Politicians by Decree and Illiterate by Submission / Cubanet, Victor
Posted on June 28, 2015
Cubanet.org, Victor Manuel Dominguez, Havana, 24 June 2015 – Abel Prieto
rides again. Not as the author of two little novels whose names I cannot
remember. Nor as the ex-president of a union of writers and authors more
sold to the powers-that-be than self-help books at the Havana book fair,
or reproductions of "Still Life with the Leader" at an art exposition
committed to who knows what.
Never ever as that ex-minister of culture, with long hair and little
sense, who declared that poets like Raul Rivera could be jailed, but
they would not show up shot in the head at the edge of some ditch. Now,
such a sad political figure, he rides as the cultural adviser to the
Other "Kultural Pajes"
As the Spanish writer Arturo Perez Reverte said in his article "Kultural
Pajes" from the book With Intent to Offend, "The more illiterate the
politicians are – in Spain those two words almost always are synonymous
– the more they like to appear in the cultural pages of the newspapers."
It happens here in Cuba, too. The difference is that here the lines
fuse, and writers and artists are declared politicians by decree and
illiterate by submission. Our politician-intellectuals also write or
"sing" to the authorities, who sign a document to send innocents to the
Therefore, Abel Prieto's words to the Spanish daily El Pais are not
strange although they are cynical: "The idea that we live in a regime
that controls everything that the citizen consumes is a lie, an
untenable caricature in this interconnected world."
Saying that in a nation where the citizens are only interconnected,
against their will, to registration offices, personnel files,
surveillance centers, State Security and Interior Ministry monitoring
and control departments or crime laboratories is a bluff.
The assertion that Cubans are at a high level of international
connectedness would be pathetic, if it were not insulting, when we have
not yet even overcome the barrier between the produce market and the
stove, and they censor films, prohibit books, and pursue and seize
antennas across the length and breadth of the country.
The Dark Object of Desire
According to Abel Prieto in El Pais, "We are not going to prohibit
things. Prohibition makes the forbidden fruit attractive, the dark
object of desire." We had and have enough experience. From the
prohibitions on listening to the Beatles or writing to a relative abroad
to access to the internet.
Apparently among the secret guidelines issued by the Communist Party to
its cadres in order to mend the nation is the obligatory reading of the
poem Man's Statutes by the Brazilian Thiago de Melo which in one of its
verses he says: "Prohibiting is prohibited." In Cuba only outwardly?
The reality is that Abel contradicts himself. While on one hand he
assures that we are not going to prohibit, on the other he says that "we
are never going to allow the market to dictate our cultural policy,"
when everything is sold, from Lennon's spectacles and Che's beret to the
sheet music of the National Anthem.
The strategic shield against cultural penetration designed by Abel
(under the guidance of Cain: the State) is that it works against
banality and frivolity so that people learn to differentiate,
apparently, among the "exquisite" passages by Baby Lores about Fidel and
the subversive themes of the Cuban rappers Los Aldeanos* (The Villagers).
Which is to say that, disguised as a demand for quality, absolute
control of what citizens consume continues. They will not prohibit them,
they will only give them the option, for the good of their cultural
appreciation level, of seeing or hearing what the Cuban Minister of
Culture, assisted by the Minister of the Interior, schedules.
Among Abel's proposals against banality and frivolity is a "weekly
packet" that includes films like The Maltese Falcon and Gandhi, the new
Latin-American cinema, Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet, and a symphonic
cocktail by Silvio Rodriguez with the Small Daylight Serenade, that
delusional song about "I live in a free country/which can only be free…"
Also to be enjoyed are films by Woody Allen and other offerings that
combine "things with cultural density and entertainment material" far
from racism and violence, as if in the films about mambises – Cuba's
independence fighters of the wars of independence — the guerrillas and
international soldiers fight with cakes, and meringue is spilled instead
The dark desire for total control by the State is intact. Beyond the
linguistic juggling that government spokesmen perform within and outside
of Cuba. And without denying a minimal (fortuitous) breach in what is
consumed, we still are very far from choosing freely what we desire.
When Abel wonders, in his interview with El Pais, "What are we going to
do with Don Quixote?" perhaps Marino Murillo and the company answer him:
Send him to run an agricultural cooperative, assisted by Sancho and
Rocinante. Or, even better, have him manage the little restaurant La
Dulcinea on Trinket Island.
About the Author
Victor Manuel Dominguez is an independent journalist. He lives in
Source: Politicians by Decree and Illiterate by Submission / Cubanet,
Victor Manuel Dominguez | Translating Cuba -