Contemporary art

Cuban government returns Tania Bruguera’s passport

While artist is named first to take up residency established by New York City mayor’s office of immigrant affairs

The Cuban government returned Tania Bruguera’s passport on 10 July, having confiscated it six months ago. The artist has not been allowed to travel for this period after attempting a performance on Havana’s Plaza de la Revolucion last December.

But the artist and activist says she will not leave Cuba right away. “My argument has never been about leaving Cuba; my argument is about working so there is freedom of expression and public protest in Cuba. People should feel free to say what they think without fear of losing their jobs or university standing, of being marginalised or imprisoned,” she said in a statement released by #YoTambienExijo.

Furthermore, the artist says she will not leave Cuba until she has an official document “that legally guarantees [she] can come back without any problems”. The Cuban authorities have promised to give her such a document within two weeks, according to the statement. Her ability to travel freely will also depend on whether the criminal charges against her have been dropped.

On 12 July, the artist was arrested in Havana with more than 40 activists while attending a peaceful protest with the Damas de Blanco, a group of women who have started to rally every Sunday for the civil and human rights of imprisoned Cuban dissidents. Bruguera was released hours later. She was also arrested in June after attending a similar Sunday rally.

Meanwhile, on 14 July, the New York City department of cultural affairs and the mayor's office of immigrant affairs announced Bruguera will be the first artist to take part in a new residency programme. During her year-long residency, Bruguera will help recruit undocumented immigrants for the city’s new municipal identification card program, IDNYC.

At the time Bruguera had her passport confiscated, planning for her residency was already underway. Despite the situation, the New York City departments "decided to move forward in full support of Bruguera’s artistic practice", according to a press release. The release also reiterates that Cuban authorities have indicated they will guarantee in the next two weeks that Bruguera can return to Cuba if she leaves the country. The residency is due to start "later in July".