A Long Commitment To The Truth / 14ymedio, Jose Gabriel Barrenechea
14ymedio, Jose Gabriel Barrenechea, Santa Clara, 5 September 2016 – A
certain letter from Aristides Vega Chapu to the weekly Vanguardia,
already quite old and that I believe I came into my hands in the middle
of last July, set off a media frenzy last week. Knowing, as I do, that
there is a lot going on beneath the apparent tranquility of Santa
Clara's intellectual media, my first reaction was surprise at the
extraordinary resonance of this document in particular, as there had
been previously with the similar reception of another in its time, from
the young people of Vanguardia's base committee of the Young Communists
So I said to Aristides this Saturday, while trying to convince him to be
interviewed by the newspaper, which he politely declined: "Gabriel, I
already said what I had to say and where I had to say it," was his
response, and I understood, because he really did and has always been a
powerhouse of the national culture.
This is not Aristides' first letter, nor has he only denounced
censorship in his letters. Not is it the first movement of intellectual
concern from here. Not to mention that in the now distant
nineteen-nineties, there emerged more than a few groups of challengers
and even open opposition in the world of pilonga* letters.
The first movement I remember in those times of raulato was that led by
a group of young authors back in 209: they demanded a less crazy tax
framework, having suffered the anger of certain cultural officials, they
managed to collect a number of important signatures in support of their
petition. One of the most outstanding figures of this movement that soon
transcended the limits of Villa Clara was the narrator Anisley Negrín,
the best graduate of my course in the Onelio Literature Center, and
winner of the 2008 David Prize**, someone who has apparently left our
city, in the current move of the best of our writers to the United States.
Ultimately, the question is that some seem to have suddenly discovered
this little corner "of the interior," and avidly launch themselves on
the first scandal they come across, with which they create the false
impression that it is now Santa Clara that is moving. Thus they forget,
in my mind, two complaint letters from Otilio Carvajal, one from Perez
de Castro, another famous one from Aristides himself, denouncing the
badly handled finances of certain cultural organizations here, and one
from Pedro Llanes in which he complains about the discrimination against
certain of his friends on the guest lists of the Provincial Book Fairs.
Nor do they take into account two posts demanding profound changes in
the Cuban State that Ernesto Peña published on my blog, El Hidalgo Rural
Cubano (The Rural Cuban Gentleman), and that as a result of the
harassment he was then subjected to by the "compañeros" of State
Security, he had a nervous breakdown. Or in the semblance of
insignificant arm wrestling that, under the name of the baseball team
from here, Lorenzo Lunar and Feliz Julio Alfonso have maintained for the
last two years with none other than the province's first secretary, in
the egregious ears of whom a gray sportscaster and snitch with political
police license plates never tires of dispensing accusations against
those two as "restorationists" – that is supporters of capitalism.
That the literature in this city is in a keen state of restlessness is
demonstrated by Otro Lunes (Another Monday) or Árbol Invertido (Inverted
Tree), the two most serious Cuban cultural magazines edited from the
opposition camp. What other city in the country, including Havana, has
provided a similar number of collaborators? In what other city, besides
the Havana of Voices, have the intellectuals dared to collaborate
massively with a magazine with as few antecedents as Cuadernos de
Pensamiento Plural (Notebooks of Plural Thinking)?
As for Vanguardia, the June issue is not the first clash in the last
three years. In Ranchuelo Yandrey Lay Fabregat is now dedicated to
narrative, and is perhaps one of the best cultural chroniclers of this
region, to whom they have made it very difficult in Vanguardia, with the
usual censorship in the country compounded by the abysmal mediocrity of
those who lead or have led it in recent years.
In Santa Clara those who dedicate themselves to literature have worked
in silence for a long time, without so much adherence to the
tremendismos***. If you are not aware of this it is because you never
had the opportunity to attend some of Aristides' gatherings, especially
the so-called "The Moment of Truth," where more devastating truths than
those of his letter of long ago have been heard.
*Pilongo/a is a term used to refer to someone from Santa Clara, Cuba. It
is a reference to those baptized in the huge baptismal font – called a
"pilón," hence "pilongo" – opposite the Cathedral which was demolished
in the 1920s.
**The David Prize, awarded by the Artists and Writers Union (UNEAC), is
one of the most important literary awards in Cuba (see Wikipedia).
***Tremendismo is a literary narrative technique developed in the
Spanish novel in the 1940s which features violence, sordidness and
direct, hard language (see Wikipedia).
Source: A Long Commitment To The Truth / 14ymedio, Jose Gabriel
Barrenechea – Translating Cuba -