I recently heard Carlos Alberto Montaner in a presentation on art and literature in exile which I had the good fortune to attend. According to Montaner, one of the points on which the Cuban regime undoubtedly has been shrewd, is the negative connotation they have managed to associate with the terms “anti-Castro” in global eyes, through a sustained and effective propaganda machine.
For example, to publicly say one has been, for many years, an intellectual anti-fascist, or anti-Pinochet, leads to immediate applause, but the same does not happen when you call a man of thought and action “anti-Castro.”
With luck, your declaration would be taken with a dismissive silence. In other cases, some of your audience’s chairs would quickly empty and your public could be notably reduced.
This is a complex puzzle, the structure of which can be inexplicable for those who, like me, use logic as a fundamental tool in shaping judgments: many of those who have suffered and fought against tyrannies of different colors and different ideologies take an incomprehensible position with regards to Cuba, halfway between cowardice and hypocritical silence.
Thus, for example, we see respectable intellectuals, artists, influential men, using acidic terms to refer to General Franco who decided the destiny of the Spanish nation for forty years, while with respect to the satrap who steered the Island according to his will for fifty years, they are silent or, much worse, they smile with pleasure.
I will say just a pair of names: Miguel Bosé, Luis Eduardo Aute. Spaniards of good background who don’t skimp on scalding adjectives whenever they dig up the bones of their own dictator; but when they take into their mouths their name of ours, they chant it in flowery poetry.
I would ask them, for example, what they think of the recent declaration of the elder Castro supporting, in writing, his brother’s declaration with respect to the limit of two terms of five years.
In the future I don’t thing I’ll take any notice of more possibilities for their possible responses: either one has an extra dose of imbecility to ignore the cynicism behind this phrase, the support of a leader-for-life for a measure to restrict the terms of those who come after; or the intellectual dishonesty is too great to even consider.
Quite recently I asked the journalist Max Lesnik what he would think if suddenly the American government prevented him, after leaving Miami, from returning to which had been his city his entire life. The answer can be read by those who consult my interview, published in this blog.
Well, I would be delighted to ask this same question of Benicio del Toro, let’s say. As admirable in his profession as he is questionable in the causes he embraces. To say to him, for example: “You go out and film your Guevara film. You offer your sovereign statements, in Cuba, with respect to the embargo and the interference of the American government, and suddenly, when you go to buy your ticket home, this government has closed the doors of your country forever.”
So what gives?
Let’s adapt a Creole aphorism, and say there are causes that deserves sticks. And there are silences that also deserve sticks. And every time I hear intellectuals like Eduardo Galeano and Noam Chomsky criticize the historical excesses of tyrannical governments in Latin America, and ignore the fact that before their eyes the country continues to be administered like the private plot of a small family, I’m convinced that a creative reputation doesn’t have to go hand in hand with ideological honesty.
Every time I read the teary-eyed petitions to free the Five Members of the Wasp Network, from artists like Danny Glover and Danny Rivera, and don’t hear their pronouncements about the thousands of children separated from their parents because
Apparently it’s quite pleasing to denounce to the four winds the shameful conduct of American soldiers in Guantanamo, but when it comes to saying a word, just one, with respect to the thirty elderly demented Mazorra patients massacred, it is good to keep the purest silence.
The forcibly exiled Cuban writer Norberto Fuentes–rescued from the country’s cells by the intercession of the patron Garcia Marquez in the wake of the “Cause Number 1” of 1989 which led to the execution of General Ochoa–was about to speak. He had done so for the newspaper El Pais. And from respect for his literary work, not stunning but still valuable, I believe he had to shut up.
Because to say of a Politburo with an average age of 67, that the Island does not continue to be dominated by a military gerontocracy, and to assert the contrary, that Cuba is being ruled by young generations, is to make a monumental fool of someone who’s written books as good as, “Hemingway in Cuba” and “Sweet Cuban Warriors.”
Or Norberto Fuentes, a writer beloved by the Fidelist nomenklatura in the past, has secret information that the rest of us don’t know, or to say something so outrageous is worthy of applause: suddenly an improvised harlequin is erected.
Worse yet, he has said, and I quote: “In 1989 the Revolution was castrated, because they eliminated the bold, the untamed. In that moment the Revolution was fucked. Then came a period of gray functionaries.”
Those who know of his deep friendship with Tony de la Guardia and Arnaldo Ochoa, the most famous in our national history to face a firing squad, know what Fuentes is talking about. But the question that then absorbs the entire cerebral function is: Where was the writer Norberto Fuentes during the worst of the Five Grey Years?
Where was the author of the “Autobiography of Fidel Castro”, when homosexuals were beaten, or slept in police cells for listening to the lads from Liverpool?
The answer is clear: walking with whores on nights of excess, enjoying the honey of the same power that would later throw him off the cliff.
For this reason an honorable author like Carlos Albert Montaner can’t approve of the gray connotation which the term anti-Castro calls forth in much of the world. For this reason eternal intellectuals such as Guillermo Cabrera Infante and Jesus Diaz, who in a moment of their lives stopped halfway and knew that faced with the verticality of the same cause they had previously defended, they would never win approval in the eyes of the leftist academics for whom it is all very well to have been at odds with Leonidas Trujillo, but not with his colleague Fidel Castro.
It’s not about a supernatural effectiveness of official Cuban propaganda. It is about–the doubt is less every day–an ideological hypocrisy too widespread, in times when the words artist or intellectual, and honest thinking, are no longer necessarily synonymous.
27 April 2011