Thursday, January 14, 2010

A feathered Quill full of Freedom

Tell the truthA feathered quill full of freedom

Tell, at least, your truth 

And after,

Let whatever may, happen:

That they break your beloved page,

That they knock down your door with stone throws,

That the people pile up in front of your body

As if you were

A sage or a corpse.

Heberto Padilla

This poem from Padilla’s Out of Game is just the perfect picture of what had happened to Cuba’s Culture in the last half a Century. Since 1961, with his Words to the Intellectuals Fidel Castro delineated with pristine clarity what would be the cultural policy of the newborn Revolution: “Within the Revolution, everything; against the Revolution, nothing.”

Since then, they have been breaking our beloved pages, knocking every artist door with stone throws, literally, and let people pile up on them. Do I have to remember a few days ago the repression against bloggers and relatives of political prisoners?

The double ambiguity of those words was worrying, especially in a newborn revolution, when there is no a clear cultural policy defined and when the different political tendencies are adapting to the new times. Those words had been interpreted many times by scribes in charge to accommodate poets, intellectuals and artists unsuitable when they were alive and reluctant to be added to the revolutionary machine.

Castro’s words were the anthology to the death of the first cultural instrument in Castro’s times: Monday of Revolution, a magazine with a pluralist approach to our intellectuality. The death of the magazine was the first symptom of the times to come. Since then, many artists had suffered isolation, alienation and repression. Heberto Padilla’s case is the paradigm in that direction, but many others had suffered the same scourge.

From their beginnings, Lezama Lima and Virgilio Piñeria were targeted by Castro’s censorship. Irreverent, uncompromised and completely independent, Lezama and Virgilio were pile up with mockery, scorn and despise. None of them could reach to see their writings in people’s hands. On top of that, the homosexuality condition of them made an easy target by the intolerant regime installed in Havana. They were chosen as the perfect symbols of the enemy within Cuban culture.

Ironically, decades later their books are sold more than any other authors whose feathered quills had been sold to Castro. Today, the same government who isolated, condemned and erased their names from Cuba is grossing funds on their behalf. Virgilio could laugh loudly: they got the last word, they won. Castro is a looser.

Almost 50 years after those words, Cuba is still frozen in time. The same censorship is floating in our cultural policy, the same frightening ambiguity is cutting wings in Cuban intellectuals. For so long our nation had suffered a continuous bleeding of artists and intellectuals, many of them had fled to other places looking for freedom and tolerance, many of them suffered prison and persecution like the poet Maria Elena Cruz Varela and Reinaldo Arenas. Some of them, like Virgilio who chose to stay in Cuba, died in poor conditions on the edge of extreme poverty. It is the cost of their freedom.

Others, whose quills were rented by Cuba’s dictator, had rotten their talent with their compromise. Lisandro Otero is the supreme example of the feathered quills full of poison and deceit. Great author of the sixties and great deceiver in the seventies and eighties, Today Lisandro’s writings exemplify the decline of what a poisonous quill could achieve when is sold to a tyrant.

Art, literature and culture never compromise their freedom. Those are the oxygen who keeps their lungs working healthy. The lack of freedom and independence are chains tighten hands and souls, cutting wings and thoughts, silencing voices and dissidences. Art is to dissent. Literature is to contrast. Culture is to question.

The message Lezama, Virgilio and many others passed on to us was and is that we can’t compromise our personal freedom to dissent, contrast and question with any social, political and cultural ideology, religion and party. What they passed on to us is their feathered quills full of freedom to write our page and pass on to our offspring’s. That is our job.

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