Cuba: the Invented Country

Veronica Vega

Huber Matos

HAVANA TIMES — I have never understood that device so often used in the popular soap operas, whereby the romantic protagonists who have finally managed to get together after numerous reverses (and chapters) are then separated again through the machinations of a rival.  There’s always such a simple strategy employed: a dubious letter, a supposed infidelity, a coarse piece of gossip that can’t be proven.

It seems to me a cheap recourse and a mockery of the most basic intelligence. Maybe the viewers don’t protest because they already know the formula: the lovers will meet again in the last chapter, and if there are a hundred left to go that only means more hours of entertainment.

But – When it happens in real life?  And when the thing at risk is the physical and psychological integrity of a real person of flesh and blood?  When irretrievable years are lost to a fiction that we accept as if we were an unflinching television audience?

Finding out about the recent death of Huber Matos has left me with that bitter taste.

Despite having fought side by side with those who today fill the walls of our schools and offices, or stare at us with frozen eyes from marble pedestals, he is never mentioned in the Cuban history books. Those who knew him could identify him in a group photo or in those faded videos where you see the happy bearded guerrillas enjoying their moment of glory.

Twenty years of jail and exile are enough to dissolve the doubts, the rumors, the airy reproaches.  They’re enough to convert light into darkness, truth into falsity, presence into nothing.  After all is said and done, history is drawn in the sands of time, and one single lick of the ocean leaves the surface wiped clean and ready for new tracings.

Matos was condemned in a public trial where he wasn’t even conceded the right to speak. Why didn’t that incensed multitude, instead of shouting: “firing squad!” demand that he also have his turn to speak?  Why, just like the bad imitations that try to copy real art, did the audience content themselves with only one version?

When I look at recent examples, it pains me to admit that in five decades nothing has changed in this sense.

The same thing occurred with the poet Maria Elena Cruz Varela who disappeared in another cloud of exile and lost memory; ditto with the victims of the Black Spring and with Orlando Zapata who died in prison while the official media ridiculed the motives for his hunger strike.  None of them were interviewed for the television or newspapers.  They were never offered their turn to speak.

Yoani Sanchez. Foto: Kelly Knaub

It happened to Yoani Sanchez, who is only mentioned in the official media as a cyber-terrorist or a betrayer of her country with the vile advantage of absence and imposed silence; with the State of Sats Project; with Oswaldo Payá who received official existence when he hadn’t any voice left to defend himself with.

It’s happening right now to the news about Venezuela, received through a channel where the voices of Henrique Capriles or Leopoldo Lopez are not heard, or heard only after extensive editing.

Aren’t we thinking beings? To want to know what the opposition (or the accused) thinks, to have their version in order to finalize our own judgment  – isn’t that simple common sense?  Who will guarantee that tomorrow we ourselves won’t be victims of the gag or of the reconstruction of the story?

A monopoly over information is power.  I don’t doubt this, but the truth has its own wings. When I come to feel that we’re in an invented country, where mountains of drowned voices wander in the fog of omission, I recall the movie “The Truman Show”. And I remember that only those who don’t search for the truth will content themselves (forever) with a fictitious island, admiring a sunset….made of cardboard.

Veronica Vega

Veronica Vega: I believe that truth has power and the word can and should be an extension of the truth. I think that is also the role of Art and the media. I consider myself an artist, but above all, a seeker and defender of the Truth as an essential element of what sustains human existence and consciousness. I believe that Cuba can and must change and that websites like Havana Times contribute to that necessary change.

13 thoughts on “Cuba: the Invented Country

  • March 16, 2014 at 2:01 pm

    …it’s alright JG, I didn’t really expect an answer from you. My argument simply exposes your lie ….or delusion. Not sure which is worse.

  • March 15, 2014 at 2:54 pm

    Interesting video of pre Castro Cuba. Obviously a tourist propaganda film. However if you turn down the sound and LOOK at the images of Havana and El Malecon you will see a vibrant modern and clean society. Now go and LOOK at similar images of the same places in Havana and El Malecon today. …it looks like a 1980 Beirut war zone. Communist Cuba can’t even manage a fresh coat of paint

    Pre Castro Cuba

    A drive down El malecon as shot by a tourist

  • March 15, 2014 at 10:17 am

    John you say: ” the Cuban economic and electoral systems have a very good chance of democratizing”.
    I disagree on both counts.

    The recent movement in the Cuban system has been characterized by a concentration of economical power in the hands of the few: the military – Raul led – oligarchy. Other “clans” – like the one around Ricardo Alarcon – were eliminated. Of the three pillars of the Cuban economic system (Raul / Fidel – “parliamentarians” of Alarcon – Raul / Military) all is now concentrated in the hand of Raul and its military gang. The few indecisive and ineffective changes that the regime reluctantly put in place to absorb as much as possible the rising unemployment created by their “reforms” (which may rise to 10-20% of the working population) are of no real meaning.
    Castro’s draconian reforms are just transferring the burden of the care for hundreds of thousands of Cubans – and their families – to the “gusanos and their remittances.

    The whole Cuban “electoral system” is set up to ensure that no real democracy can ever exist. Candidates at the local level have to be voted on in open meetings controlled by the same organization that was set up to monitor compliance with the system: the CDR. At national levels all candidates need to be proposed and approved by institutions controlled by the regime. All the above makes the ballot irrelevant.
    Only a new electoral system where people can freely stand to be elected in truly secret ballots will ensure democracy in Cuba.

  • March 15, 2014 at 9:20 am

    “…the Cuban economic and electoral systems have a vey good chance of democratizing.” How so John? I see no such evidence. Can you point to any? In fact if you had an understanding of the Cuban revolution, it’s players and it’s history, you would know the Castros only wanted power. As Che and Castro have been quoted as saying ….”so what’s wrong with a dictatorship.”

    As for its economic system, I believe Castro dot it right when he said the system didn’t even work for Cuba anymore.

    And John, the revolution was not meant to bring socialism to Cuba, it was meant to remove Batista from power and reinstate the 1940 constitution. That was its aim. So when you say hold on for 8-10 years it’s an insult to every Cuban who wants change, who wants to bring Cuba into the 21st century and the modern economy. You should read up on Cuban history.

  • March 15, 2014 at 8:59 am

    You missed her point entirely Walter. That you would focus on Yoani and ignore the obvious parallels drawn between the Truman show and omission of information, specifically on the deaths of Huber Matos, shows your willful blindness.

    I very much like Veronica’s comparison of Cuba and The Truman Show. Both manipulate reality and very carefully control what information so that only the directors version of reality is made available to its audience.

    The question you should be asking Walter is why Cubans can’t freely access

    …and by the way the use of Molotov cocktails through by the protestors, both in Kiev and Venezuela, has been all over the news. Otherwise you wouldn’t be aware of it Walter.

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