Thursday, September 16, 2010

77. Invitation: Silvio Rodríguez on the Cuban Revolution


I believe that the Cuban Revolution dignified our country and Cubans. And that the revolutionary government has been the best government in our history.

Yes: before the Revolution, Havana was much more freshly painted, potholes were rare and you could walk through streets and streets of well-lit stores full of merchandise. But, who bought in those stores? Who could walk through those streets in real freedom? Of course, those who had the "wherewithal" in their pockets. The rest, looking in the store windows and dreaming, like my mother, like our family, like the majority of Cuban families. Only "respectable citizens" strolled along those fabulous avenues, well thought of, in the first place, because of their aspect. People in rags, beggars, almost all of them of African descent, had to make detours, because when the police saw them in some "decent" street, they drove them out of there with blows.

I saw that with my own eyes as a boy of 7 or 8 years old and I saw it until I turned 12, when the Revolution triumphed.

There were two bars on the corner of my house; sometimes, instead of having an evening meal, we would drink a milkshake there. From time to time, sailors would pass by, falling down drunk, looking for prostitutes and harassing women in the neighborhood. They threw a young neighbor of ours to the ground when he went out to defend his sister, and when the police turned up, who do you think they took away? The abusers? No, they bore off with kicks to his ass that young university student who, logically, stood out afterwards in student brawls.

There are the photos of a sailor pissing, sitting astride the head of the statue of Martí, in our capital’s Central Park.

That was Cuba, before 1959. At least those were the streets of Central Havana that I experienced every day, those of San Leopoldo barrio, adjoining Dragones and Cayo Hueso. Now they are destroyed, it breaks my heart to pass by there because it is like seeing the ruins of my own childhood. I sing about it in "Trovador antiguo." How could we reach such deterioration? For many reasons. A lot of it is our fault for not having seen the wood for the trees, but it is also the fault of those who want the marines to come back to mistreat the head of Martí.

I am in agreement with reverting errors, with banishing authoritarianism and with building a solid, efficient socialist democracy, with an always perfectible functioning, which is self-guaranteeing. I refuse to renounce the fundamental rights that the Revolution conquered for the people. Before anything else: dignity and sovereignty, and also health, education, culture and an honorable old age for everybody. I should like not to hear about what is going on in my country from the foreign press, whose focuses contribute more than a little confusion. I should like many things that I have said to improve and others not.

But, above all, I do not want the return of that ignominy, that misery, that falsity of political parties which, as soon as they assumed power, handed it over to the highest bidder. All of that happened in the halfhearted shelter of the Declaration of Human Rights and the 1940 Constitution. The Cuban pre-revolutionary experience and that of many other countries demonstrates the lack of importance given to human rights in representative democracies.

Many of those now attacking the Revolution were educated by it.

Professional émigrés, who make a forced comparison between the ideal conditions of "educated Europe" and a harassed Cuba. Others, older, who perhaps once came to "be someone" thanks to the Revolution and are now strutting about like pro-capitalist ideologues, scholars of Law and History, disguised as modest workers. Personally, I cannot stand fervent political chameleons; those penitents with their little Marxism courses and all, who were more Papist than the Pope and are now the very reverse. I do not wish them any harm, I do not wish that for anybody, but so much inconsistency upsets me.

The Revolution, like Prometheus (I owe it a song of that name), illuminated the forgotten ones. Because, instead of saying to the people: believe, it said to them: read. For that reason, like the mythological hero, they want to make it pay for its daring, by tying it to a remote peak where a vulture (or an imperial eagle) eternally devours its liver. I am not denying the errors and the voluntarisms, but I cannot forget the vocation of the people of the Revolution, in the face of aggressions that have used every weapon to wound and to kill, as well as the most powerful and sophisticated media of diffusion (and distortion) of ideas.

I have never said that the blockade is totally to blame for our misfortunes. But the existence of the blockade has never given us the opportunity of measuring our own selves.

For myself, I would like to die with the responsibilities for our misfortunes made very clear.

For that reason I invite all those who love Cuba and desire dignity for Cubans to shout with me today, tomorrow, everywhere: Down with the blockade! •

(The text is from Silvio Rodriguez's  personal blog, Segunda Cita, published on September 10, 2010, and translated in English by Granma International).

No comments: