Isbel Diaz Torres
HAVANA TIMES, March 4 — The “concealed sphere” irremissibly determines the public sphere in Cuba. This was corroborated by the recent barring of several individuals from the presentation of the latest edition of “Criterios” magazine at its office-center by agents of Cuban State Security.
Run by Desiderio Navarro, this important magazine is marking its fortieth year. To celebrate that occasion, a panel discussion was organized at its headquarters, located in the building of the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Arts and Industry (ICAIC), at 23rd and 12th streets in the Vedado district of Havana.
Having overcome bureaucratic obstacles that had prevented the copies of the most recent edition of the magazine from passing through customs at the Havana airport, the prestigious translator and essayist invited renowned intellectuals to give presentations on their writings that appeared in that edition.
The central topic of the various presentations was “the public sphere in Cuba,” to which everyone interested in that subject was also invited to attend.
However, the invitation was perhaps not as open as Desiderio had thought and intended. At the entrance of the imposing ICAIC building, a large group of plain-clothes political police was there to determine — “live and direct” — who was worthy or participating in this “public sphere” of Criterios.
Consequently, at the very moment I entered the building, I found out that they had barred two members of the “Comite de Integracion Racial” (CIR). These are people who I don’t know intimately but to whom I’ve listened to with interest at meetings of the “Cofradia de la Negritud” (the Negritude Brotherhood), where they have regularly attended and cordially contributed their views.
Such arbitrariness bothered me greatly. I immediately thought of getting to Desiderio and inform him once I got to the ninth floor (where the center’s located), and try to address the nonsense in the occurring in the lobby.
I of course suspected that the highly critical blogger Orlando Luis Pardo (who had been just two or three people behind me), and Antonio Rodiles (the coordinator of the equally critical Estado de Sats website), would also be prevented from entering the building.
Seeing that these individuals never made it to the room, I informed Desiderio, who was already aware of what was happening. Still, there was no solution. Desiderio explained that the building belonged to ICAIC, and therefore he couldn’t determine what people could enter.
I could once again see how lacking in autonomy how fragile our public sphere is here. There exist public “custodians” who can so significantly skew debate, in this case by preventing access by important actors in the topic in question.
A good part of those there were very young people and the place was filled to capacity. What was significantly suspicious though was that as soon as the program began, many of them got up and left. Were they interested in the panel or not?
I listened attentively to the presentations by the panelists: novelist Leonardo Padura, University of Havana professor Jorge Luis Acanda, Temas magazine editor Rafael Hernandez, feminist Yasmin S. Portales; the editor of the Catholic publication Espacio Laical, Roberto Veiga; writer and former Casa de las Americas director Arturo Arango; and activist Mario Castillo. Except for Rafael Hernandez, all of them spoke in one way or another about the variable “concealed sphere” as a weighty ballast that anchors the necessary public required in Cuba.
They didn’t refer to it as “concealed sphere,” of course. For example, Yasmin referred to manipulation and arbitrary classifications made of Cuban participants in the blogosphere, while Leonardo Padura mentioned the systematic violation of his private correspondence.
Mario Castillo was the last panelist to enter the room, which we knew was related to what was happening at the building’s entrance. This allowed him to denounce that fact in a dignified fashion during his turn to speak.
One younger guy in audience who called himself an “opposition member” also spoke from the microphone — vehemently but politely — about the shameful situation of censorship that we are experiencing. The youth was vigorously applauded by the majority.
However, I must confess that I left before the function ended. I didn’t even buy the magazine that interested me so much. I felt like I was being suffocated in there where — unwittingly — many of us were taking part in a process that was carefully designed by the “concealed sphere.”
It’s conceivable that the ultimate goal of the barring was aimed at preventing “dissident” thoughts from entering and “contaminating” us. Nevertheless, these managed to get out (and hopefully it will become increasingly difficult to stop them). What I truly think those “concealed” forces were seeking was to prevent horizontal discussion, in this instance the debate offered by Criterios.
Their method of closing institutions has changed (or has been “updated,” to use the term currently in vogue). Now they prefer to gut all meaning, to restrict these individuals so that what remains are only “performances” by their former selves. It seems the authorities are the ones who dictate cultural policy on the island.
It’s more useful for this “concealed sphere” to cancel prestigious meetings such as those of Criterios. By introducing censorship and inducing self-censorship, they can discredit the magazine and prevent it from continuing to expand its avocation of pluralistic thought, where there is fertile ground for a libertarian spirit.
They’ve already done that to Temas, eviscerating the magazine that once suggested an awakening of minds. Now they’re going after Criterios.
Septiembre 21, 2019
La única vez que manejé taxis Uber fuera de los Estados Unidos fue en Buenos Aires. Era el verano benévolo del sur, en la Argentina hecha talco sin misericordia por casi un siglo de socialismos obreros y asesinatos de Estado.
El primer pasajero que se montó en el carro se parecía como él solo a Santiaguito Feliú.
Es obvio que me le quedé mirando como embobado. Porque el pelusa enseguida me sacó del trance o éxtasis con aquella sonrisa tan suya de dientes dispares:
―Sí, soy yo ―gagueado en perfecto cubano de Cuba: su jerga de humos ilegales en La Habana revolucionaria, su argot insomne entre las chimeneas y acordes inarmónicos de Lawton.
No entendí bien si se trataba de un chiste pesado o del homenaje de un pésimo imitador.
Ese mismo miércoles, de madrugada, Santiaguito Feliú se acababa de morir de manera repentina en la Isla. A sus cincuentiuno o cincuentidos años. Como si la muerte no fuera siempre una cosa que ocurre de manera repentina, cuando ya menos lo pensamos, después de malgastar toda la vida pensándola.
―Te digo que soy Santiaguito Feliú y además sé muy bien que tú eres cubano. Así que no te pongas ahora a comer mierda conmigo y escúchame, que me acabo de morir de un infarto masivo en La Habana.
Puse en marcha el carro, sin consultar la dirección en el mapa de Uber App. Santiaguito se sentó a mi lado con naturalidad. Buenos Aires y no Londres era el verdadero laberinto, pero a ninguno de los dos nos hacía falta fingir la necesidad de un hilo de ruta. De pronto éramos dos cubanos desaparecidos en el paraíso de los desaparecidos.
Sentí una apretazón en el pecho. La misma penita de cuando me enteré de su inverosímil noticia a media mañana, justo antes de dar una charla sobre Arte y Disidencia en la universidad.
Fui a decir algo, pero El Santi me cortó. Tenía que contarme algo y se le estaba acabando el tiempo para contármelo. Le asistía, por supuesto, todo el derecho del mundo a tart-t-tamudear. Como a mí me asiste ahora todo el de no transcribirlo mim-m-méticamente. Tampoco soy un narrador cubano de los coloquiales ochenta.
―No te olvides de tres o cuatro cosas ―me dijo―. Prométeme que no se te van a olvidar, flaco: prométeme que vas a pasar la voz.
Y se lo prometí.
Y por eso te paso su voz a ti.
―Vivíamos en el futuro. Fue una época descomunal, como todo tiempo desquiciado. La noche sobre las líneas del ferrocarril era azul. La calle B sólo tiene dos carriles y, sin embargo, la recuerdo más ancha que la avenida del Malecón. A veces, como en un susurro entre las campanadas de la iglesia, desde el patiecito de atrás oíamos el balido desvalido de las vacas que traían del campo para matarlas. El Mariel es hoy, los amigos que se van para siempre nos dejan sin deseos del día de ayer. La escalinata de la Colina, con Alma Mater y todo, es mucho mejor auditorio que el Madison Square Garden de Nueva York. Las cuerdas de la guitarra no son sólo seis. La palabra revolución es aguda acentuada. Los fines de siglo nunca terminan de terminar. Las barbas no tienen dientes. Cualquier canción es una canción comprometida. Diles que no me busquen, pero yo sé que voy a extrañar a mis amadas mujeres durante todos y cada uno de los días de mi muerte.