Iris Ruiz Hernández

* 1980  

  • "You want to throw a birthday party for your daughter, and you get the idea of inviting a clown. Well, you have to go to the Ministry of Culture, choose someone from their catalogue and hire him. No way you could do it like in the old days when you have freely asked someone who does it as a craft and pay him. Nowadays, you have to go to the Ministry and choose someone approved. Because only the person with the permit is allowed to be a clown on your daughter's birthday. If you want to do a traditional Cuban music gathering…Splendid, but where are the musicians registered? Do you have any permission which enables them to come and play at your home? If I come to your place and someone performs there… Where is your permit from the Ministry of Culture? Well, imagine it yourself. It is madness. So, anyone can appear and has the right to cancel your whole private party right away. "

  • "There aren't any facilities for homeless women or hostels for families in difficult positions. There is nowhere to shelter. Frankly, I have experienced rough bullying by the local institutions myself. Moreover, it was related to the fact that I am a woman. For instance, one of the officials I had to deal with in the housing department was a man. You come there and start depicting your current situation. The answer I got was, "Well, look, girl, you should have used a condom." That is how it started. “Get a condom! Do not do it like this, you have to do it in another way." It was absurd. They closed it up by advising you to get someone to help you and solve it for you. Someone who provides a space where you could build a shelter or something similar… it could be your aunt, friend. That is how they dealt with it. One clerk, insincerely trying to be kind, once told me: "I got myself a man who had a house. He left me a few years afterward. So now my daughter had to help me. But again, I'm looking for a man who owns a house. You need to break up with the man you are currently with and replace him with someone who will provide you housing.”

  • "You cannot all of a sudden decide to become an independent artist, it is not that easy. It is impossible to simply say you will set up a small private theatre association at your home. Expecting you will be allowed to perform in the park, just because it is a public space for everyone. That is not how it works. As soon as you decide to take this path, they will start pursuing, harassing, and bullying you. They try to create an atmosphere of distrust around you, striving to make you a bad person in the eyes of others. So that people withdraw from you. They shape public opinion; they discredit you in your neighbours’ eyes. Consequently, any of your eventual opportunities are limited. In essence, whatever you might want to start doing... let's say you want to start a children's choir. Oh, so you want to lead a children's choir. They start filling the parent's heads with falsehoods about you that you are addicted to drugs, for instance. They publicly accuse you of being involved in the distribution of child pornography. Yes, it can go to such extremes… "

  • "They look down at you as a desperado, as a servant. They look down at you as if you were their property. That is how our own government views us. It is expected of us to glory them and shout: “Long live the King! Hail to the King!” The more, the better. That is how a place without civil society looks. It was him (Fidel Castro). He inflicted this entire catastrophe. The utter debacle is due to his conduct. Separated families. The majority of the population are alcoholics. Most women are prostitutes. It is an absolute disaster!"

  • "I remember going from apartment to apartment in our block of flats, gathering food. Someone gave onion, someone potato, then some added peppers, a piece of cabbage, and a meal was served for all. In that way, we used to eat. I also remember the constant power outages. So, in protest, the neighbours began throwing bottles out the windows. Alamar lies directly on the beach, so in 1994 we were suddenly able to observe people marching with tractor tires, various wooden boards, and mattresses. It was beyond belief. Many of my friends have vanished. They left or did not survive the route to the USA. They were so many. Those are the things you would rather forget “

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To heal this country, an entire army of psychologists is needed

Iris Ruiz Hernández
Iris Ruiz Hernández
photo: Post Bellum

Iris Ruiz Hernández was born on August 11, 1980, into a family started by two people with a total of five children from their previous marriages. She grew up in the well-known city district of El Alamar, located in the east of the capital Havana. This significantly affected her childhood. Although she describes it as a happy one, she remembers very well the shortcoming that people living on the seashore in East European-style blocks of flats had to face. Right from here, the so-called balseros, who for various reasons decided to leave Cuba, set out on a dangerous voyage to reach the United States of America. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, inhabitants of El Alamar had to share food to survive. Iris was an artistically gifted, very active, and sociable child. Therefore, after finishing primary school, she decided to enroll at a school of art called the Escuela Nacional de Arte. She was eventually admitted and successfully graduated. Acting has become an integral part of her life. She is usually in the role of an actress or a professor of acting. To this day, she and groups of children establish together theatre choirs. According to Iris, it is rare for people from El Alamar to have an opportunity to experience the culture, which she considers an excellent means of forming critical and free-thinking. She herself participated as an organizer in numerous independent cultural events and festivals. That resulted in her conflict with the Cuban authorities. She is a member of the San Isidro Movement, which brings together some of the most important Cuban alternative artists. She and her partner Amaury Pachec work on the Omni ZonaFranca Project furthermore participated in the Havana Independent Biennial 00. The government designated the mentioned associations and groups as opposition. Therefore, she has been repeatedly the victim of various attacks and persecutions.