Cuban Historian and Writer Moreno Fraginals

By Haroldo Dilla

HAVANA TIMES – Moreno Fraginals recently celebrated his first centenary. I say the first, because he has already passed, but left works that make him present today. It’s likely he will celebrate his second centenary, and so on, until History (his great companion) ends up burying him. However, that is still a long way down the road. I’m afraid Moreno did so much, he’s still here, and will continue for a good while among the living.

Moreno was the most intense, elegant and entertaining writer of our history. I’m not saying he was the best historian, to avoid falling into a debate about other commendable figures in a country that has produced really good historians, that’s a fact.

Even though he was daringly heterodox, he was a critical Marxist deep down. He even shared a lot with Marx. Like old Karl, he had an admirable ability to give expert touches to any analysis. Jumping from the system to everyday life, from the sacred to the profane, from sociology to chemistry.

There isn’t a single Cuban history book that offers such a pleasant learning experience as “Cuba/Espana, Espana/Cuba.” A book that has accompanied me religiously on every one of my migration journeys (already quite a few). I have read it a few times, and will read it again one day.

In the end,” – just like Marx did with the European bourgeoisie during his time -, he produced the best praise for Creole “sacrocracy”, which he also berated for its inability to put its sights on colonial and slave maliciousness. Moreno never forgave it.

Moreno Fraginals is a landmark in Cuban intellectual creation. He is so relevant that it’s impossible to hide him away.  Not even his enemies are able to do this. That’s why ECURED includes him in their distorted database and Granma remembers him on his centenary.

But they split him into two beforehand. As if there was a good Moreno, the Genius that Che praised, and the evil one who emigrated to Miami in 1994. Without bearing in mind there is only one Moreno, who joined the transformative process of Cuban society in the 1960s. And he did so with his critical intellectual point of view. Later he had no choice but to stand up to the authoritarian, repressive government that lost every ability to change.

I had the privilege of speaking to him on more than one occasion. First of all, when I was a very young professor at the Lenin Vocational School. For some reason I can no longer remember (I believe that I was a teacher for one of his sons), we had to share some work sessions in which Moreno demonstrated his sarcastic humor in good taste, which the majority of fellow guests didn’t understand.

Then, I took on several Caribbean investigations at the Center for American Studies (CEA), which put us in touch again. This time on a more professional level. I remember I lent him a few books one time including Valverde’s “La idea del valor de la Isla Española”. In fact, he never returned it, and I never asked for.

That was when I saw him for the last time. It must have been 1991, when I had just come back from Canada, where I lived for over a year. Somebody told me that Moreno had asked about me.

It was flattering, and I ran to the meeting. After a very long explanation about his latest transnational adventures and his professional encounter with the world which he called, in English, “computers”, he asked me what I thought about what was to come and what would happen to CEA. I gave him my opinion, of a person new on the scene puffed up with energy to change the system. At the end, he wished me the best of luck and gave me a pessimistic forecast. Cuba’s future is to be a very poor, capitalist country.

Unfortunately, he was right… like always.