Cuba’s ‘Criterios’ Magazine: Anniversary and Harassment

Armando Chaguaceda

Desiderio Navarro, photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES, Feb 6 — Over the last several days, news has been circulating inside and outside the island — by e-mail and web-post reporting — about the complaint raised by Desiderio Navarro. It appears authorites at the Havana airport are holding the issues of his most recent edition of Criterios magazine, published by the Centro Teorico Cultural.

This issue, #37, comes with contributions by leading figures in the intellectual world, people like Zygmunt Bauman and Chantal Mouffe, who are discussing topics such as the State-Market-Creator, ethical and political nexus, and the public sphere (this latter issue has appeared in a number of editions and activities of Criterios).

This edition, like on other occasions, is a new “addition” for sociocultural reflection given to us thanks to this valuable Havana project.

Criterios is an initiative that is agonizingly sustained almost exclusively by the contributions of Desiderio (a world-famed writer and translator) and a small group of collaborators and friends.

Depriving himself of resources necessary for his personal sustenance, the sheer will of Desiderio is what has allowed the publication of the journal’s issues, as well as various books and CDs with writings on cultural and social theory. In addition, he has helped with the organization of conferences and discussions that are practically absent in other areas here.

For such “daring,” Criterios has had to suffer the ongoing undermining, denigration and even the physical sabotage to its facilities and equipment – something publicly protested about by the director with solid evidence, that confronts the silent complicity of government functionaries.

This recent regrettable action mixes the modus operandi of a Mafioso-like network and criminal action — punishable by law — against public property.

As if that weren’t enough, Desiderio himself has in recent years been the subject of gossip, slander and harassment that have slammed his intellectual quality, active commitment and, above all, his extraordinary human quality – avatars for which he has received the solidarity of more than a few and silence of many others, both colleagues and officials.

The information flowing through the Internet also announced the holding, on February 28, of the 40th anniversary Criterios forum titled “The Meaning of the Public Sphere in Cuba.”

The panel’s composition is more varied than what we’re accustomed to seeing in other forums, bringing together the normative approaches of theoretical Gramscians (Jorge Luis Acanda / Rafael Hernandez) with the valuable voices of left activists/writers like Mario Castillo and Yazmin Portales, and writers like Arturo Arango laureates and Leonardo Padura.

In the forum will not only be educated urban white men, like always, with their lectures full of abstractions and with little empirical grounding, but instead it will be an activity that opens the possibility of hearing voices and alternative accounts to that prevailing hegemony in the dominant non-Stalinist sector in Cuba’s academia.

Another aspect that will not be repeated is the practice of restricting access to the forum, which has been a recurring phenomenon in other spaces for debate. In the face of such practices, Criterios has maintained a dignified position in relation to the 2007 discussions around the “Quinquenio Gris,” a time when Desiderio and a host of intellectuals and artists fought for thematic and spatial expansion of those discussions.

However, in the call for the forum released over the social media, what’s missing is the presence on the panel of voices like those of Espacio Laical (the magazine of the Havana Archdiocese) and the “civil society project” Estado de SATS, which are two active representatives of what’s being done and debated today in this field in Cuba.

It’s clear that no forum can satisfy all interests and include all perspectives, but with such absences two important identities of the public sphere and Catholic and the liberal are falling outside the panel.

However it’s always hoped that all possible participants (either panelists or public) will be included in the term “among others,” which appears in the text.

Therefore, given the new hurdle put in the path of Criterios — and in that of every Cuban intellectual worthy of the name — I believe it necessary to express full solidarity with that struggling project and its facilitator.

I also hope that the forum commemorating the fortieth anniversary will constitute a new example of virtuous ways building relations between Cubans, those who will support the nation of the future when mutual suspicions and awkward exclusions are just bad memories of past times.





Armando Chaguaceda

Armando Chaguaceda: My curriculum vitae presents me as a historian and political scientist. I'm from an unclassifiable generation who collected the achievements, frustrations and promises of the Cuban Revolution and now resists on the island or contributes through numerous websites, trying to remain human without dying in the attempt.

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