Maria Matienzo Puerto

Old Havana Photo by Caridad

Though I who usually speak as an average woman when narrating a story, this time I prefer to speak as a government functionary: official X from cultural institution Z.

Although I have never had anything to do with writing, painting or the cinema, my obligations as official X include supervising writers, painters and film directors.  I know that the plausibility of the story lies perhaps in my choosing any of these three art forms.  But I won’t do that.  My ambitions go beyond money.

I want to be powerful through poetry, that elusive matter about which I don’t have the slightest idea, but which is necessary to maintain under control so that I don’t try to revolutionize that which should remain immovable.

They will also tell me that those who hold the position of official X, like me, don’t advance beyond the terms of their office, but I don’t care.  I don’t believe in the afterlife and much less in what might happen when this bunch of clowns that I control no longer exist.

So, if I can supervise from a key position, from where I can see the rest of the world, everything will be fine.  I have neither money nor talent to start anything; however I only admit that to myself in front of the mirror.  My intention is to be more uncompromising when I get to institution Z so that they learn how to respect those who have power.

I’m the one in power

They prepared me to lead.  For me, an assembling line is managed the same way as a bookstore.  It doesn’t matter if I don’t know anything about nuts and bolts or books.  It just doesn’t matter.

I am a cadre (that’s what they call a worker in Cuba who is trained to function as an official), a marionette, an official X.

That’s why when yesterday they proposed to me moving the locale of Z, I agreed without thinking twice.  I didn’t stop to analyze if the new space was large enough for my workers, or if the new place had the right atmosphere needed for places devoted to writing poetry; or if it had a history or if it were a black hole in the middle of the universe.

I’m blind to those concerns, because my objective is to obey the dictates of those who order me.  There’s a reason why they’re the ones who sign our checks.  I’m deaf to any recommendation from someone else who thinks they know more than me, or to complaints from my employees.

The problem is that they don’t own anything, but sometimes they act like they do.  That’s why I yell, I pound the table and there’s no reaction.  They’re afraid, and I know it.  I don’t have the tiniest doubt.  But that too is my objective.  I want them to know that those who create culture are not indispensable.  In fact, people who are the most popular in the system today can be replaced tomorrow.

I frequently remind them of their shortcomings.  And this in fact works the same way in a press room as it does in a pottery factory.  They shouldn’t believe that they’re any more than what I want them to believe.

I don’t write, I don’t paint, I don’t film, hardly think (only about what’s necessary), but I’m the one who’s in power.

That’s why I don’t care if when the day comes that we have to vacate this place where we’ve worked for almost thirty years (an old house full of ghosts, with strange noises between its walls) the books, paintings and reels of silent movies are left behind.


Maria Matienzo

Maria Matienzo Puerto: I dreamed once that I was a butterfly who had come from Africa and discovered that I had been alive for thirty years. From that time on, I constructed my world while I was sleeping: I was born in a magic city like Havana; I dedicated myself to journalism; I wrote and edited books for children; I met to discuss art with wonderful people; I fell in love with a woman. Of course, there are certain points of coincidence with the reality of my waking life and it’s that I prefer the silence of reading and the pleasure of a good movie.

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