14ymedio, Jose Gabriel Barrenchea, Santa Clara, 27 June 2016 – The Eva Tas Foundation, located in Amsterdam, publishes and promotes texts that have been and are censored, regardless of where or how. Indeed, as a part of this laudable and necessary work, this institution just published two books by one of the most important figures in Cuban letters, and one of the highest contemporary examples of commitment to the truth and the defense of freedom: Amir Valle.
Gagged Words is one of them. The book was completed this 20 February, and though the ink hasn’t dried yet it is essential reading for anyone who wants to know the history of the Castro regime’s censorship, harassment and persecution of creative work and thought in Cuba, mainly in literature and film, but above all it reveals the subtle mechanisms of intellectual repression that the regime has adopted in these times of what some call late-Castroism.
Amir Valle, one of the most important Cuban intellectuals of all time, describes certain keys to this veiled censorship or repression that goes unnoticed by many strangers to the Cuban island. This censorship or repression in many cases is considered by the new Mr. Magoo as a hoax invented by enemies to discredit the “greatest example of human dignity and social justice in the world today”: The Cuba of Fidel. For example, the complex mechanisms which prevents foreign publishers at our Book Fairs from breaking the “ideological firmness” of our people by giving them access to controversial literature.
The foreword of the book is by another great of our literature and a person with an intellectual commitment to truth and freedom: Angel Santiesteban. Thanks to this prologue, the reader from other cultures (what Cuban does not know who we are talking about?) can learn the essential aspects of Amir’s life from the mouth of someone who has known him intensely for almost three decades, and who addresses the worth of information that one is about to receive, in very direct language, with which a master of the language aims to reach the widest possible audience.
It is not by chance, but by ineluctable statistical necessity (here surveillance and harassment never sleep), that this book came to me from the hands of another intellectual who is often quoted in the pages of Gagged Words, whom the police arrested Friday in my and my wife’s presence at one of the busiest intersections in Santa Clara. As the captain of the secret police informed us, on suddenly materializing next to us out of nowhere (what a shock to me, an atheist!) they took him to talk “a little while” with them: “Because, compadre, with Vilches we couldn’t have done better, check it out, we’ve even resolved (they = the secret police, it is understood) to put him on the jury in a contest there in Varadero.”
Gagged Words is a book with which, if you are still one of the clueless of good faith who remain out there, you should do two things: the first is to read it. The second is to go to Cuba with it in your suitcase so that you can, with total sincerity, declare it at Customs, and share it with any Cuban with the face of a reader you run into in the street. Only then will the reality of the “Raulist opening” be known first hand with regards to intellectual creativity, thinking and the free discussion of the ideas. Keeping in mind, if you are one of those anti-Yankee global-phobics who come and go in the world today, that Amir Valle, even though they invited him, never stepped foot in what was then the United States Interest Section in Cuba.
And it is my good friend, who then returned to the plane, expelled from the island as a persona non grata, as Amir summarizes in an epilogue: (In Cuba) “independence, creative freedom, free expression of creativity are elements as palpable as galaxy EGS-ZS8-I, the most distant, 13,000 million light years from earth.”
A pdf of Gagged Words is available here.