The Expendable Revolution / Néstor Díaz de Villegas

Inside Havana's newly restores Capitol building
Inside Havana’s newly restores Capitol building

Néstor Díaz de Villegas, 17 April 2016 – Once upon a time I made the mistake of thinking that the Revolution – I’m speaking about the Cuban Revolution – was indispensable, that its advent had forever altered the course of History. Today I am reflecting on what would be its fundamental contributions, the (let’s say) Grundlagen of the Cuban Revolution, and I find I can only think of three, precisely those that are rarely taken into account by historians.

The current state of affairs – with regards to what concerns the end of the Revolution – has provoked the most diverse opinions, but I think that the greatest lesson, the scandalous lesson of the terminal stage of the Castro regime, is not necessarily its mortality, but its dispensability.

Behold, Castro’s Revolution turned out to be expendable. Looking at the American Revolution, the French Revolution, or even the Fascist one, we see that the Cuban one is not an event in the same category. It is impossible to conceive of the world without the American Revolution, but the Cuban Revolution disappears from the map and nobody cries. continue reading

It leaves behind nothing essential, nothing permanent. It falls, in its Reaganesque way, into the Dustbin of History, and into the storeroom of ideological curiosities and nobody cares – or perhaps it will be dealt with as a Caribbean thing, or as an item in a catalog of personal adventures.

It has been tremendously easy to get rid of it. The CIA was right: it required the death of Fidel Castro, his physical elimination through a bullet or an exploding cigar, because the Revolution was nothing more than his whim, a Spanish capriccio, the fantasy of the mind of an cunning Spanish hidalgo (cunning in the sense of perfidious), or the nightmare of a Galician bumpkin suffering from Indies fevers.

So the CIA’s plans were fully justified, and now all the remains is to recognize the heroes and heroines who gave their lives in support of this ad hominem argument. Because the elimination of Castro would have brought on the advent of a substitute, a Sancho Panza, several decades earlier and with it what is today known as “Raulism,” which is to say, the transformation of Cuba into Cervantes’ Barataria.

The inconsequential end of the Castro regime brings no fallen walls nor decapitated statues – which would be so 20th Century! – on the contrary, it brings a private funeral to which only the family is invited: the Castros, the Espíns, the López-Callejas, the Soto del Valles, the Diaz Balarts, and the still warm dead.

An Argentine pope with connections to a dictatorship and a president with ancestors in Kenya, decided to put an end to Castroism during a secret meeting in the backroom of postmodernism. Raul Castro didn’t resist, he nodded and gave his consent. After all, he’s just an old Galician who thinks like an old gringo. He knows Castroism died in the geriatric ward without leaving reliable successors. Again it fell to Raúl, the prodigal brother, to find a practical solution to the problem. The laurels of History had wilted and now all that was left was to dust the ferns in the rehab center.

The visible effects of the Vatican conclave are, in order of importance: the “triumph” of Venezuelan opposition in the last parliamentary elections; the delayed but imminent departure of Nicolas Maduro; the Alberto Nisman affair in Argentina and the ouster of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and the rise of Mauricio Macri in that same country: events unthinkable without the consent of Havana.

What remains is pure theater: the imperial rhetoric of the Golden Age – which was, after all, our last century – repression as puppet theater, insolence as a tic, and the bands of unemployed leftists to whom the new democratic governments must offer free macramé lessons.

As for the three permanent creations of Castroism, I will try to explain them in as many quick paragraphs:

  1. If Latin America sought a magnetic center where it might implement its literary fantasies, it found it in Castro’s Cuba. Castroism was The Aleph, so its end is the equivalent of the demolition of the house of Carlos Argentino Daneri (in the story by Jorge Luis Borges). One had to go to Havana on a pilgrimage to see the world in a nutshell: Ernesto Guevara (Carlos Argentino) was the first to discover this trajectory, this magnetism. Because Castroism was, during the briefest of times, poetry with a Heideggerian ability to destine.
  2. Castroism is, in addition, the universal development of dictatorship. It fell to Fidel Castro to reinterpret the contents of the Batista regime (education, healthcare, repression, socialism, tourism and spectacle). The Castro ontogeny is just a myth: Castroism sprang complete out of the Republic’s head. The bifurcation of 1959 led to overdevelopment – or inflated development – of what would have happened anyway, although in a different form, under Batista. Instead of classical economic development, Castroism was an archaic antithetical development. The expanding Batista regime migrates to literature, and is resolved there, finding in literature its deferred culmination: in Cabrera Infante’s Three Trapped Tigers, in Lezama’s Paradise, and in Sarduy’s Metamorphosis.
  3. Exile is a Castro construction, a prison enclave where the class production system was maintained with the intention of resupply. The Exile is nothing more than another element of the Revolutionary economic diversification: a “New Economic Policyin partibus. There is no difference between exporting a revolution and exporting an exile. In fact, emigration has been Castroism’s secret weapon. The Castro migrations continued the Latinization of the Empire, a crowning achievement of Cuba’s foreign policy, much like what the vandalizing of national unity was to national policy.

Finally, and as an add-on, I must repeat that Reinaldo Arenas, the greatest Cuban thinker of the last half century, projected into Castroism the symptomatic aspects of his own disease. For Reinaldo, Castroism itself was a plague, the mal du siècle. That is, an intracellular, microscopic and underworldly affair and, at the same time, a cyberimmunological creation: the Fidel Castro virus. Because Castro is every medium, Castro is also the message (in the encrypted, encapsulated language of the retroviral code).

We all carry Castro within.

 

Fidel Castro, Rock Star / 14ymedio, Nestor Diaz De Villegas

Fidel Castro in his teens.
Fidel Castro in his teens.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Nestor Diaz De Villegas, Los Angeles, 27 March 2016 — Crouched down in the last row of a sweet potato farm deep in the Cuban countryside, a student of first year of high school listened to the Dóbliu (WQAM, 560 AM). It was the end of 1973 and the foreign radio station was broadcasting the Hit Parade. It was the velvet voice of Casey Kasem in the potato field. It was the School in the Countryside in the Cuba of Their Satanic Majesties, the Castro Brothers.

The boy fiddled with the antenna wire. Stations as far away as Barquisimeto, Fort Lauderdale and Little Rock (Beaker Street, KAAY, Underground Rock) came out of the old portable radio. What he had captured was “The Lives of Others” and the student was a spy. If he was caught listening to what came from the other side of the wall, he would be expelled from high school. continue reading

There is no sledgehammer that will ever tear down the wall separating Cuba from the rest of the world. It is the Wailing Wall and the Berlin Wall all rolled into one, but without stones, reinforcing rods or cement. The ocean is a sea of tears and a natural barrier: the “cursed circumstance,” whose circumference is everywhere and whose center, blah blah blah… We will have to invent a water music, an lachrymose Mass, and a Paulina’s Bidet that commemorates and curses this metaphysical isolation. A task for the hydraulic engineers of the next century.

Out there, beyond the yams, something big seemed to be going on. The Soviet receptor collected coded messages and the young spy could only decipher a few phrases: There’s a new sensation / A fabulous creation / A danceable solution / A teenage revolution…

The Beatles had been left behind, they belonged to the older cousins. His was psychedelic rock. His idols were Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, Led Zeppelin, and Brian Ferry and Brian Eno of Roxy Music: Tired of the tango / Fed Up With fandango!

He went mad for Led Zeppelin when, four years earlier, Leandro Soto took him to his house in Punta Gorda to listen clandestinely to a 45 his brother, the merchant marine, had brought home: A Whole Lotta Love on side A; and the punchy Communication Breakdown on side B.

The “Revolution” was, for him, only 33 “revolutions per minute,” and the one from ‘59 remained in remote antiquity.

Once, a Jamaican diplomat gave him a pack of Dunhills with two cigarettes left, and a recent copy of the magazine Circus, where he collided for the first time with Bowie. A student from Amsterdam, passing through Havana, let him choose between Eric Clapton’s Goodbye Cream, and the first Pink Floyd record he heard in his life, Ummagumma, a music that upset him and that he didn’t understand.

He kept the Cream. He danced to The Sunshine of Your Love with a skinny mulata woman in the room of an apartment on Aguacate street, designed for a family of five, where forty dancers were crammed.

He lived as a hippie in the room of Eliades y Colchón, on Lamparilla Street. He went out hustling in the docks and came home with the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street under his arm. He learned to speak broken Portuguese with Cypriot sailors. His coreligionists were initiated into the mysteries of rock: Beningno, Digna’s son, Pedro el Fabuloso, Alejandro el Pelú, Tony el Alemán, Silverio, Cocacola and el Foca.

One night in the darkness of La Zorra and Cuervo he saw The Plastic Flowers. They kicked him out of an apartment where some unknown girl was celebrating her quinceañera for having sneaked in. Inside Los Kents were playing.

In Manuel Antonio Ureña’s living room he listened to the last album by King Crimson – smuggled by Manuel Antonio’s aunt in a diplomatic pouch – drank black tea and asked permission to use the bathroom. That day they had cut the water off and he was kicked out of this party, too, and they humiliated him laughing at him from the balcony, while he slouched down B Street.

At the end of the year party, in the home of Raul Chaveco on the Prado – that house that in 1971 was more important for Cuban culture than Lezamas’s on Trocadero Street – he was able to see Las Almas Vertiginosas live.

At the corner of San Lazaro and Genios he discussed endlessly with Julito Buendia, bassist of Nueva Generación, about the relative importance of Slade. In the wee hours of a morning, accompanied by Pedrito Campos and Carlos el Gago, he was assaulted by a delinquint who sought to grab his portable cassette player, while listening for the thousandth time the long version of Iron Butterfly’s Inna-Gadda-Da-Vida.

And yet, Fidel Castro was, even then, the real rock star. His satanic scenario was the ruins of Cuba, a Havana converted into Dresden that served as background to his one-man Apocalypse. The culture that created the music we listened to on a remote Villa Clara sweet potato farm originated in Cuba, like the idea of the revolutionary that underlay the iconoclastic impetus of rock’n’roll.

Today we know that the beards and the long manes of the rebels gave rise to the hipsters. But, our hero in Flogar* camouflage and Dorticos* glasses ended up gobbling up his own epigones! Like the chameleon David Bowie, Fidel Castro changed, mutated, shed the extraterrestrial fatigues he had worn coming down from the mountains and assumed the heavy metal disguise of the Great Dictator.

Bowie has said that Hitler was the first rick star. In successive transmutations, Fidel Castro would become Prosecutor, Torturer, Poet, Father of History and World Doctor. He would then become Believer, Despot, Sportsman and Convalescent Judas. He still exists, through the mediation of his doubles: his inverted star hovers in the false transvestitism of Mariela*, in the brutalism of Raulín, in the radioactive beard of his firstborn.

We can divine them also in Armando Roblán* and in Armando Pérez Roura*, in the black flags of ISIS, in The Clash’s album Sandinista!, in Woody Allen’sBananas, in the havoc of the penultimate Michael Jackson, and even in the caprices of “The Most Interesting Man in the World.” (“His beard is registered on his organ donation card.”)

And perhaps we should admit, finally, that we enjoyed rock’n’roll in the ideal conditions of terror and persecution in which this revolutionary music should be listened to. Perhaps only we, among all the rockers of the world, really understood it. The Rolling Stones song that discovers Satans in every moment of horror in universal history is a secret ode to Fidel Castro. If we understand it like that, who knows if at some point we will come to feel sympathy for the Devil.

__________

Editor ‘s note: This text was originally published on the blog of Néstor Díaz de Villegas and has been reproduced here with the permission of the author.