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Belén Gopegui: What's Happening In Cuba

What's Happening In Cuba


by Belén Gopegui, El Mundo, published in Rebelion, 04-08-2006
Translated By Tlaxcala

A while ago I used to think literature might be useful. I read several texts on its possible usefulness, but they weren't especially clear. I have found a small way of making literature useful as I continue to mull over this question. Now and then, having written some novels helps to get a bit of space in the mainstream media.

Like now, they ask me to write about Cuba, the situtation there, what's going on. And I say to myself, maybe I could use this space so those who usually don't read such stuff, "the other stuff", that's being written about what's happening in Cuba, might read it. Read some fragments, at least. Have some idea, at least, of how and in what terms people speak who are not against the Cuban revolution.

For example, Nestor Kohan, a young researcher at the University of Buenos Aires, author of books on Gramsci, Negri, Marx, Mariategui, has written a text entitled "And after Fidel, what then?" in which he says "I have spoken to and been in touch with friends, colleagues, relatives. people in my country and from other countries....All of us hope with all our hearts that the Comandante, the revolutionary, the beloved friend of our Che, recovers from his operation. That he goes on being the same old Fidel. The one who annoys, exasperates and unsettles the most powerful empire in the world. The one who horrifies so many millionaires as they wander the world counting their banknotes.....The one who continues preaching world rebellion against injustice. The one who continues promoting the fundamental use of the two most powerful weapons ever invented : ideas and books...And after Fidel, what then ? Well, simply, new revolutions. Just as we did after Che Guevara, we will continue to fight in every country against injustice and to change the world. We will continue in resolute defence of the revolutionary ideals Fidel taught us, teaches us and will continue teaching us."

Someone who writes like that is not writing just in their own name but speaks on behalf of multitudes who perhaps never appear in the newspapers until one day, some time, they change the destiny of a country and, perhaps, a continent. What are they saying in Cuba? Lisandro Otero, writer of novels like “Time of Angels” or “Urbino's Passion”, writes "Fidel Castro has taught a generation of Latin American people to think differently and led his country firmly and fearlessly through a labyrinth of pitfalls and contradictions, bringing about in a little Caribbean island, despite US hostility and boycott, a decent space where people can live with dignity."

Live with dignity? some will ask, in allusion to the low salaries of Cubans. A salary which nonetheless, covers housing, electricity, telephone and so on, high quality education and healthcare. It's true, with that salary one cannot buy flat screen television sets or Nintendos or tourist holidays or empty houses to speculate with. But is that what dignity is? Buying stuff? Some think dignity is not feeling ashamed you can pay for expensive medicines or a Masters for your kid while right beside you someone else cannot. Cubans live without that kind of shame and it's likely they are ready to die before allowing anyone to force them to give that up.

What else are they saying in Cuba? Someone in the street said, "Fidel has taught us how to win"...." While the Comandante recovers, Cubans are working stuff out for themselves. It's something unusual and deep. On the outside I have seen in workplaces and on the street corners how people are talking and the reasoning is so strong and eloquent as to leave no room to believe Bush's Transition Plan or the soulless Miami Cubans have any support in the island's heart."(1) Or this too in an e-mail from a Cuban friend "When they began to read the communique, you can imagine my Dad , the long silence, the tearful eyes,... the phone calls lasted well into the night in my house, including from some of you, for which I am very grateful. The talk among the neighbours and on the bus to work was all the same, about Fidel's health, although my journey is short , I saw people were very, very serious." There are plenty more like that. Many messages from the island to the outside and many from the outside to the island.

Post-modernism, remember was the time that it was discovered that one ought not to believe in words, they were all empty spaces, one could be ironic about all of them, they were all false, absurd and full of double-meanings. Post-modernism has died, although it did teach us something. In fact, words on their own are meaningless. Words only have meaning in action.

Fidel belongs to the advance party, the start of a new era in which no one will ever be able to believe in a State decree, a politician, an individual in the abstract. They will ask for action. They will want to see the deeds of whoever is making use of the words. What' s happening in Cuba? Let's hope the mainstream media will take the trouble, not just for the next few days, to know what's really going on in Cuba. In the end, as Fidel has said, socialism is the science of example.

*************

Translated from Spanish into English by toni solo, a member of Tlaxcala ( www.tlaxcala.eshe network of translators for linguistic diversity. This translation is Copyleft.

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