The Glamour of Mediocrity

Yenisel Rodriguez

Amaury Perez and his show "Con 2 que se queiran" - Photo:

“Two Who Love Each Other” is the new television program of Cuba’s self-proclaimed artistic vanguard. The airing of the program relates to the personal interests of its host and director, singer-songwriter Amaury Perez, who is attempting to exhibit to the public a select list of “cultured” Cubans.

Amaury Perez is the heir of an artistic elite that was constituted prior to 1959, and who with a stoke of perseverance managed to conserve a place for themselves and their own image throughout the past fifty years.

Their political image has been a communion with those “authentic” cultured minorities and a lucrative and spiritual complicity with whatever government is in office. At times, however, they dissimulate certain proletarian aesthetics, those of the popular artist and even the controversial trova musician.

But…authentic cultured figures?!  What more do they want!  That has always been the historical debt of the wealthy classes in Cuba: to succeed at differentiating themselves from what is mass or popular.  In our days, the guests of “Two Who Love Each Other” have inherited a challenge that they don’t seem able to confront.

Many of these “cultured” individuals come from ordinary families and, though they don’t hide such backgrounds, they refer to them with such indifference that they appear to us at times to be on an exotic adventure as peaceful conquistadors. A certain posture as aristocrats to exhibit to us their black grandmothers.

From within this group are recounted the most dissimilar histories of social ascent, in the style of people who have won the lottery.  These include everyone from a painter born in Santiago de Cuba, with that city’s laughter and good-natured humility; to a sex symbol who for a long time raised pigs in order to survive, even while he was filming one of the most important Cuban movies of the 20th century (Strawberry and Chocolate).

These guests are given special treatment on the program. The host, in a role similar to an orchestra director, leads the show with great mastery with these erudite representatives of high culture. The humble painter from Santiago convinces us in the end of his situation as a domestic patron when we find out about the orgies that are held in his mansion with the most select of Cuban intellectuality.  Meanwhile the pig breeder notes to us that he currently lives in a luxurious house near the sea and that he has a new mission as a visual artist in search of his essence – plus he no longer raises what he eats.

Overshadowing Carlos Otero

In a second group are found the analogues of Amaury Perez: those were born in gilded cradles, and for whom many of them Alejo Campentier, Lezama Lima and Mañach changed their diapers when they were infants.  For these guests, the producers of the program had prepared another dramaturgy: the cultured bootlicking of the Cesar of high culture.

Amaury Perez, right, with Vicente Feliu on "Con 2 que se quieran" Photo:

These programs become either an egocentric monologue or an exhibition of the command of metaphors and alluring language. Amaury always concludes ecstatic with these broadcasts, as if he were living in a post-socialist Cuba as the owner of a television network or a model promoting Adidas tennis shoes.   He must feel like he’s overshadowing former talk-show host Carlos Otero’s “feat” (defecting), because he is demonstrating that it’s not necessary to head for for the icy roads of North America to get a piece of the pie.

However this is not what’s most astounding. In the next to the last program in September, in an act that was perhaps most disturbing, Amaury rolled out the red carpet on “Two Who Love Each Other” for a third group: the official from the Ministry of Culture.  On his premiere show, Amaury spared no expense, and he was allowed to invite the most competent member of Cuban cultural orthodoxy: Alfredo Guevara [founding head of the Cuban Film Institute, ICIAC].

On this program Alfredo spoke with no ambiguity or minced words.  He defined who owns the grace of inhabiting the paradise of Cuban intellectuality.  To my great surprise I saw him reducing the already short list of the select few: Alejo Campentier, Lezama Lima, Jose Marti, Guevara himself (obviously) and a few others who it wasn’t necessary to mention. He called them “thinking tanks,” adding that without them it would be impossible to save the country from chaos.

Nevertheless, in the following act he was shown to be a bit more optimistic, making it clear that paradise was within the reach of everyone. He then described the route to follow:

To reach it, it’s only necessary to eradicate the mediocrity that eats away at the souls of the rest of the Cuban people. To achieve such purification, we should assiduously read Karl Marx’s Capital, renounce watching any foreign program and, lastly, discover the luminous spirits, which surprisingly all of us carry within ourselves under the tutelage of the activists of the Communist Party of Cuba. It was more than too much.  Even Amaury was dismayed before such authoritarian verbosity.

Seeing and hearing Alfredo Guevara’s statements, any predisposition toward the first two groups of guests disappeared. Those supermen, despite everything, are positioned from the recognition of differences and opposing interests. But the position of Guevara was something else. It was the blind hatred of freedom by an autocrat.  With the magistracy that characterizes officials, he hid his mediocrity under the glamour of partisan rhetoric.

“Two Who Love Each Other” began by signing its divorce from the ordinary Cuban, and it seems that it will also end up getting divorced from those who want a liberal Cuba. Bad news.

Amaury, without knowing it, renounced honoring his mother’s memory, a kind of a spiritual soul that synthesizes all Cubaness, and in her place he resuscitated the memory of his not so well-known father, an outstanding militant of the cult of Soviet communism.

What a disappointment.

One thought on “The Glamour of Mediocrity

  • Your reaction belies an impression of intolerance. Remember what a peaceful man said about this, in three different ways : “Anger and intolerance are the twin enemies of correct understanding”, “Intolerance betrays want of faith in one’s cause” and “Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit.” Mohandas Gandhi

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