What Is ‘The Revolution’?

Daisy Valera

Rebeca Chavez. photo: cmbfradio.cu

HAVANA TIMES — The question “What is The Revolution” in Cuba could have been the title of Rebeca Chavez’s latest documentary “Luneta No.1.”, which premiered recently in Havana.

Using theater seats as a scenario that suggest to us the role of the four groups of respondents as spectators, the director gives us 62 minutes in which she attempts to qualify the relationship between politics and culture over the last five decades in Cuba.

As threads of the film, she uses the impact of two events: Fidel Castro’s “Words to the Intellectuals” speech and Cuba’s cultural/economic relationship with the USSR.

Alfredo Guevara and Guillermo Jimenez are, among the respondents, those who experienced the first years of the revolution.

Jimenez looks at the past without regret. For him the priority was to save revolutionary unity, which had been woven together with a very fine thread.

Alfredo tells us that power could have gotten out of hand if the revolutionary government hadn’t taken control over the media. He finally confesses that he doesn’t believe in any quinquenio gris (the “five gray years,” a period of particularly harsh censorship of the arts and media in Cuba in the 1970s). Rather, he believes in multicolored five-year periods in which there were both good and bad decisions.

Both Guevara and Jimenez agree on something: They show us Fidel Castro as the key to the unity of the people and the representation of rich thought.

Visual artists Liudmila V. Patrulina and Nelson Ramirez de Arellano represent another generation.

Both born in socialist bloc countries, they speak of the nostalgia for the future that seemed to begin with the perestroika and they insist on rescuing the past, rescuing memories.

They show us their exhibition “Absolut Revolution” and emphasize that art can serve the revolution without being mere propaganda.

For Liudmila, Cuba is essentially the revolution and the period before Jose Marti.

Finally, the journalists Elizabeth Mirabal and Carlos Velazco, born in the late 80’s, only perceive the fading echoes of Soviet influence on our situation (like those often repeated Russian cartoons).

They note that the past shows itself as reduced to them, and they therefore suggest digging it back up, taking a step in the sense of recounting history, not just what is opportune and less controversial.

In their book “Sobre los pasos del cronista” (On the Steps of the Chronicler), after decades of official attempts to ignore him, they rescue the Cuban writer Guillermo Cabrera Infante, a Cervantes laureate for literature.

They catalog the words of Fidel speaking to the intellectuals in 1961 as ambiguous and capable of unleashing the manipulation of the censors.

With the testimony of scholars from different generations, Luneta No.1 inserts itself into a discussion that has been latent since 2007. It helps shed light on the negotiations between politics and artistic creations that have marked Cuban artistic work for fifty years.

More than pleasing us with discoveries, the film invites us to ask new questions.

To what extent was unity forced between the intellectual vanguard and the political vanguard at the beginning of the revolution?

How long will we have banned Cuban writers, like Heberto Padilla and Reinaldo Arenas?

Isn’t it time to redesign a new cultural policy for Cuba?

One thought on “What Is ‘The Revolution’?

  • There’s no need to redesign cultural policies – they should be eliminated.

    What’s required is the exercise and recognition of individual’s right to speak freely.

    As for the ambiguity of the “Words to the Intellectuals,” it is ambiguous in the text, but very precise in its intent: Muzzle intellectuals.

    Cultural repression that went so far as is to try to Sovietize Cuba is something of the Castros, with the Pavons, Barnet, Abel Prieto, Vitier and others as mere instruments.

    Fidel Castro with his “Inside the Revolution everything, against the revolution nothing” violates logic, converting everything that’s not “inside” (read his orders) into enemies of the revolution, enemies of his personal power.

    The cowardice of our intellectuals and the repressive nature of the military junta are the causes of this shameful mask that has lasted half a century.

    How daring it is to think and act as free individuals and adults? To stop quoting phrases by Fidel, his brother, Marti, the Pope of the day, or Chencha la Gamba to justify the disaster, or to organize a procession of the “miracle” doll of the Virgen de la Caridad to protect us from the results of our foolishness; cleaning the trash of mental ideologies, thoughts and so many other impositions of the enlightened of our pitiful national pantheon.

    I think ignorance of Cubans is incurable, it’s cultural, it’s — as my grandmother used to say— “Something you pour water on.”

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