Cuba Social Forum Successful, but Cut Short

Photo Feature by Isbel Diaz Torres

HAVANA TIMES — The Sixth National Critical Observatory Social Forum took place last weekend to discuss self-organization in Cuban society. However, the sessions couldn’t be finished at the state-supported institution that served as the meeting place.

I delayed in writing about my impressions about the gathering because I still haven’t figured out the reasons for the “polite eviction” we were subjected to on the last day of discussions. These had brought us to the attractive facilities of the La Ceiba Community House, in the shade of a beautiful young ceiba tree in a nearby park.

Some friends believe that the posters and banners we had hung up to give the meeting more atmosphere could have shocked some official informant, though I’m not one of those who really buys into that explanation.

Let’s look at the slogans we displayed:

– “Socialism Is Democracy, Kick out the Bureaucracy”
– “Down with Capitalisms”
– “If You Think Like the Bourgeoisie, You’ll Live Like a Slave”
– “Let’s Make Our Revolution”
– The Cuban flag
– A flag with the logo of the Critical Observatory
– A rainbow-colored flag representing the peace and environmentalism movements as well as the struggle for LGBT rights.

Could any security agent have had the gall to censor any of those slogans or symbols in such an explicitly public and open manner? I doubt it.

Another reason could have also been the contents of the program. Let’s take a quick look at it:

– The workshop “@UTO-ORGANIZING Ourselves?”
– The panel discussion: “The Value of ideology(ies)”
– The round table: “Cultural Traditions and Social Self-organization in Cuba”
– The workshop: “The Constitution and Rights”

Felix Sautie speaking at the forum.

All of these had the participation of renowned Cuban and Latin American activists, intellectuals from the island, bloggers who are “un-stigmatized” (at least so far), and homespun researchers like Juan Valdes Paz, Dmitri Prieto Samsonov, Tato Quiñones, Ramon Torres, Mario Castillo Santana and Jorge Luis Aleman.

The event, attended by more than 60 people, included speakers from the University of Computer Sciences and the University of Matanzas who were part of the wide range of organizational possibilities and successful experiences presented.

Nor could any agent have objected to the participation of the Venezuelan activist Simon Rodriguez Porras, who reported on the government’s maneuvers in that country to close community radio stations and hinder the visibility of the website, which is markedly anti-capitalist and an advocate of workers’ causes.

Of course it was possible that they didn’t like it when one of the founders of the Critical Observatory said: “There’s a bureaucracy conspiring to ensure the transition to capitalism here and now, though that’s going to be tough.” This person concluded by saying, “Social processes are underway, and these may become uncontrollable.”

Under the Ceiba tree.

The presentations and discussions were not innocuous of course. There were allegations made concerning discrimination that persists in Cuban society, examples given of violations of the constitution through everyday government practices on the island, and criticisms directed against exclusionary ideological schemes – all of which certainly must have warmed up the hidden microphones.

Notwithstanding, and though we don’t know for sure what triggered the censorship, many participants agree that the ending was consistent with our popular aim of identifying with those at the bottom, who include ourselves.

In short, as the saying goes, what happened should have happened. The proximity to the beautiful ceiba tree in the park encouraged the Rastafarian priests who were participating in the conference to tell us about the difficulties they face in Cuba in leading their ways of life so distinct from the hegemonic social pattern.

The debate was even more frank, as — in addition to the “undercover” operatives and their “ceiba2” telephone network activated for recording purposes — people passed by, along with children who dropped by out of curiosity.

Ultimately we could feel ourselves even closer to this island that is in such need of deep structural changes.

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Isbel Diaz

Isbel Diaz Torres: Pinar del Rio and Havana are my cities. I was born in one on March 1, 1976, and I’ve always lived in the other. I am a biologist and poet, though at times I’ve also been a musician, translator, teacher, computer geek, designer, photographer and editor. I’m very non-conformist and a defender of differences – perhaps due to always having been an ever-repressed “model child.” Nothing enthralls me more than the unknown, nature and art; these serve as my sources of mystery and development. A surprising activism has been born in me over the recent period. Though I’m not very sure how to channel it, I feel that it’s a worthy and legitimate energy. Let’s hope I have the discernment to manage it.

2 thoughts on “Cuba Social Forum Successful, but Cut Short

  • All things are progressing as they shouold i am happy i can see the slow transition..Hold on its happening.. Cuba Libre para Siempre!

  • The only suggestion I might make is for the Critical Observatory to rethink its logo. A circle with an arrow pointing inward might suggest something humorous but totally unintended, like “We are in favor of doing something really pleasurable to ourselves,” or “Hey, we are really getting screwed!”

    Have you considered the Ceiba Tree, with citizens meeting underneath–as in photo 18–as a logo? Best wishes.

    Addendum: The Ceiba Tree idea might be pretty good, especially if the stylized figures underneath were the colors of the rainbow flag.

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