign magazines. But of course, there is also something latent, there is self-censorship, there is the ‘I am not going to write this, I am not going to publish about this, because I am beginning to get into dangerous ground’. And, in the midst of my naivety at 26 years old, I saw it quite simply, I did not really know what that could imply, what it could imply for someone to write independently... In Cuba the media are official and everything is official. You can have alternative projects as long as they are not a noise to the system; once they are a noise for the system, they can knock on your door, and my partner told me: ‘if you keep writing on certain topics, especially essays and critical things, out of what is established, one day they will knock on the door and take our computer with them.’ We thought like that, it could have been worse, but it was what we thought.”

  • “There is a very big contrast between a standard, rigid, depersonalized preuniversitario, and an art school. I experienced both, and I also have many friends who have experienced other art schools and I know the experiences they had. How a teenager can become an adult with values, with culture, with a background, who likes to go to the cinema, to the ballet, to a library to read a book, which are almost always the profiles of art students because they live it. My partner, for example, also studied plastic arts, and studied at the art school in Camagüey, together with dancers, musicians and artists. My partner has a knowledge of music, a taste for ballet that I do not have because I did not have that training, and all that is given to you by this type of education, and education that was quite complete. We even had Russian teachers who were very good at drawing and you learned a lot. Of course, the other type of education [preuniversitario] was made to encapsulate a type of child who ended up following a script, and then continued it in college. And those are the children who later have to be affiliated with the Juventud, the Union of Young Communists of Cuba. They force you to follow that route. In art school that didn’t happen, in art school the one who belonged to the Juventud was even frowned upon: ‘Look, that's the guy from the Juventud’, and you walked away. So, there was a big difference and [art school] helped me a lot to be who I am today.

  • “I had to enter the pre-university education, the preuniversitario, which was in the countryside. At that time, when I was 15 years old, all preuniversitarios were in the countryside. That has already disappeared today, but at that time the preuniversitario en el campo was the only opportunity to study for most teenagers. The only other options were art school, which was difficult to enter, and sports, which were the schools that were based in the cities. And there was perhaps a few preuniversitarios in town, for privileged students, mostly from families with connections. All the rest of us had to go to the preuniversitario en el campo, where you had to work every morning in the fields, at 16, which was very strong, and then classes in the afternoon, and you stayed to sleep there all week and you only spent the weekend at home. I lived it for a year, and that was the complete blow to say ‘I don't want this, this can't be right.’ I didn't understand the system, my mother wasn't going to explain it to me, but I understood that it couldn't be right; a system that takes you away at the age of 15, being a minor, from your home, to somehow impose its rules on you and ideologically control you and separate you from your home, could not be right.”

  • “During my transition to adolescence, I remember that things were no longer so good. Very simple and elementary things that a child remembers: how when I was 9 years old they gave us a soda and a sweet as a snack at school, and how at 12 years old that had disappeared, and if you didn't bring something from home, then you had no snack. And then, the transition to secondary school, when I was a teenager, the social differences became stronger. As a teen, I eventually needed some money to go to a party, or for clothes. I saw that my friends who had family outside, they had better clothes than me, and I saw how my mother has difficulties to buy those clothes, even though my mother was a person with a good job, because she was the director of a dental clinic. And that social difference was already fully marked in the 90s, when the Special Period began, and I was in the middle of adolescence, there was a quite strong food crisis and although my mother continued to have a good job, we ate as badly as any other family. There I realized, although I did not understand very well what was happening, that the system had collapsed.”

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    Madrid, 28.09.2020

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“Those of us who are outside Cuba, we have to do our part, so those who are inside are not forgotten.”

Carranza Lau Lien
Carranza Lau Lien
photo: Post Bellum

Lien Carrazana was born in 1980 in Havana but grew up in Santa Clara, where she had a happy and well-off childhood. During the Special Period of the 1990s, she experienced the shortage of goods and the system’s ineffectiveness. After a hard year of pre-university education in the countryside, she managed to enter the school of Plastic Arts in Trinidad. In this environment of independence and freedom, she was able to look beyond the limitations of the previous years. Recently graduated, she worked for five years at the Luz y Oficios gallery in Old Havana until she collided with the regime’s power structures and decided not to work for official institutions again. Instead, she became a freelance designer and founded the magazine La caja de la china. In 2007, she traveled to Spain to participate in an exhibition and decided not to return to Cuba. In 2009, she participated in founding the digital newspaper Diario de Cuba, where she continues to work today.