Modig “Plays the Swede”

Dariela Aquique

Jens Aron Modig. foto: Raquel Pérez

HAVANA TIMES — Hacerse el sueco (Playing Swede, meaning to “play dumb”), was one of the least satisfying works of Cuban cinematography. This 2001 film by Gerardo Chijona is one of so many others that have had Cuban self-ridicule at their core.

Nonetheless, the film was a kind of catharsis in the wake of the agonizing 90’s as audiences laughed to relieve their troubles.

The main character was a fairly shrewd Swede who manages to survive in Cuba by taking advantage of his status as a foreigner. It was a plot with both absurd and hilarious situations.

Recently, this was exactly how Swedish national Jens Aron Modig seemed to me when he appeared at the center of a press conference here that was broadcast of the television program “La Mesa Redonda” (The Round Table).

I need to say that for more than 25 days I was without access the Internet (though the details around that aren’t worth explaining). But when I heard the Ministry of Interior’s statement on the news “clarifying” the details concerning the July 22 accident in which two Cuban citizens lost their lives (Harold Cepero and Oswaldo Paya, a Sakharov Freedom of Thought Prize awarded by the European Parliament), I was sure that there would be more controversy surrounding the deaths of those Cubans on the web.

When I was finally able to access other media and compare information from official sites and other websites, it was confirmed to me that Modig had had no choice but to “play the Swede” in making his hard-to-believe apology to the Cuban people and government for his illegal activities in this country. He had been asleep during the accident, which prevented him from giving many details.

He was obviously in a difficult situation. He had no choice but to be brief, monosyllabic and say loudly and clearly that he was a member of the Swedish Social-Christian Party, that this was his second trip to Cuba and that his objective had been to advise the dissident movement and bring them money for the creation of political youth groups.

In addition, he acknowledged that he was sent by his party to deliver 4,000 euros to Oswaldo Paya and to give advice to the daughter of the dissident in order to promote her as a leader of a new youth group that needed to be founded. To top this all off, he said, “I have no recollection of there being another car involved in this accident.”

Now that he’s back home in his own country and running less of a risk, he has to be careful not to retract his version of the events in Cuba since his Spanish associate (the driver of the car) is still being held here on the island. But after a while, I wonder if Mr. Modig will keep playing the Swede?


Dariela Aquique

Dariela Aquique: I remember my years as a high school student, especially that teacher who would interrupt the reading of works and who with surprising histrionics spoke of the real possibilities of knowing more about the truth of a country through its writers than through historical chronicles. From there came my passion for writing and literature. I had excellent teachers (sure, those were not the days of the Fast-track Teachers) and extemporization and the non-mastery of subjects was not tolerated. With humble pretenses, I want to contribute to revealing the truth about my country, where reality always overcomes fiction, but where a novel style shrouds its existence.

One thought on “Modig “Plays the Swede”

  • Being Canadian and occasionally watching the antics of Don Cherry on Hockey Night in Canada, I thought ‘playing the Swede’ meant something more rude than just playing dumb. Cherry used to refer to Swedish hockey players as ‘chicken Swedes.’

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