Reconstructing History / Mackandal – Manuel Aguirre Lavarrere

In the act of remembrance for the victims of the Independent Party of Color held in Central Park, at the statue of our apostle José Martí, Miguel Barnet, intellectual and ethnologist was in charge of the words of apology. With a solid document, Barnet laid out the intricacies of the tragedy and the anti-black sentiment of an era that ended with the massacre of 1912.

It was a very well deserved act for those thousands of people who did not see their dreams come true and who died only for demanding the recognition of their rights.

Especially now, after a recent publication of a book that seeks to discredit the Independents of Color, this is a good opportunity to plant our feet firmly on the ground and analyze the book’s material  from the point of view of its true intentions.

I am referring to the book La Conspiración de los Iguales [Conspiracy of Equals], by the historian Rolando Rodríguez, who was not original, not even in choosing the title. With a text that does not do justice to the issue at all, he tries to reconstruct history in a very positive way, but in the end he reveals his personal intentions as a manipulator of history and as an agent of the regime because this book is very well designed to serve their interests.

Rolando Rodríguez has been, so far, the only historian who has had the nerve, and at the same to the courage, to place himself on the side of repression and in favor of a constitution that excludes people. However, the most disturbing aspects are the fact that this book has been written by an agent of the Cuban government and that the regime has invested thousands of pesos to make this text available to the public.

The book, rather than a historical analysis, is a warning, not only for those who in Cuba restlessly fight against discrimination regardless of the government, that is to say the Citizens for Racial Integration, the Rosa Parks Feminine Movement, or the Juan Gualberto Gómez Movement for Racial Integration, it applies to any unofficial political party or independent civic project; other than those of the ruling elite it serves no other interests, such as those of the Aponte Commission of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC).

The book creates a dividing line for those who may have the courage to propose any amendment, any public demand: anyone who does not respond to the interests of the regime will face the consequences.

And Rolando Rodríguez will be there supporting intransigence, as loyal servant and historiographer watchdog.

Translated by Chabeli

Published by Primavera Digital – August, 1st, 2012

The Privileged Ones / Mackandal – Manuel Aguirre Lavarrere

The privileges granted by the regime to the Cuban military elite, behind the back of the people’s will and stepping over any consensus from the citizens, have as solemn goal to buy the loyalty of this elite.

Bought loyalty is not acting in a reasonable and conscious way, which would be the right thing to do. Give the level of misery and hardships that the country is facing, the military elite should be willing to give up their privileges and live under the same hardships that the majority of the people, who they claim to defend, suffer from. But, unfortunately that is not how it is. The armed forces, far from protecting the interests of the citizens, are the loyal dogs of a ranch called Cuba.

The thirty-five new colonels, personally promoted by President Raúl Castro, are living proof of what this article emphasizes.

They swore to be loyal to him and the Party. They do not care about the people or the country’s path toward democracy. They are loyal to him and the Party, shamelessly, like a dog with a bone.

Cuba deserves a better fate and leaders fully committed to the honor that is gained from freedom and political plurality.

The manipulation of patriotic morality and of the motherland itself when only a few receive privileges from those who have even taken from the country the sense of its own history.

A disproportionately large army is ready to repress, imprison, and kill for a blind loyalty that often turns against themselves.

These privileges granted by the regime have created a new class that sucks away everything from the people who are exploited even in matters of the dues they pay to the union which repeatedly end up in the hands of the military. The same thing happens to the money from wages and remittances. In hard currency stores, owned by the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR), the constant changing of prices on the products, the abuse of the customers, and the threatening authoritarianism are part of the bitter daily routine.

The so-called “reliable” are Communist Party militants, who wear a uniform that protects them from all suspicions, as well their children and relatives, after having been involved, more than once, in corruption scandals. Without generating any profit, they suck it all in, being real good-for-nothings and parasites embedded in the heart of the motherland.

These privileges are precisely why a large part of the population rejects the police as much as the military.

We must question openly this new classist, racist, and insatiable elite of those who are the first and loudest to shout patriotic slogans, to the point that with their gaping mouths it seems like they are going to eat the Revolution, with their little flags and everything.

Experiences from events that took place in similar societies after the collapse of Communism tell us that those who hold power are the ones who later become the owners of corporations and public goods, forming a solid pressure group that will continue working towards increasing their personal wealth at the expense of people’s sacrifice.

With no force based on reason, but with reason based on force and money in their pockets, the dreams of the motherland and the fate of every citizen are in their hands.

Who are those who give them these privileges, never granted before by any other government? Do they have the moral authority to criticize anyone?

Published by Primavera Digital, July 14, 2012.

Translated by Chabeli

Racist Practices and Behaviors Make a Comeback / Mackandal – Manuel Aguirre Lavarrere

Social and racial equality in Cuba was grossly embezzled and supplanted by the greed of political power. To understand the achievements and chimeras of this equality that is nothing but virtual, it is essential to submerge ourselves in the discourse of Fidel Castro during the “Second Declaration of Havana”, in 1962, where he talked, among other things, about ending unemployment, gambling, vices, and corruption, which are all present in Cuba, today. Castro also alluded that racism was settled in Cuba. After more than fifty years, this has been proven one of the most distressing lies for the Cuban regime.

While the existing laws contained in the Labor Code, which were consequently included in the Constitution of February 24, 1976 and later amended in 1992, take the right to work, social security, welfare, and others, to the constitutional level, establishing in Article 3 that “all citizens able to work regardless of race, color, sex, religion, public opinion or national or social origin, have the opportunity to get a job with which they can contribute towards the goals of society and the fulfillment of their needs”, the day-to-day practices in Cuban society show that opportunities are limited for Afro-Cubans.

The “Second Declaration of Havana” synthesizes the history of the struggle against racial discrimination during much of the Republic, the efforts made by the former Socialist Party (PSP) and the way in which it understood the issue of discrimination and its solution to this problem in Cuba. There are some fundamental points such as the integration of public spaces and the nationalization of education into one single system, administered by the State, where racial equality is established. However, this is a complicated phenomenon: words will be useless without first taking into account the training of workers, which conflicted with the organizational structures of the unions. All these measures, plausible at the time, unfortunately vanished because they were not enforced in a country willing to whiten its society and to refuse opportunities to blacks.

This political irresponsibility brought consequences: within education, the workplace and public spaces, the political illusions of the Revolution, which was most concentrated in exporting its ideology, assumed that racism had been struck a deathblow.  But it lost sight of this issue in relation to private spaces, interpersonal relations, and public opinion.  Consequently these areas were kept outside the vision of an inclusive logic, turning the characters implied into puppets of the desires of others, whether it is the State, Ministry of Labor or any other entity.  As a result of this political recklessness, the stigmas that perpetuate racist practices and behaviors in schools, the workplace, and public spaces are very alive and continue to dominate our entire society.

Published by Primavera Digital, July 19, 2012, Year No. 5 / Space for all / Made in Cuba

Translated by Chabeli

31 July 12012

The Downfall of Black Ethnicity / Mackandal – Manuel Aguirre Lavarrere

The downfall of the black man’s ethnicity is a phenomenon that is part of universal history. In the Americas this ethnic downfall arose when the African stopped being called African but Negro, as a result of the slave trade.

Taboos against blacks and mestizos emerged precisely from the loss of ethnic origins, which implies a constant discrimination that is constantly being recreated.

Cuba is, perhaps, symbol of a failed abolition. Afro-Cubans are still suffering the consequences of slavery and racism. In Cuba, the vice of Socialism and its policies to turn the individual into a mass, lead to the abolition of all rights and to the constant whitening the individual’s mentality.

If an ideological concept is assiduously systematized, as happens in Cuba, and it is never separated from the social context, regardless of the real aspirations of the citizens, it is clear that we are witnessing an exclusionary political context that exclusively responds to the interests of the only party.

Cuban socialism is founded on political and ideological exclusions. It establishes differences between men because of their ways of thinking, and it makes these differences stand out offensively. Cuban socialism emphasizes not only political differences, but also differences based on skin color.

This phenomenon of branding each other has existed, and it continues to exist, within all structures of totalitarian power, where the weakest ones are exposed to submissiveness, physical and mental abuse.

A society that truly fights prejudices and racism of all kinds is a society that gives its citizens the opportunity to stand up for themselves and be protagonists for change, without discriminating against its citizens because of their skin colors or their ethnicities.

As long as this continues to happen, it will always be a stigma for our nation and psychological shock with the individual human person. It will always be the oppression of one over each other. It will provoke hatred and fear towards differences. The country will be nothing more than a mere reference.

Man must have the right to what he aspires, without having to take any differences into account, but the fulfillment of his demands and respect for his freedoms.

Translated by Chabeli

28 June 2012

Bad Policy / Mackandal – Manuel Aguirre Lavarrere

Cubans get up and go to bed with politics. In Cuba, politics, far from being an exercise of citizenship, is a way of life and a must to get to the Party’s lines.  It has always been like this in the past; the only difference is that today’s politics and politicians pull altogether to one side.

In Cuba, it is the State that sets the tone for what is right and what is wrong, for what can be said or what cannot be said, and even for the appropriate times to say it. Whatever time and space are given to the individual cannot affect in the least the official discourse, which is ultimately what must prevail over the will of the citizens.

In other words, sovereignty is defined by what the State dictates. What the citizens should say or not must always match the interests of the State itself, the sovereign State.

Therefore, a society where universal and fundamental human rights are continuously violated and the constant threat to the internal dissidence is torment, full of slanders and physical abuses against people who only use words as weapons and their right to disagree, has to recourse to bad politics and lies.  It has to distort history and count on the few intellectuals who, as paid assassins, are willing to subordinate their pens and knowledge to the service of deprivation.

The entire Cuban population is subjected to that.  Blacks and mestizos, despite the few existent benefits, like the education system, can educate themselves and graduate. The educational balance is even, and this has been demonstrated in recent studies; however, in regards to everything else, blacks cannot count on the same benefits that whites count on.

In the past, it was the fear of blacks. Today, the racial prejudices have not been overcome. Skin color, resentment, hatred and distrust, inevitably contribute to the exclusion of blacks, when the control of the political, social, economic and cultural arenas of the nation is in the hands of one single race, that at the same time tries to neutralize the aspirations of blacks to progress, and like it has always been, it makes blacks to become dependent human beings, with no rights but to obey the white racist regime.

Translated by Chabeli

Published by Spring Digital, 05/04/2012.

Structure of Class and Power / Mackandal – Manuel Aguirre Lavarrere

In the early years of the Revolution, the state shook the tree, as they used to say back then, but it left some rotten fruits that have germinated and that today defecate on its face.

In the last two decades, there has been a mind set shift in a negative way. Profit, individualism, selfishness, along with racism are social illnesses that even when they were apparently dormant caused damage. Today, these social illnesses are free, with plenty of space within the social fabric and a significant power. They have succeeded and will bring, in a short period of time, the absolute exclusion of blacks and mestizos.

This is happening as a result of the many intellectuals that stare at these issues, without daring to speak up about them with clarity.  This shows the high levels of self-censorship and fear that exist within the top ranked Cuban intellectuals.

In Cuba, the Revolution betrayed itself, and it turned into a frustrated phenomenon of social transformation. The hopes and the democratic desires were betrayed by the triumphalism that took the ideals of José Martí and Maceo regarding their vision of a Nation and turned them into dust. Ideology must not be imposed and all races must be fully engaged in the political and social life of the nation.

The Revolution is a traitor to itself. By displacing the previous oligarchy and racist class, it formed the socialism’s bourgeois elite. The acceptance required to fully engage in the political and social life of the nation is given by the individual’s level of ideological and political commitment to the current government and by the color of the skin. There are three key sectors which are the high ruling class and its ramifications like the repressive bodies and the military bureaucracy, formed by managers and other economically powerful positions.

They live in the living spaces that they expropriated from the bourgeois who were displaced by force. Today, according to their ranks, they reside in exclusive neighborhoods where, in many cases, pedestrian access is prohibited to citizens. What has changed? The answer is obvious: everything has changed so that nothing can be changed.

Even more important than those changes in the structural framework are the impacts that they have had within society and on the collective mentality. That’s what the regime fears, because the changes that took place in Cuba were brought by force and imposition. They took advantage of the circumstances and populist character of the moment, and the high degree of illiteracy in the population, to hold their ideas above all others, forgetting their commitment to equality and freedom, with the people and with their companions in the struggle. This, in turn, left out many of those rebels from the struggle who clearly saw the betrayal to the Cuban people and to all the promises, and ended up in prison or in the hands of the firing squads.

The regime fears the psychological rearrangement of a nation that has lived the ebb and flow of a regime that ruled unilaterally for more than 15 years by decrees, until it could design a constitution according to its convenience, a regime in which today, as always, the new class with its sadistic lust for power, promotes structures of entrenchment over the true will of the people.

Published by Primavera Digital, 2012/05/10, No.219

Translated by Chabeli

The True Face of Cuban History / Mackandal – Manuel Aguirre Lavarrere

An old photo of “Independents of Color”

One hundred years after the massacre of the Independents of Color, the most horrifying crime that has been committed in Cuba, against blacks and mestizos, who were only seeking the recognition of their rights after having fought for Cuba’s independence from Spain for over three decades, they were left with nothing and were massacred by their brothers from struggle. We need to bring to light some of the events that historians hide or distort, adding up to the misinterpretation and muddying of national history.

Any study carried out on whether or not there was a request from the Independents of Color for Americans to intervene in the conflict that broke out between them and the government of José Miguel Gómez, as well as Martín Morúa Delgado — representing the interests of the Liberal Party — must be based on solid facts if it is intended to be serious.

In the first place, we have to ask ourselves about the role of the United States and its relationship with Cuba at that moment. The U.S. was the paradigm of freedom and representative democracy.

Secondly, we have to ask ourselves: where was Cuba back then? Cuba had just come out of the Independence War, becoming a Republic in 1902; it continued to be a country that depended on outsiders. Cuba spent centuries under Spanish rule without having the least autonomous power. All the conflicts that emerged on the island were resolved by Spain. Cubans did not have a sense of belonging yet. Anything that came from the outside seemed good to them.

Therefore, it was neither a mistake nor a betrayal for the Independents of Color to ask for the intervention of the United States, as confirmed by Rolando Rodríguez, author of “La Conspiración de los Iguales”, the most racist and anti-black text that has been edited in Cuba since 1959.

It was logical that they requested assistance from the United States. The aspiration was to become like the U.S. when it came to development and civil liberties. Throughout the struggle for independence, the most patriotic men like Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Ignacio Agramonte, and other heroes, who today are true icons of Cuban History, saw the United States as a role model in terms of development and civil liberties. Neither these patriots nor the Independents of Color can be judged as traitors. The epithet of traitor is for others.

Domingo Del Monte, who regretted so much that slavery disappeared with the efforts of England and France, was a notorious racist and the tattletale of the Metropolis (Spain). The Memorial that he sent to the Spanish government proves his shameful submissiveness. This distinguished humanist and organizer of literature workshops, who felt threatened by blacks and feared them, contributed to the instability and panic that caused the massacre of the, still nebulous Ladder Conspiracy in 1844.

Narciso López, a recalcitrant slave owner, who made his slaves work to the limit of human endurance, under the whip of his plantation overseers, was perhaps the most fervent annexationist of all of those who, with their way of thinking, made up the icing of the Cuban bourgeois cake.

The uprisings and massacres of blacks continued to take place throughout the history of Cuba. There was an uprising and a massacre for the emancipation of centuries of slavery and forced exploitation. There was an uprising and a massacre because of the betrayal of many of the major white colonels from the wars for independence, like Gaspar Betancourt Cisneros, Manuel Sanguily, and more than a hundred of them, who used the negro as cannon fodder and then got rid of him, leaving him empty handed and with no rights to make any claims. There was an uprising and a massacre to stop the negro from being recognized as a human being and to stop him from overcoming, with his own effort, the abysmal gap of inequality and civil annihilation.

Published by Primavera Digital, 2012/05/03

Translated by Chabeli

Constant Shame / Mackandal – Manuel Aguirre Lavarrere

These are the forces that keep us alive: dignity, freedom, and courage.
– José Martí

I confess that if something causes me pain is to feel helpless, as a black citizen, every time I see the statue of José Miguel Gómez, located in area of El Vedado, in Havana.

The statue is right on the Avenue of the Presidents, a street with a constant flow of citizens and brothers in the struggle.

In a way, I share the opinion of those who see this statue as an insult to black Cubans and mulattoes because José Miguel Gómez, as President, was the main perpetrator of the racist massacre that took place in 1912.

However, pushing for the demolition of this statue goes against its historical truth, and this would create a negative precedent for the nation and for those who aspire to live in a free Cuba someday, with freedom and democracy.

You cannot swim against the current. José Miguel Gómez, like it or not, was the second president of Cuba. He served from 1909 to 1913, immediately after the U.S. intervention, protected by the Platt Amendment, after the riots caused by the fraudulent reelection of Estrada Palma, period in which Charles Magoon served as military governor, from 1906 to 1909.

Removing the statue of José Miguel Gómez would be like erasing him from the annals of History. It is like playing the very same game of the Cuban regime when every time that a well known athlete or a popular artist decide to change course and flee the country, they are removed from all lists, banned on radio and TV, and turned into non people, as if they never had existed.

So, what’s the game being played? I think this opportunity could not be more propitious to get to know, in case that anyone does not know already, the caliber that our leaders are made of, and the degree of responsibility they have for the permanence of racism and the exclusion of blacks and mestizos in Cuban society.

The statue is where it belongs, as is that of José Francisco Martí, the son of the Apostle, who was second in command, under General Monteagudo in the racist massacre of 1912, which was solemnly inaugurated by the Historian of the City, Eusebio Leal, at the Martí Studies Center, but without his saying that José Francisco cut off black’s and mestizo’s heads too.

The historical perspective given by the regime, for blacks and mestizos in Cuba, is distorted with the objective of planting within this part of the population, hatred from the past, doubts, and a terrible fear for what may happen to them when the current system disappears.

You can criticize and question the improper conducts of José Miguel Gómez and José Francisco Martí, but you can never deny their existence.

The History of the nation would be incomplete if they were not included, even though it is painful to us, and we understand it as unjust.

However, keeping the statue of José Miguel Gómez, which I definitely agree with, as well as the statue of José Francisco Martí, without raising a few statues for the men and women of black skin, who, with more than enough merit, must be taken out of the historic insult, clearly shows how this regime, just like all the previous ones, has always denied: its racist nature and the classist commitment to ensuring that Cuban blacks and mestizos remain in the bottom.

These are constant symbols of impudence and fear for blacks, who are not the ones who should be embarrassed. There are titles that must cause embarrassment to those who carry them, as well as to those who create them.

Translated by Chabeli

12 June 2012