Cuban Revolution, Culture and Fear

By Vicente Antonio de Castro

The law that criminalizes independent art in Cuba. Illustration by Yasser Castellanos

HAVANA TIMES – Word has it (and I don’t know whether this is true or not) that at the meeting known as “Words to the Intellectuals” (1961) when Fidel outlined the limits of artistic creation in socialist Cuba with disguised and obvious threats, playwright Virgilio Pinera asked to have the floor and just uttered these words: “I’m afraid”.

After reading the speech that Diaz-Canel made before the Culture Union, I would dare to say that if Virgilio were alive, he would be even more afraid, as 60 years have passed and proven the failure of the State’s totalitarian centralization of Art. However, even with this being the case, Diaz-Canel (who was a baby when Fidel made his threats and Virgilio was afraid) has come to repeat the same slogans and threats.

The president chosen by Raul Castro is asking to create “an emancipation platform to defend Cubania first and foremost, the Revolution’s cultural policy,” thereby defending the cultural apartheid where those who give in to the government’s policy will receive support and those who don’t… well, “the cultural debate has to defend unity as the main foundation”, a sad line of reasoning which is worthy of the Orwellian pig Napoleon.

The official confirmed “his commitment with the sector, much-needed in this ideological battle”, and Culture will remain instrumental, subordinating creativity to propaganda.

Sixty years of totalitarian cultural policy amply financed and vertically-managed, has resulted in cultural poverty. Does anybody doubt that Cuban culture influenced the world when art was poor but free and not when it was funded by the State, but controlled and stunted?

They are using their alleged indignation at the commercialization of art as an excuse and Diaz-Canel cynically says, “instead of talking about enjoying and appreciating the arts, there is a tendency to talk about the consumption of art, they want it to become a product.” And this is something that a government who uses its citizens as exportable material dares to say.

The strange thing is that they used the same speech with sports until they realized that Cuba had good sports products and that they could sell them for quite a good price, so, the extremely Fidelista leaders in Cuba forgot all of that “slavery baseball” garbage relating to professional sport years ago and now they hire out athletes wherever they can get a good return… as a product, so they can be exploited by those Capitalist demons.

However, art is different because it makes you feel, but also think, and that’s where Cuban governments are totalitarian: the less people think, the better and if they are going to think, then let them think about what we let them see. This is why art needs to be controlled, even though it is dying out.

Nobody cares about this absurd speech, like every speech made by Diaz-Canel, and it won’t hold any weight as very few people believe in the old Communists with their millionaire children and grandchildren. And they believe a lot less in Diaz-Canel and his constant call for “continuity”. Has he not seen public transport, people hungry, houses collapsing, the city full of garbage, crime, obscenities, a youth who are fleeing en masse? Maybe he doesn’t see all of this, but the rest of us do and this is what we think about when he speaks about continuity.

In the meantime, the years pass us by and we are still afraid.



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