Fidel Died / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

17 12 2014

Cuban democracy has taken so long that now it seems we Cubans can wait for a little longer. President Obama, with his historical Cuban speech, is indeed recognizing the future rights of a leftist dictatorship that in turn never recognized the rights of Cuban citizens.

Yet, his Cuban counterpart, General Raul Castro, dressed in military uniform instead of his much more accustomed expensive suits, delivered a simultaneous speech so solemn that he sounded like in a funeral. It was obvious that this was his fraternal farewell to Fidel Castro, who cannot be part anymore of the Cuban equation in the new era opened today. I dare say that Fidel Castro has died and that the apocalyptic announcement may take place in the 56th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution, on January 1st.

Next, we’ll see in Cuba the masquerade of new investments and markets and local licenses for business and more access to internet and even an electoral reform, but private property will remain a myth and no fundamental freedoms are conceivable for Cubans while only one Communist Party keeps monopolizing all political life, with the State Security from the Ministry of the Interior as the real source of governance of a model based on secrecy and, of course, impunity to repression.

After decades of fostering terrorism, the Caribbean dictatorship is paving the path to a dynastic “dictatorcracy”, with second and third generation Castros perpetuated in position to lead this process without ever worrying about consulting the popular will. Thus, the Cuban self-transition from totalitarianism to State capitalism is under way with a new geopolitical ally: the United States of America. As such, Cuban democrats must re-schedule their expectations to live in a normal Cuba. This is the main consequence of the “normalization” of relations between the gerontocracy of the Revolution Square and a White House pushed both by the corporations and by the pro-Castro bias of the free press.

As for the Cuban exiles, thank you very much for what you’ve done for this great nation, yes, but your President Obama has just mentioned that effective Cubans are only the 11 million still under Castro’s rule on the Island. So, our world-wide free diaspora will remain excluded of their own nationality, at most invited to collaborate by sending their billions of dollars every year in remittances. What’s more, the Cuban Adjustment Act from 1966 is likely to be ineffective soon, so that the Cuban immigration will lose its special status in USA and the first deportations of illegal Cuban newcomers are conceivable to stop the stampede.

Last but not least, Cuban “civil society”, as Obama stated, seems no more interested in political opposition to the government and ultimately, in peacefully struggling to legally attain power. Reduced to the field of dissidence, their pro-democracy actions are limited to a digital catharsis that is perfectly tolerable for the new status quo of post-Castroism.

So, welcome to the real thing. Cuban democracy, like heaven, can wait. Like hell.

(Original in English)

17 December 2014

What I Said at FIU / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

9 12 2014

Translator’s Note: On Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014, Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo participated in a panel discussion at Florida International University, in Miami. The program announcement is here.

Since the time of the Iron Curtain and Soviet socialism, the word, “solidarity,” has been one of value in anti-totalitarian use. Within the dictatorial models that communists have historically imposed every time they have taken power, it is impossible to socialize if not through the power of the State/God. Every social bond is regulated as deemed convenient by a regime that, on principle, politicizes all, but in practice depoliticizes society.

There is no political life after the communist parties appropriate power, be it through bullets or ballots. This should be sufficient cause to ponder whether the communist parties — just like the fascists or racists or fundamentalists — deserve the right to play the democratic game. The parties that aspire to be not part, but all, have not demonstrated that they are capable of responding to or respecting the rule of law.

In the face of such false en masse socialization produced by stagnant socialist systems, for the individual to be in solidarity is, then, a way of living in the truth, of involving oneself in the complex social fabric, of reacting against systemic injustices, of not abandoning those displaced by the utopia.

In the face of a monolithic state that hijacks everything to the ideological spectrum, solidarity embodies the rediscovery of the individual, of his inner freedom and of his rights to manifest it, and also the revaluation of his dignity as a person, of his inviolable human condition. Solidarity thus became a secret word, subversive and redeeming.

In Cuba, the prestige of this word — as all language that has been strip-mined by the State — is synonymous with dangerousness. Solidarity, a word derived from “sun,” [“sol” in Spanish] was forced into the counterrevolutionary catacombs. As with the term, “human rights,” solidarity suffered the stigma of clandestinity. I suspect that the word barely arouses sympathies in the average Cuban, who associates it with conspiracies incubated abroad and thus justifies his own humiliation at having to survive with his head bowed.

Peoples learn from their tyrants. In that sense, the Cuban people are cynically wise. At this point in history it is almost unjust to ask them for more. We have sanctioned Castroism with our best spontaneous weapons, even while these same weapons make us a bit more complicit: silence, apathy, repression through inertia, pretending to walk the walk out of an instinct of self-preservation. Against a regime like that of the Castros, to peacefully preach solidarity is also to remember that all gospels end in a via crucis, in the deadly hands of State Security, an entity specifically dedicated to dissolving any trace of solidarity.

Thus the preciousness of the least gesture of our many foreign friends. They observe us, and they work and take risks for Cuba, without the straightjacket of the Revolution’s compensatory myths: the social programs, the high professional level of our countrymen, and the stability gained by sterility of life in our olive-green bubble, which now is mutating from the color of military uniforms to the color of dollars.

Thus the incalculable worth of the courageous acts of Cubans surrounded by Castroism everywhere. Blackmailing Castroism and academic Castroism, or both. Castroism of the bourse and of the beast, or both. Idiotic Castroism and ideological Castroism, or both. Castroism as anti-establishment therapy or sentimental, conciliatory Castroism.

Not to fall into paralyzing pessimism, but there is scarce room for hope in this tragedy, and therefore hope shines brilliantly to the point of virtue. It is this State-sponsored thuggery that makes it so that not one leader of the pro-democracy movements in Cuba has not foretold his or her death, carried out with exceptional viciousness, as in the cases of Laura Pollán and Oswaldo Payá.

The diasporization of our nation starts with our laziness toward fighting injustice somewhere else, as long as it doesn’t concern us personally. In fact, after it does concern us, many times we Cubans prefer to bury our pain and our injury, preventing some friendly hand from “politicizing” their trauma, presuming that doing so would make things worse for us.

This is how we end up being, as a people, Fidelism’s most reliable source of governability, its raw material that will not betray it. Although, as I’ve already said, day by day we also vote in a plebiscite with our feet, which is one of the most constant behaviors that should be weighed in favor of the Revolution: we leave the Island, be it only to turn back; we leave, be it only to construct a new, post-national servitude, in which we know that politics continues being not part of our life, but rather a terrible “all” whose long, barbaric arm could reach our family in whatever corner they might be.

Not one of my columns or photographs since my ostracism in Havana would have had the same impact if not for the solidarity, almost always, of the survivors of socialism. This never implied the most minimal interference with my content. I have not evolved as an accuser: it is possible that I am not even a democrat so much as an author interested in the ultimate. Thus before even knowing it, I was already free to the point of intolerability.

I am not interested in correction, be it mental or corporal, and I am bored by any creation that from its genesis already defines its destiny (and its meaning). I am obsessed by the limits of provocation. My fury at, and autos-da-fé about, Cuba do not remain in the little fossil farm of Fidelism. Rather, they go seeking in the black holes of our democracy that never knew its value apart from the currency of violence, starting with the land destroyed in the wars of independence. These wars consecrated the gallons of spilled blood as a universal value, placed martyrdom over reconciliation, suicide over surrender, hate for our very selves mutated into hate for our Cuban difference: a civic poverty that plays out as tribalism and that, well into the 21st century, still seduces and traps us.

There are many dramatic anecdotes of solidarity with the imaginary free Cuba, such that our desolation is inconsolable as a people living under an apartheid that the world does not recognize. As an emblem, I would like to mention an example exclusive to Cubans which we are careful to cite, for fear (at times average and other times downright miserable) of remaining in anyone’s territory, in or out of Cuba, as if we weren’t already pariahs in perpetuity, in or out of Cuba.

I’m referring to legislated solidarity, to the very rare documents that have sought to wrest liberty from legality. In Cuba, of course, no citizen initiative ever pointed in such a radical fashion to a refounding of the republic as did the Varela Project. This enterprise received from Oswaldo Payá its genius of inspiration and perseverance, but it was also our great public march against the usurpers of the law, a milestone for future generations to know that all measures short of bloodshed were attempted, that there was no humanly possible way of telling the Castros that they are not welcome in our homeland, and that it is they and not some foreign power who have hijacked our sovereignty as a nation.

Other documents of legislated solidarity — that also do not seem to be in fashion amongst a dissident movement that no longer pretends to be an opposition and even less to stop being an opposition and aspire to power through ballots instead of bullets — can be found in North American legislation. Stone me as the Castroites have always stoned me before and after Castro, but in the best of circumstances, it is an act of ignorance not to cite that the so-called Helms-Burton Act is actually named the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act.

Beyond the technicalities of geopolitics, this document establishes the keys to repealing the North American economic blockade. The few sections that discuss normalization of Cuba-US relations — without being complicit with Castroism — are much more respectful of Cubans than the avalanche of editorials from The New York Times, or the campaigns by NGOs that from Miami to Washington DC want to capitalize on the pretend-changes in Cuba, on the auto-transition of power to power and not of law to law, of a tired Castroism to a dynastic, post-Castroism with the literal blood-heirs of the Castros at the helm.

Section 205 of the Act lists in legal language the minimal characteristics needed to jump-start our delayed democracy: Legalize political activity. Liberate political prisoners. Commit to holding free elections. Establish independence among the branches of the State. Legalize workers’ unions. Allow free individual expression and a free press. Respect private property. Protect the rights of citizens on the Island and in Exile.

In that risky context wherein a State capitalism is constructed in Cuba which is no less totalitarian than communism (which is another form of centralized capitalism), perhaps it would be pertinent for Cubans — with a voice empowered by their labor for liberty — to demand of democracies not just one but many laws for liberty — so that the Hierarchs of Havana — who would never sit at a table of reconciliation because they do not recognize their enemies as anything more than potential exterminations to be carried out — will at least feel some effective, legal pressure against their opaque tactics. Thus an unequivocal sign would be given that they do not bear any kind of legitimacy — because 56 years of governing in their belligerent, ill-advised and manipulative manner, are more than enough.

Translated By: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

5 December 2014

El Sexto Again in Danger, December 2014 / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

4 12 2014

Friends of the world, I just talked with the graffiti artist El Sexto — Danilo Maldonado Machado — from Havana, Cuba.

State Security agents are like bloodhounds after him, all over the city, on motorbikes and in cars.

They are intimidating him, but in the end his arrest by the police appears imminent.

The Ladies in White Association is going to organize a huge, peaceful, pro-human rights march in El Vedado on 10 December. And the repressors are doing what they did during the visit of Pope Benedict XVI in March of 2012: “preventative” mass arrests for more than a week, without legal charges nor any right to make a phone call: Pure State kidnappings.

El Sexto’s art has no place in the Castroism that castrates our free Cuban hearts.

The agents are pressuring him to go into exile. I also told him to consider it, because between the Cubanamericantotalitarian Tycoons and the European Business Left, the play is already set to impose on us another half century of Castroism without Castro.

El Sexto just said to me, “Thank you for your friendly advice, Landy, but for me… they are going to have to kill me in this country.”

And El Sexto knows very well of what he speaks, because he wears on his skin the assassinated bodies of Laura Pollán y Oswaldo Payá.

1 December 2014

Eastern Family Protests in Havana, #Cuba

30 11 2014

The family in this video is protesting having been evicted from their home. Of note is the openly expressed anger of the crowd at the police action against them.

24 November 2014

Kill, Already, If You Are Going to Kill / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

25 11 2014

Cuban State Security — that is, the Castroist assassins of the State — just as in Havana, have not ceased from monitoring and stigmatizing me for even one minute since I have been in the US.

It is the sole legacy of a dictatorship that from its inception disintegrated our nation in an irreversible manner.

But we Cubans are free. But we Cubans do not fear Evil. Castro has no more Cubans left. And now we are going to relaunch another country, another Cuba with no traces of Castroism, be it on the Island or in some other spot. There are plans. It is enough to merely awaken the political imagination, to break the bonds of our thinking that the dictatorship is the dictatorship.

And the page of Castroism will remain congealed as a sort of North Korea of the Caribbean, barbaric, abusive, unnecessary.

There will be another Havana, Brothers and Sisters.

Our children will be handsome, gorgeous and free. Never will they know the horror of so many generations destroyed by the person of Fidel and his blackmailed and salaried agents, as well as those already thirsting for lives that are whole, and the hopes of living them. Castroism is a criminal habit.

A Cuba will come that manifests permanent values: Good, Beauty, Truth, Kindness, Love — that which comes easily, which is common, which is natural.

If the assassins of visionaries do not permit me to arrive alive on that shore, there will be another Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo who will love all free Cuban men and women as much as I love them.

Castroism’s crimes are numbered.

Cubansummatum est!

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

14 November 2014


23 11 2014

Imagine a country sequestered by a national narrative that leaves no space for dissent or even for disappointment.

Imagine the consequences for imagination in such a closed environment, aggravated by a mass media monopoly that occupies every channel of information, opinion, criticism and legitimation.

Imagine language itself as a prison, with grammar reduced to inertia, with syntax subjected to socialization and desire doomed to discipline, where beauty is suspected of being subversive, the whole vocabulary becoming a kind of vocubalary that makes superfluous any censorship because self-control is now constitutional.

Is fiction feasible under such pressure, between the Revolution and the deep red sea? But, isn’t fiction fostered best under the most despotic rhetoric? Creativity as resistance. Danger as the measure of all things. Literature understood as limiterature.

In the early 90’s, Fidel Castro and his Special Period in Peacetime threatened the Island with the so-called Option Zero: namely, concentration camps to survive local famine as the European Iron Curtain fell and Cuba found itself naked in a post-Cold War Era.

Paradoxically, this meant tons of fresh air for Cuban writing. Please, don’t laugh if you think it’s ridiculous but alas, yes, for the first time since 1959, our authors could publish their books abroad, skipping the need for official permission. Besides, the government’s Non-Governmental Organizations allowed writers to collect honorariums and copyright fees in hard currency, while prodigious privileges were being distributed according to the cultural politics of the “rule of loyalty”: to rent a house, to have access to the internet, to import a car, to own a passport with an exit permit.

Yet, despite the more ample margins for tolerance in terms of content, confrontational voices were still coerced, blackmailed, fired from their jobs, marginalized, stigmatized, beaten, jailed and forced to choose between silence or exile.

In fact, at the beginning of the 2000’s or Years Zero, maybe as guarantee of the original Option Zero, our literary field attained both tokens of totalitarianism: silence and exile. Thus, it was about time for a generation to start from zero.

Generations, of course, do not exist at all. In the case of Generation Year Zero, the 11 outlaws included in CUBA IN SPLINTERS (an anthology of new Cuban narrative translated by Hillary Gulley for O/R Books in New York 2014), behave like okupas or squatters or rather like textrrorists. Provocation as the distinctive trademark of a dysfunctional generation that, out of apathy and almost aphasia, are focusing their fiction on the black holes of memory and tradition, digging into the uncomfortable and the unpleasant, cannibalizing our cannon, escaping from correctness, reappropriating political scenarios to disrupt their logic, a bet on horror instead of heroes,épater le proletaire, vengeance as a fine art, yet from bad painting to worse writing, insisting on a scatological esthetics far from all Cuban stereotypes expected both by conventional readers and foreign editors.

The fragmentary as a splintered strategy to express the inexpressible, fractals versus fossils. A diary of dystopia as the cynical symptom to dynamize and dynamite our State establishment, dealing with a decubanized Cubanness not as scandalous as scoundrelous. I’m afraid that in this bible of the barbaric, quod scripsi, is crisis.

And the 11 trouble-makers of CUBA IN SPLINTERS by O/R Books have plenty of experience in this, since during the last decade they were the editors of the Cuban clandestine boom of independent digital magazines, like Cacharros(s)33 y un TercioDesLizLa Caja de la ChinaThe Revolution PostVoces, among other conflictive documents.

Let’s recognize that almost another dozen of writers could have been included in this literary warfront of new narrative: Lizabel Mónica, Osdany Morales, Jamila Medina, Ainsley Negrín, Abel Fernández-Larrea, Arnaldo Muñoz Viquillón, Legna Rodríguez, and Evelyn Pérez, for example. It is very likely that this anthology of newrrative is the portrait of a family that never was.

The communicating vessels between these short-stories are not bridges, but short-circuits: the tension among each fiction hopefully will produce a fertile friction that will render fractions of sense and nonsense, a bit of idiocy after so much ideology, from the Berlin Wall to the wall of the Florida Strait, from Fidel’s bodyguards to sex for sale at a regional train station; snob Buddhism and socialist zombies; cannabis cubensis so the mind can emigrate before our body crosses the claustrophobic line of the horizon; Habaniroshima, mon amour, the cenotaph city like tears in the ruins of a rheumatic Revolution; remake and collage, plagiarism taken to the paroxysm; who knows if poetry for the pariahs of the Cuban holocastro. It is also very likely that this anthology of newrrative is the portrait of a family meant never to be.

Del clarín, escuchad el silencio, as these 11 anti-national hymns turn out to be hyper-nationalistic histories, as no Cuban can truly escape from Cuba. Fidelity has given way to fatality. So, let it read. Or at least, let it rip these many Cubas in splinters. Unrest in peace.

Original in English

23 November 2014

Castroniria / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

14 11 2014

Castroneirics: Is there Cuban literature after the Revolution?

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

This story started long before the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, on January 1st1959. In the beginning it was not the Word, but the War. And in the war Fidelity is the utmost value, its betrayal usually paid with death, whether civil or political, from culture to corpses without much transition.

In March 1956, Alberto Bayo, who soon was to become a Cuban revolutionary commander, while training Castro’s little army in Mexico, wrote the first traceable record of Fideliterature, where Castro is compared with a “lighthouse than gleams airs of freedom”, and as one of our “great locos that pursue Glory to sow a beautiful fruit in History.”

Indeed, many charismatic leaders have been called “locos” by our national tradition, which despises common sense and praises maddened social actors, as much as it disregards conventionalism in order to foster improvisation.

Months later, Ernesto Ché Guevara himself depicted Fidel as a “blazing prophet of the dawn.” And then an avalanche of verses came pouring upon his epical guerrilla, from the Ecuadorian Elías Cedeño Jerves, who sees him as an eagle-in-chief flying over the mountains of Sierra Maestra (although those birds are inexistent on the Island), to Cuban Carilda Oliver Labra, who focuses her gratefulness to the “male groin” under Castro’s green-olive uniform (thus settling the basis for Latin American Machismo-Leninism).

Local Nicolas Guillen and Chilean Pablo Neruda, Pura del Prado (that was to become one of the most emblematic poets of Miami), Argentinean Julio Cortazar, and, of course, the rapport-reporter Herbert Matthews from the New York Times, who, as Anthony DePalma has revealed in a recent book, was “the man who invented Fidel” as a Western literary hero in a continent prone to Robin Hoods that could expiate the guilt of superiority of the United States.

The “farmer´s morning almond”, a “sun in every corner”, the “purest rose of the Caribbean” with his “warm forehead”, “thriving arms” and “sweet smile”, were among the miraculous metaphors of a time when kitsch was considered correct as long as the people could repeat it.

The Cuban troubadour Carlos Puebla sang contagiously that “fun is over, ‘cause commander is here to put a stop”, equating chaos and capitalism, while order and austerity were the new undeniable values. Puerto Rican singer Daniel Santos reached the climax with his guaracha: if Fidel is to be a communist, put my name on that list, for I do agree with him (just before fleeing from Cuba in the 1959 itself, as did many ephemeral enthusiastic whose artworks remained behind as incessant icons.

In the summer of 1961, with his Browning pistol resting like a peace-pipe on a table of the Cuban National Library, Fidel Castro himself had to frame the limits of our intellectual illusions: “Within the Revolution, everything; against the Revolution, nothing”.

While abolishing fundamental freedoms, Fidel declared himself to be enemy of any cult to his own personality. Soviet-like monuments were carefully avoided, so we have little to say about fidelistics in Cuban statuary. But the cultural politics imposed socialist realism as the best approach to beauty. Many artists were censored for life, erased from dictionaries and catalogs. Castro as a literary character showed up here and there, in pamphlet paragraphs where he could be heard in the Revolution Square applauded by workers, or raising his machete in a sugarcane field.

One exemption is the deconstructive documentary “Coffea Arábiga”, filmed in 1968 by Nicolas Guillen Landrian, nephew of the Nicolas Guillen that was President of the Union of Writers. There, the image of an over-acting Fidel during a speech in Havana University Hill is followed by a soundtrack of the then forbidden Beatles: The Fool on the Hill, with captions emphasizing that he “sees the sun going down and the world spinning around.”

The bufo theatre was abolished very early, to assure no impersonations of a funny Fidel on stage, whose solemnness was consecrated by Article 144 of Cuban Criminal Law, which punishes with up to 3 years in jail the crime of “aggravated contempt” to his public figure.

Skipping over the seventies of obscene ostracism for all artists considered conflictive, and also over the centralized eighties and the balkanization of the nineties, we can concentrate in the Cuban representations of Fidel in the so-called years zero or 2000’s.

For example, Bernardo Navarro Tomás, now residing in New York, appropriates pop and retro banner design to re-narrate Fidel’s biographical milestones, where terror seems just a commercial masquerade.

Street artist Danilo Maldonado Machado, El Sexto, in Havana, bets on bad-painting with explosive collages and nightmarish splashes, including slogans in the lips of a Castro that reminds us of a Minotaur in his labyrinth. These dialogue boxes are his citizen response to decades of monologue with the trademark of Fidel. Just as his own skin is used now as a dissident canvas tattooed with two recent martyrs of Cuban civil society: Laura Pollán and Oswaldo Payá.

Yanoski Mora became famous when he was arrested for selling to tourists a portrait of Fidel crowned with feathers like a Native American chief, a reproduction of a photo of Castro in 1959 with Oklahoma Creek Indians. He later refused to be interviewed or show his oil original. He had learned this esthetics lesson from the political police: the international left is allowed to depict Castro’s decadence (for example, Ecuadorian Oswaldo Guayasamín), but Cubans should not cope with His Holy Image, unless it is to portray the virtues of the retired leader.

A painter awarded the National Visual Arts Prize, Pedro Pablo Oliva, created oneiric landscapes where “Big Grandpa” leads smiling crowds that question themselves through text-boxes. Despite his international prestige, this exhibition of Oliva was doomed to take place only in his private studio in Pinar del Rio province, under the close surveillance of the authorities.

Anyway, during the 10th Biennial for Visual Arts 2009, the exhibit State of Exception included the installation of a carnival machine designed by Nancy Martínez: “A sequence of one,” which offered to winning players a series of plush dolls of Fidel Castro, from the young warrior to the convalescent old man.

The hinge between visual arts and writing came in the extreme style of Juan Abreu, exiled in Barcelona, who is updating in his website the evolution of a mural called “El super-ensartaje” (super-threading), where the historic alpha-males of Cuban Revolution are exposed in a homo-pornographic orgy. The complementary literary aggression is a trilogy, where the mummy of LoverCommander, toppled by a Coup de Etat, is exhibited in a cage, kept alive by drugs and condemned to listen for eternity the marathon of his own speeches, being fornicated by a character that travels from the future only to satisfy his Fidelist fantasy.

Not far from the Revolution Square, where he lives, Jorge Enrique Lage, as part of the fiction writers of Generation Year Zero, has turned Fidel into a Superhero with many Hollywood tics, in his short-story for the anthology “Cuba in Splinters” by O/R Books, New York 2014. Fidel, as a character by Argentinean Jorge Luis Borges, discovers the power of freezing time. He can now wander free of security and wonder what kind of country he has really created, in intense instants for reflection upon his long-lasting loneliness in power.

In the independent digital magazine The Revolution Evening Post, episode 4, in a list of 21 points to approach a 21st-century literature on the Island, the first provocation deals with the figure of Fidel, or rather with his abnormal absence in a context with a well-established genre of the Latin American Dictator Novel, from the times of “Facundo” in 1845, to “Mister President” and “The Great Burundún Burundá is Dead”, to “I, the Supreme” and “The Autumn of the Patriarch”, to “The Perón Novel” and “The Feast of the Goat” a decade ago. The Cuban exemption could be “Reasons of State” by Alejo Carpentier in 1974, where he prefers to caricature a collage of foreign dictators, to avoid suspicions from the active readers of Castro’s State Security.

At least three other writers of Generation Year Zero push the limits of Castro’s world as will and representation.

Jorge Alberto Aguiar Diaz in “Fefita and the Berlin Wall,” explores two desperate lovers that cloister themselves out of a country devoured by crisis. Fidel follows their acts as an unavoidable voice in every TV set of a city in ruins, inhabited ruins that in his novel “The Surveilled Party” Antonio Jose Ponte believes resemble the body of the premier, and moreover, that they were artificially imposed by him to resemble in turn the promised US invasion that never was.

In my novel in progress “Alaska”, on which I work as a Visiting Fellow of the International Writers Project, fiction is understood as filling in the gaps of crucial pacts where Fidel Castro and other political, entrepreneurial, exiled and religious elites become criminal complicit of contemporary historical deeds.

Ahmel Echevarría in his censored novel “Training Days”, later published in Prague, uses a Fidel-like homeless person as witness of a funeral procession at Revolution Square. This old and shrewd urban prowler has wanted all of his life to be a writer, and even dares to give a lot of advice to the narrator named after Ahmel, denoting a Lucifer-like lucidity: Fidel as a fatuous Faust. It was Gabriel Garcia Marquez who stated that his friend Fidel was an extraordinary writer, but without the chance ever to write, given his many official duties. Dreams are the remaining realm of former revolutionaries. Guillermo Rosales, a 1993 suicide that destroyed most of his novels, in “Boarding Home” boasts of being an “absolute exile”, only to succumb every night to the nightmares of Castroism. His self-referential protagonist cannot get rid of the oneiric omniscient omnipresence of Fidel. The author himself is a kind of schizoid Fidel. His mental disease has literally and literarily immortalized Fidel, to the point that the director of the Cuban Book Institute recognized in private that “as long as those dreams remain in the book, it can never be published while Fidel lives”.

In the late 80’s, Heberto Padilla and Reinaldo Arenas came upon the same image in their novels “Heroes Are Grazing in My Garden” and “The Color of Summer”, respectively: to contemplate their lost homeland from the air, flying in a helicopter with Fidel Castro, who keeps describing the reality below only to please himself.

Arenas’ trip is a sarcastic series of bloody events that barely hide Castro’s homosexuality: as in Juan Abreu’s Super-Threading. On the contrary, the flight of Padilla embodies the Oedipus complex that Cuban intellectuals suffer since 1961, when a despotic pistol incriminated them for being so complaining and so little committed to the social process.

A similar edipic syndrome drove Norberto Fuentes, a former militiaman and secret agent of the Cuban Ministry of the Interior, now exiled in USA, to write in advance “The Autobiography of Fidel Castro”, in an interpretation of the personality of a man “much more intelligent” than his auto-biographer and former ex collaborator, and to whom the author renders his bitter-sweet admiration, verging in an unconfessed homoerotism towards the patriarch.

In this trend we can classify most books of Fidel’s defectors, although they are not fiction in principle, but it’s obvious their efforts —generally failed— to restore a certain human condition to the myth: a hitman like Jorge Masetti in “Furor and delirium”, a foreign diplomat like Jorge Edwards in “Persona non grata”, Cuban scientists like Hilda Molina in “My Truth” (2010) and Armando Rodríguez in “The robots of Fidel Castro” (2011), and even his personal bodyguards like Juan Reinaldo Sánchez in “The hidden life of Fidel Castro” (2014).

And this remits to the women that loved Fidel and decades later decided to tell it, as in “Havana Dreams: A Story of a Cuban Family,” by the actress Naty Revuelta, who was his adulterous lover and mother of a girl named not Castro but Fernández who, when grown-up, fled disguised from Cuba only to predictably write “Castro’s Daughter”. Just as his exiled sister Juanita Castro released “Fidel and Raul, my brothers,” in a delayed 2009. The most passionate of the —let’s say— bed-sellers is “Dear Fidel” by German-American Marita Lorenz, who claims to have been drugged and forced to abort by Cuban State Security, and yet she returned as a CIA agent to poison Fidel, only for him to discover the plot and fetch her his Browning with this challenge: it’s loaded, shoot me, I won’t die, no one can kill me, I’m immortal (a startling spell that has lasted for over 55 years now).

Cuban novelist Zoé Valdés, sent to Paris in diplomatic mission, where she defected in the early 90s, deals in a prosaic way with Castro, making a cartoon out of his character and calling him Super-XL Size, according to the dimensions of his —you guess what— testicles. Furthermore, her compilation of political articles could not avoid a Castrocentric vision, even to criticize his communist dictatorship to its last foundations: so “The Fiction Fidel” was her choice for a title.

In fact, pornopolitics seems to be our artistic reaction to the sequestering of the Cuban body within the homogeneous masses in front of the uniformed unique leader. No places for pleasure are legal on the Island since 1959. And while many were being stigmatized and even expelled from their jobs for hiding a lascivious paper or a hot hard drive, Fidel could afford a 1-week 7-page interview with Playboy, and return reinforced in his convictions to persecute capitalist degradation in our people.

Wendy Guerra, in her novel “I Was Never A First Lady” appeals to the nostalgia of her demented mother to recover the merciful monstrosity of the Number One Man in the golden years of the Revolution, a system devoid of first ladies since the revolution itself was the eternally virgin bride. Then, she also explores the first days without Fidel, when an emergency surgery almost kills him in July 2006. Wendy Guerra seizes the sinister silence or the deadly deafness of those meaningful minutes that opened the post-Castrozoic Era in Havana, while Miami yelled with histrionic hysteria.

In many ways Fidel seemed shielded by women’s wombs. The poet Reina María Rodríguez, in her now disregarded unconfessed crush on Castro, made it clear: “There is only one way to care about him. We have grown up beside him as if he were a tall tree”. No wonder why the official propaganda compares him to a centenary Caguairán tree, as his health looks more and more deteriorated in each sporadic appearance —or apparition— in national TV.

About his magnicide on the Island (quite common in a number of foreign best-sellers and videogames) the dystopia in progress “Alter Cuba” by Raul Aguiar is so far the best effort to reshape a Planet Cuba where Castro vanishes from our history before leaving a noticeable trace. About filming a fictitious Fidel, only in 2008 the local movie “Kangamba” timidly showed his shoulders with their emblematic epaulet. And then in “Memories of Overdevelopment” by Miguel Coyula, we have him all over as pop reference and reincarnated in a stout walking stick called Fiddle, which is humble enough as to dialogue after half a century of monologue.

When Soviet communism collapsed, the Cuban troubadour Pedro Luis Ferrer released a series of songs full of good humor that provoked the anger of the censors. One of them reminds of the “Big Grandpa” paintings of Pedro Pablo Oliva, since it’s called precisely “Grandpa Paco”: “grandpa built our house with lots of sacrifice, but the least move now needs his approval, as grandpa still keeps his old weapons ready to make himself obeyed”. The apotheosis was the underground punk band from Havana, Porno Para Ricardo. Paying the price of going to jail more than once, their front man Gorky composed the paroxysmal provocation called “Commander”, where he offensively mocks Grandpa —again from politics to pornophilia— whose official newspaper by the way has been called Granma from the beginning.

Once the fear of fictionalizing Fidel is over, I’m afraid that it will be too late for a fiction to be fully meaningful about him. Besides, it’s more than likely that Cuban literature as such will find itself in difficulties to be appreciated beyond the straitjackets of socialism or its symbolic undermining. Both market avidity abroad and the lack of local readers will pose a formidable barrier to avoid any experimental estrangements and thus to remain stuck to the stereotypes of what Cuban writing and arts in general should look like.

As politics was too important to be left in the hands of politicians, literature was too important to be left in the hands of intellectuals. Fidel Castro managed to impose himself for too long as a non-fictionalizable figure. Being an incontinent narrator himself, competence was considered contempt. It might be time to turn the F chapter of Cuban literature and delicately recognize our defeat. Unless, of course, some authors are willing to grab that Browning back from the summer of 1961 in the National Library, and make a statement that escapes the reactionary rationale of within/against/outside the Revolution.

[Original in English]

13 November 2014


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