Haroldo Dilla Alfonso (*)
HAVANA TIMES, July 26 — Strong historical and cultural relationships have existed between Cuba and the Dominican Republic. A part of the Cuban national legacy is in some way related to the DR, and Dominicans always remember that it was Cubans who restarted their sugar production in the 19th century.
Cubans from the east of the island have surprising cultural and linguistic likenesses to the people of the Dominican Republic. In fact when Francisco Henriquez y Carvajal (the brother of Federico and the father of Camila, Pedro and Max) was named president in 1916, he was teaching at a school in Santiago de Cuba. He had to head back to his country at full speed before the arrival of the US Marines, who ultimately occupied the DR a few months later and remained there for eight subsequent years.
Few people will recall that the largest national political organization, the Revolutionary Party of the Dominican Republic, was founded in Havana and owed its name to its affinity to the Cuban Revolutionary Party (authentic). It was founded by Juan Bosch, who lived in our country for several years, married a Cuban and left us an excellent book titled La isla fascinante, whose reading a few years ago helped me to better understand who I was.
All told, it’s understandable that Cubans and Dominicans continue being ingredients of one sole pot, a fact that they proclaim with pride. Intellectual exchanges continue to take place to the benefit of both societies, and these have been quite intense in the last few years under the government of Dominican President Leonel Fernandez.
This is praiseworthy of the Fernandez government, as well as the fact that it was under his first mandate that the reestablishment of diplomat relations with Cuba was produced.
However it struck me that there is a feature that could tell us much about the reasons for these exchanges and for the passion of some Cubans to study the recent history of the Dominican Republic.
By way of hypothesis, it came to my mind that here there could be occurring on both sides a sort of return of the “repressed” in a form of Freudian derivatives of the unconscious. Something complex, subterranean, that obviously doesn’t omit other less unconscious interests given in that wide gamut that spreads from survival to intellectual self-realization.
On the Dominican side the derivatives of the unconscious are associated with the leftist remainders of the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD), many of whose leaders in one way or another experienced episodes in Cuba.
For them — presently the principal figures of an elitist, conservative and right-wing government — toying with the Cubans, directly or through the neoliberal/paretiana Fundacion Global (FUNGLODE) of President Fernandez, is a matter of psychological compensation. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vilfredo_Pareto
The Cubans are therefore a sort of leftist shower amidst the conservative orgy they have led with practices that include: constitutionally prohibiting abortion, privatizing the beaches, slashing social spending, concentrating public expenditures on monumental urban projects and implementing anti-immigration policies that are no less than disgusting.
These provide an opportunity to speak of the past gone by without bowing one’s head completely. And for this they promoted the creation at the University of Havana of a Juan Bosch Center presided over by a diligent official who for many years was a sort of personal secretary to Vecino Alegret, the perennial minister back then.
Within this torrent of Cuban visitors to the DR there are some who capture my attention.
One of them is the well-known historian Salvador Morales, who is recognized for his research work related to 19th century Cuba as well as his more controversial journalistic involvement fervently in support of everything that the Cuban government does, no matter what the issue. It is also known that nothing will ever affect Morales, who for many years has enjoyed the prosperous life of university professor in the distant Michoacan (western Mexico).
Two years ago, Morales published a book on Rafael Trujillo’s dictatorship (1930-1961), focusing particularly on a certain figure, Jose Almoina. The book is titled Almoina: un gallego contra la dictadura Trujillista (Almoina: a Galician against the Trujillist Dictatorship). It deals with this Galician exile, a second-tier leader of the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) who placed himself in Trujillo’s service in the Dominican Republic.
He was the leader’s personal secretary and the private tutor of his intractable first-born, Ramfis Trujillo. Beyond his formal duties he was involved in all the seamy quarrels of the era and was part of the power hungry clan led by the dictator’s wife. He was so dirty that the PSOE finally removed him from their ranks.
In 1947 he left the DR to reside in Mexico — like Morales — where he simultaneously wrote anonymous books against Trujillo while authoring others praising “the Benefactor.” In 1960, suspecting unfaithfulness, Trujillo sent over a pair of assassins who murdered him. Curiously, the killers were Cuban, though residents of Miami.
Morales’s book is a well written and abundantly documented – but terribly partial. Omitting any condemnation of the disastrous record of Almoina or his opportunism, Morales was determined to present him as a noble conspirator who was crushed by circumstances and to portray his death as martyrdom.
All his complicity is silenced or justified when it’s impossible to silence. Emilio Cordero Michel (a prominent historian from the Dominican Republic and also a person of intellectual and moral integrity) was responsible for the presentation. He didn’t hesitate to harshly criticize the book and an author who “should not praise as a hero someone who was a cowardly and servile man.” He proceeded to relate some of these iniquities of Almoina during his sad place in the history of the Dominican Republic. Why this omission by a historian of the caliber of Morales? Could it perhaps be a tricky derivative of the unconscious?
But Morales is not the only distinguishable case in this peculiar parcel. According to news reports, visiting the DR in 2010 was Eliades Acosta, an apparatchik who enjoyed senior-level positions in Cuban politics, climbing to the post of the Communist Party secretary of Cultural Affairs until his cushioned fall from power in 2008.
Frequently one reads of scandals and defections involving members of Cuban delegations participating in book fairs in Mexico or Santo Domingo, but this never included an “ideological hardliner.” Possibly that was why — and because he was too intellectual to be accepted as member of a nomenklatura that doesn’t allow those weaknesses — he was demoted to a position in a research center directly subordinate to the Ideological Department of the party, a condition from which it’s impossible to escape without scratches.
But at that time, during his trip, everything was different. According to what’s been said, the guest came to present a course on the original topic of imperialism in the 21st century. But there was such emotion when he verified the richness of the “informational deposit” on the Trujillo era there in the DR that he ran to the office of the director of the National Archive — the same one that harbored Morales — to ask him to live and work for a while in the DR. And this has been the situation through today.
Journalists from the Dominican Republic who collect their information from the pathetically remiss ECURED (an online Cuban encyclopedia) have no doubts when describing Acosta as “one of the more accredited and renowned Cuban historians.” Always protected by the power structure, they accompany him in their conferences, in the National Archive or in the pharaonic FUNGLODE.
Finally, a free newspaper began publishing fragments of his work every Saturday; these are something like parts of a novel concerning the era. In his moments of insomnia these are being written by Acosta – another partisan of the authoritarian Cuban government fascinated by the totalitarianism of El Generalissimo.
In an interview, Eliades Acosta affirmed that he possesses a doctoral level thesis that remains unpublished due to the critical weight of its affirmations. I don’t know exactly what this thesis contains, but I imagine that the young Acosta trying to convince his Russian tutors of the need for change, while those tutors frown as if waiting for the moment to bid farewell to an annoying student and a heretical thesis.
But that was before. Now Acosta is attacking, with ideas and organized mobs, those who think differently from him. That’s what one has to do when they hold high positions in the Cuban political and administrative structure. No matter how “soft” one is, it’s impossible to do otherwise in Cuba.
Perhaps one could apply to him something that he wrote in one of his Saturday stories: “Nothing changes the human character more than the impotent contemplation of injustice.” And perhaps one way of contemplating one’s navel without remorse is by narrating other people’s odysseys, justifying betrayal and believing that finally — previously and not very long ago — there was something worse than what we are experiencing now, even it was in the distant past.
(*) An authorized HT translation of the original published by Cubaencuentro in Spanish.