Pitch the Tent, the Circus Is in Town

Dariela Aquique    

Pablo Milanes

The policies designed in the ‘80s by the Cuban government to in some way accommodate intellectuals consisted of providing them with certain privileges and “some rights” (very limited ones) to expression in certain frameworks.

They were allowed to engage in cathartic “blowing off of steam” in settings such as plenary sessions and congresses of the National Union of Cuban Writers and Artists (UNEAC), though nothing would ever come of it.

That seems to have been to enough to placate this group, as long as they were able to travel outside of Cuba from time to time, have a little car, make a little “money” and enjoy a certain amount of national fame.

In this way they could feel like the proverbial big fish in a small pond, since some of them seemed exceedingly fearful of the sharks in open waters.   That’s why they’ve stayed here, preferring these gratuities in exchange for shutting up! – a high ethical price, as Haroldo Dilla pointed out in his post a few weeks ago when referring to the Edmundo-Pablo controversy.

Pablo could have opted for this tempting plan, but he didn’t.  He refused to be quiet, and I believe that is his greatest merit.  Perhaps the terrain or manner that he employed to express himself is the pretext that his detractors and antagonists will use to judge him.  Likewise, having made these statements in Miami — in the enemy’s eternal den — is the reason why certain actors feel more comfortable putting on their lackluster circus routines.

The opening assault came from (and perhaps entrusted in) the clown Edmundo Garcia, the guy who began his dithyrambic harangue and provoked the response from Pablito.  But clearly, some people couldn’t allow him to lead this charge alone, such a hot online controversy made it impossible for other actors to sit passively on the sidelines.

Anxious upstagers

It was veteran singer-songwriter Silvio Rodriguez who jumped into the fray with his diatribe seemingly of support and comprehension but which was underlain with questioning and scolding: “Why there, brother, why are you taking the side of the adversary?”  He also pulled out old letters written in Pablo’s youth to demonstrate how different he is now and from the Pablo of before.

But with the tent pitched, other jugglers also wanted to steal the scene.  This is when secondary characters (such as Vicente Feliu) began to appear from behind the curtains, in addition to episodic ones (like Eduardo Sosa) all making their anti-Pablo statements.

Leafing through Vicente’s texts (since Sosa lacks enough prestige to deserve his scraps transcribed), we can find where he writes in Créeme, his personal blog:

“Lately I’ve read some articles that make allusion to a certain controversy in which they seek to involve Silvio Rodriguez with Pablo Milanes, and I’m convinced that this doesn’t exist as such, among other reasons because it’s impossible.  That controversy has been between Pablo’s attitude with himself and with his songs (…)  

“The fact that Silvio, a greater trova musician, decided to come out in defense of Cuban intellectuals who Pablo accuses of being cowards for signing an oath to defend Cuba — a nation constantly attacked from the Miami, point of the spear of the fascist right in the United States — is the most natural thing in the world.  (By the way, I believe that the only intellectual member of the Cuban Writers and Artists Association who didn’t sign was Pablo).   

“The fact that men and women of Cuba and from other places — people with whom Pablo has been resounding company of dignity, solidarity and love — now feel double-crossed and want to express their anger to him, I find this to be the most natural thing in the world.   

“What I don’t find natural is that with all the opinions that Pablo Milanes has had, he didn’t express at least some of them in the National Assembly of Popular Power of Cuba, the highest entity of the country’s government, of which he was member though he never attended, nor [did he voice his concerns] in any neighborhood assembly, where an infinite number of very solid positions have been discussed in the last few years. (…)  

“What I don’t find natural is that having the unredeemed blood of Bayamo in his veins he has not thought that Cuban Trova should not be betrayed because it is the homeland itself.”   

He goes on, speaking about Bush, Obama, the history of the Cuban revolution, the Ladies in White and the Cuban Five.  It’s an entire political speech pointing with his index finger at the traitor.

My questions are the following: 

– Why didn’t any of these intellectuals speak out months ago over the events that occurred in relation to Pedro Pablo Oliva being expelled from the National Assembly, which to some degree involved Edmundo Garcia and his manipulated interview of the artist?

– Was it because the painter’s statements were made at home and not on enemy soil?

– Was it that they didn’t consider Oliva sufficiently outstanding at the international level for the online quarrel to attract masses and masses of people, thereby not making it worth their while to perform in any of the three rings?

It’s no less certain, from my point of view, that to have made such statements in Miami could up debatable, more for historical reasons that involve the Miami extreme right with their terrorist actions that have cost innocent lives.  But it is also a right to express oneself wherever each person estimates it suitable according to the context.

I find all of this no more than a script written in the process its own staging, with Pablo having been the dramaturgical springboard for these old actors dedicated to appearing under the big top.