A few days ago I was commenting to a close friend about a recent phenomenon: a kind of “criticism epidemic” on the part of some Cuban intellectuals and artists who have begun to question, more or less tentatively, some of the many current problems on the Island. The most bold criticisms have reached the point of bringing the issue of corruption among government officials to the table, citing cases with first and last names, an unusual act of recklessness if it were not, without a doubt, an official mandate. To put it more clearly, and to paraphrase a well-intentioned Cuban filmmaker, nobody ever said anything so bold among government officials and intellectuals without permission (or by express mandated mission) from the highest sacred cows of the tabernacle without running the risk of being severely punished.
At any rate, as would be expected in a society where everything related to the government and its very numerous army of officials has been characterized by secrecy, it is nevertheless interesting that some members of the ever-faithful team of supporting believers are speaking out against the evils that are affecting us since long ago and that, additionally, nobody had ignored. Though I don’t think that we can declare ourselves satisfied or unreasonably optimistic about these new suggestions for change, at least we must recognize that, until recently, it was unthinkable that these muddy stains of the system would be aired beyond hermetic sacred precincts.
But we cannot ask for too much either. For example, if we are to be understanding, we might assume that Pablo Milanés’s speech is not any more decisive, and that the artist has an oblique look on the Cuban reality because he spends more time outside Cuba than in Cuba. We could say something similar about poor old Silvio Rodríguez, working endlessly, locked up in his recording studio… but, we might suppose that he should be more aware of what we are going through here, given his long experience as a member of parliament, elected by the people. It is true they have not said anything that dissidents have not said before, having paid a high price for it. However, the positive small portion in this saga of questioning the Cuban situation is the ability for disclosure that artists have, because they are widely known inside and outside Cuba. In these crucial moments we are living, the more voices joining the chorus of complaints, the better.
But, at the end of the day, we should not demand any more from them. Paul and Silvio are not politicians… they are not even part of the circle of believers, but merely successful troubadours who have prospered in the shadow of the revolution that gave them shelter, and it is obvious that they no longer feel safe under the ramshackle palm fronds. As was made clear, Silvio’s recent exchange with the intellectual Carlos Alberto Montaner served as evidence of how far from being a thinking man the former is.
Another issue is the one that deals with the social scientist Esteban Morales, or with the very-committed-to-the-regime Alfredo Guevara, among other elements of the new breed of critics. His newly released diatribes might deserve a separate, more extensive analysis than the reflections proposed today by this conflictive blogger, since, for decades, the activity of both was focused on the permanent production of uncritical thinking, primarily aimed at pleasing the ideological demands of the Cuban government. They are examples of the purest sectors of revolutionary doctrine.
There is much speculation among the circles of the “enterados”* (those in the know) who have had access to the statements of artists and intellectuals, almost never broadcast by official media in the island. General opinion is that these criticisms are the external and most visible manifestations of a bloody conflict of interests among the highest ruling sectors, something that in reality is hidden from us, mere mortals. Some claim that this is the typical running of the rats from a sinking ship, a classic reshuffling of opportunists. Perhaps there is a little bit of all of this and much more which remains beyond the scope of our plebeian reach. But, in any case, I prefer being one of those approving of the debate, whomever it comes from, if it results in new waters flowing and –the hardest thing- building new and better watermills.
My friend, the speaker of these troubles, remains pensive for an instant, and then tells me that we are probably in the prelude to a tropicstroika, i.e., a kind of tropical perestroika arriving here without the slightest hint of transparency and over 20 years behind.
*”Enterados” (in-the-know) is the term coined by another friend, journalist Reinaldo Escobar, about those who, in some way, -either because they have secretly installed an antenna or because they have some access to the Internet or other alternative means of information- have knowledge of what is happening at every moment and usually inform others of it.
Illustration: Photo by Orlando Luis.