On Wednesday, August 14, Adonis Milan was kidnapped on D Street and 25 in El Vedado. Two policemen took away his phone and put him in a patrol car. They had taken orders from Castroist paramilitary forces who had been calling and harassing the young Cuban theater director for days.
Adonis Milan is 25 years old, born on December 5, 1993. A few days after his birth his father left Cuba and Adonis grew up cared for by his mother, his grandmother, and a paternal family that gradually abandoned Cuba, until he was left alone in the house that he occupied until very recently.
"When my aunt, the owner of the house, came in December of 2018, State Security began to harass her. She told me that she had been taken to Villa Marista, and threatened to take her house away if I didn't get out of there," says Adonis.
He then had to collect his things and return to his mother's house, where he grew up, and live with his mother, grandmother, an uncle suffering from schizophrenia, and his grandfather, who showed up some time during his teens and came to live with them.
"My aunt and I stayed in touch, but she was very afraid. Fear is the worst thing that can happen to us. We are governed through it," he says.
Adonis Milan is from Jesús María, an old Havana neighborhood where, for centuries, schedules and relationships between residents were shaped by the shifts at the Port of Havana. But long before Adonis was born the port had ceased to be the thriving wharf around which a whole outlying neighborhood had once sprung up.
"My primary school is called Emilio Núñez, a large school in Jesús María. There a teacher sexually abused me when I was ten years old. He had a history of sexually abusing minors at several schools. He presented himself as the ideal teacher. He belonged to the Party, and seemed impeccable. He took us to his house and sexually abused us. He was finally reported and went to prison. A teacher reported him after two girls he abused told her."
This teacher was not only guilty of sexual abuse. In his classroom he also physically abused his students, hitting them during acts of rage, or as punishment.
During middle school Adonis Milan began to get involved in theater, at various amateur venues. In 2010 he joined Daisy Sánchez's acting workshops, and it was his contact with Berta Martínez, and his work with Antonia Fernández, as assistant director at the Vivarta Theater School, which he thinks were turning points in shaping his career. On August 30, 2015 he founded Perséfone Teatro, a group with which he began his work as a director.
"For me, theater is not a place just to experience something, I do not believe in theater as an instrument of human improvement. For me it is an act of faith, sacrifice and pain. It is born in the blood and dies in the blood. It is not therapy. It is not for you to feel good. If you are miserable in your life, you will die miserable."
The importance of experience in his conception of the theater, the marks left on everyday people by suffering and abandonment, were themes of the productions of Perséfone Teatro from its beginning. And it was the search for that experience that brought Adonis harassment, kidnappings, and hounding by Castro's paramilitary operatives.
"What I was looking for in the opposition was an experience. I didn't come looking to be a leader, to be a politician, or even to change the country. I wanted to meet Berta Soler. That's why I went to her house. Rosa María Payá, Lía Villares; for me they were the quintessential tragic heroines. I wanted to have them in my flesh, but for my theater group and my experience in the theater. On February 4, 2018 I went out with the Ladies in White. It was their 133rd Sunday of protest. I've always wanted to be part of something, but I've never been part of anything but the theater. "
In his article "My first encounter with State Security," Adonis recounts the first paramilitary interrogation of which he was a victim. He recalls with humor and aplomb an interrogation that instilled fear in him, spurred him to agree to work as an informant, and to sign an "oath" in which he promised to work for the paramilitary forces.
"If I agreed to work as a snitch, they would provide me with benefits for my theater group, and give me a project at the National Council of the Performing Arts (CNAE), where I would have a staff of actors, and later an official headquarters," he recognized in that article.
It was his "report against myself". Doubly brave, he denounced both his persecutors, and admitted his fear. But the harassment was just beginning. The horror is greater when aggression is suspended, and one is always waiting for its consummation.
It was also in December 2017 when his mother, a worker at the Habana Libre Hotel, was released. "She lost her job when I started having problems with State Security. For 20 years she was a waitress, then a supervisor, and when she was left on the street, she was cleaning. "
Over time, the harrying would only increase.
"You don't play around with State Security"
A few months after having been expelled from his aunt's house due to paramilitary pressures, in May 2019 actress Liu Cobas, with whom he was finishing up work on Andromache, based on the text by Euripides, stopped answering her phone and blocked him on Facebook.
"It was five days before the premiere. I had locked myself in my house to work with her, and later they threw me out of there. We started working in run-down places in the city. It was a difficult relationship because I had to be the 'bad director.' She wasn't an actress, she had to be the character. So tragically, like a Lars Von Trier movie, she had to suffer just what the protagonist was suffering. I fervently believe that."
Not without frustration, Adonis adds: "A few months later a friend sent me a picture of her. She was abroad, and she has never communicated with me again."
On July 3, 2019, Cibercuba journalist Iliana Hernández organized a birthday party at her home in the Cojimar neighborhood. Adonis arrived early. A short time later Omara Ruiz Urquiola showed up, and the police tried to block her from entering. Adonis Milan helped her to break through the police blockade. "The next day they call me and said 'Hey, let's talk', and I told them that I had nothing to say to them, and hung up. Then they started going to my Mom's house."
On August 14, after being abducted by the police and taken to the Zanja police station, the paramilitary forces who had been badgering him for days interrogated him and locked him in a cell for five hours.
"There were two agents: one who called himself José, and a short, bald man who introduced himself as a captain. Both were dressed in civilian clothes. The bald man says to me 'We're going to make you disappear. I could easily put a bullet in your head. ' What you see in front of you is a person who enjoys the fear that he instills in you. He's a minion, someone who wouldn't hesitate to shoot you. I started feeling bad. He played with me, they always do the same thing: 'we're going to let you go, we're not going to let you go; we're going to let you go, we're not going to let you go'. Because I –and State Security knows this– can't deal with jail. I feel really bad in jail. I start shaking."
Daunted by the experience, he promised to answer his phone and respond to the summons he received. A day later, on Thursday, August 15, they called him. He said he did not feel well, and a new appointment was set for the next day.
At that time Adonis was taking care of the house of his friend Omara Ruiz Urquiola in the Havana municipality of Playa. He was told to meet in a park near there, at 2 PM. "I got up, fed the cats and went out. A car arrived, and in it was José, one of those who had arrested me two days before. The bald man who had threatened to kill me wasn't there. He tells me: 'Come on, I need to talk to you somewhere else.'"
The car took Adonis to a police station in Marianao. There he was introduced to a man dressed in civilian clothes who told him that he was a lieutenant colonel. "He told me that I had played around with State Security, and you don't play around with State Security. The bald guy, the killer, had told me the same thing."
Omara Ruiz Urquiola, Iliana Hernández, Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, Rosa María Payá and Tania Bruguera were names that came up again and again during the interrogation. He was asked about his family, and his mother's health, and they threatened to imprison him. He was required to write down that he would no longer visit the artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara.
"The document had to start with the phrase 'I promise', like I were a schoolchild. Finally, he starts asking me about the house of Isabel, Omara's mother. 'What color is it painted? Who lives in the house? Isabel is her name?' They know it, but they do it to apply psychological pressure. I started to cry and shout 'Don't ask me anything else, I can't take it anymore!' The guy stood up and said: 'Wait, wait, now we'll see what we're going to do with you.' We left there and I asked him if they were going to leave me on 70th Street again. He said no, that they would drive me. 'Let's go to Guanabacoa,' he told the driver."
On the way Adonis suffered a panic attack, something he is familiar with because he has suffered them in the past, and received specialized treatment. "I threw myself on the floor of the car and told him to shoot me in the head. When we got to the station I told them that I would help in whatever way, that I couldn't take it any more. They made me sign another paper in which I promised to cooperate with them, to be a State Security agent. Then they told me to choose a name, and I chose Dani, Agent Dani."
"At about 4 PM they took me to jail. They put me in a cell, alone. I was in the fetal position most of the time, on a little mattress that reeked. I felt very cold, had a headache, and I wanted to vomit. I tried not to look at the bars. I didn't eat or drink anything. The officer asked me: 'Do you want to eat? Do you want to have breakfast?' But at that time I just wanted to die."
On Saturday, August 17, after 24 hours of incarceration, the Castroist paramilitary officers arrived with a can of soda and some cookies for Adonis, joking with phrases like "Now you're one of us" and "We're going to treat you differently now". They had him write a third document about activities he had been involved in and people he knew.
Liu Santiesteban and Felix Llerena had reported Adonis's disappearance immediately, as he had asked them to do so if he did not contact them shortly after the time of his appointment. The mucous membranes of his mouth dried and cracked due to the time he went without drinking or eating.
"Right now I feel I need help. Sometimes I can't concentrate. I'm haunted by those people all the time. I'm afraid for my family, my work. I am afraid that I will betray my principles and the people I love, out of fear. I don't believe in patriotism or that epic thing. But it would hurt me a lot to betray Omara, Iliana, Rosa. I was not born to betray people. I come from the theater, which tells the truth. I have always fought for truth and freedom."
A few days later Adonis was summoned again, and the phone calls have not stopped, down to today.
At this time Adonis Milan is working cinematographically on a stage adaptation of the Spoon River Anthology, a set of poetic epitaphs by deceased inhabitants of the town of Spoon River, written by Edgar Lee Master. He sees the cinematographic format as an alternative to the bitter experience of Andrómaca, with its absence of spaces for rehearsal and performance, and the Castroist paramilitary persecution to which he was subjected.
Adonis reads a fragment of one of his favorite poems: "You, alive, you are really fools / who do not know the path of the wind / and the invisible forces / that govern the processes of life."