Prolific, brilliant, celebrity, provocateur, agent, incisive, insidious, one of the last intellectual icons of the Latin American left has died: Gabriel García Márquez, el Gabo.
His claim on immortality is supported by a Nobel Prize, which owed a lot to the Latin American literary “Boom” of the 1960’-1970s which in turn owes a lot to that totalitarian regime still called “the Cuban Revolution.”
In the early 1980’s Cuban adolescents read and loved García Márquez. In Castro’s Cuba, García Márquez’s books held a mirror up to Cuba’s “official culture,” dictated by Fidel Castro, that also reflected the Soviet Union and its Socialist Realism. Castro was obsessed with his control of the island’s cultural affairs, and even the best Cuban writers of the time were forced to imitate the worse of Soviet propaganda, stopped writing, such as poet Dulce María Loynaz, playwright René Ariza, and the novelist Reinaldo Arenas, jailed or fled in exile such as Heberto Padilla, Lydia Cabrera, and Guillermo Cabrera Infante. There were many others.
In his 1982 Nobel Prize speech, García Márquez courageously recounted the repression of Latin America’s military dictatorships, civil wars that led to genocides, and the state terror that killed hundreds of thousands and forced millions to leave for Europe and the United States.
I was in secondary school at the time. I had read One Hundred Years of Solitude, and like many other young Cubans considered Gabo the most important writer in the Spanish language of all times.
As my generation grew up and began to express our own truths, it became our turn to be repressed. (I haven’t been able to work or publish in Cuba since 2008, when I created a blog Lunes de Post-Revolución.) In 2003 during the Black Spring, when three young Cubans were shot and 75 political dissidents were arrested and sentenced to 28 years in prison, García Márquez took notice of this other face of his friend Fidel Castro.
When writer Susan Sontag asked him about it, García Márquez answered: “I can no longer calculate the number of prisoners, dissidents and conspirators whom I have silently helped to get out of jail or emigrate from Cuba during the last 20 years. Many of them do not even know that I helped, but it is enough that some know and my conscience is at peace.”
After half a century of solitude and without much sense of solidarity with pro-democracy and human-rights activists in Cuba, Gabo has died, and now there’s no one left with his intellectual firepower to provide cover for the Leader Maximum.
Editor’s note: Original post is in English
10 May 2014