Dissident artist Tania Bruguera has passport returned by Cuban authorities

Cuban dissident artist Tania Bruguera has passport returned after 6 months of legal uncertainy

More than six months after having her passport confiscated following an aborted attempt to hold a public performance in Havana, artist Tania Bruguera had her passport returned to her by Cuban authorities Friday, according to a statement issued by #YoTambienExijo, the art and activism platform run by Bruguera in collaboration with her sister Deborah.

"The day has arrived," reads the statement. "The Cuban government has returned Cuban artist Tania Bruguera's passport, and she is now legally allowed to travel outside the island again."

"They are desperate for me to leave," the artist told Miami's El Nuevo Herald on Saturday. "But I worry that they won't let me back into the country in the future."

The artist is a Cuban national, but frequently spends long periods in the U.S. and Europe exhibiting and teaching. She was temporarily detained in Havana just before the new year for trying to stage a performance about freedom of expression in the city's iconic Revolution Square. During that time, she had her passport revoked by the Cuban authorities.

In the months since, she has been temporarily detained on multiple occasions, most recently during the 12th Havana Biennial following a sanctioned performance in which she read from a book about totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt.

After having her passport revoked, Bruguera was forced to remain in the country as the Cuban government weighed whether to pursue charges against her. With the return of her passport, it is safe to assume that the government will not pursue charges against her. This is good news for Bruguera, who has been living in limbo since she was first detained at the tail end of last year. 

The artist has other reasons to celebrate too. On Monday, the Museum of Modern Art announced the acquisition of a video work of Bruguera's from 2000, as reported in the New York Times.

In addition, the city of New York announced that Bruguera would serve as the first artist-in-residence for the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs. (This is not new territory for Bruguera, who in 2011 launched an art project called Immigrant Movement International under the auspices of the nonprofit Creative Time and the Queens Museum of Art.)

The artist, in the meantime, isn't exactly rushing to catch the next flight out of Havana. She is intent on remaining in Cuba until she has some assurances that she will be able to return.

"I'm not going to leave Cuba until I have an official document in my hands that legally guarantees that I can come back without any problems," she declared in the statement. "My argument has never been about leaving Cuba. My argument is about working so there is freedom of expression and public protest in Cuba."

The statement notes that Cuban government officials have promised the artist a document that will guarantee her re-entry. But officials have not issued any public statements on the matter. 

Find me on Twitter @cmonstah.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times


6:51 p.m.: This story was updated to include information about the Museum of Modern Art acquisition and Bruguera's announced residency in New York.