The Cuban writer Ángel Santiesteban–as almost no one knows or cares to know–is sentenced to five years in prison, a sentence he will have to serve unless a miracle happens and the island’s government pardons him. To secure the conviction, Cuba has constructed a legal pantomime, behind which is hidden Angel’s one and only cause: trying to write as a free man.
But in dictatorships freedom always has its price and the price is always punishment.
Now, it happens that Ángel Santiesteban is a very unlucky man. Yes, because the vast majority of those of us who could prevent–or at least make the effort to prevent– his going to jail, are busy with our lives. Some in Cuba, others in exile.
Yes. Cuban intellectuals, regardless of which shore we inhabit, this time like so many other times, we have put our heads down and again, instead of our mouths having air to scream with, we have stuck them up our asses.
And the dictators know this: with a band of asses for intellectuals, writers, actors, artists, university professors, filmmakers, libraries–and the list goes on–you can’t defend the dignity of a man, his right to write for or against whatever he pleases, to say that is where he believes the truth lies, however false.
But that’s the way things are. Those who live on the island are thinking right now about some silence or abstraction, instead of about Angel Santiesteban. They are thinking about themselves, generation after generation, gift after gift, complicity after complicity. They are paying for that silence the exact value of their submission and the favor of settling in the decorated penury in which they live. If someone dares to raise his voice–everyone having been warned ahead of time–they will end up sharing Angel Santiesteban’s fate and the totalitarian prison usually treats rebels with special violence.
Here in exile things are no different. The price of survival is to take little interest in the fate of Angel Santiesteban. Everyone raises their personal reasons, the exact size of their withdrawal, their disbelief on reading the news of that out-of-the-way place from people who are so obstinate–to the amazement of this majority–that they insist on shouting into the wind.
The most fortunate, those who could incite public opinion, which is often deaf to the injustices unless the horror shows up in the newspapers, are too interested in not bothering anyone with extraneous questions to take the side of a writer who. sadly, lives in Cuba without much influence abroad though a great talent, they say.
And so Angel Santiesteban, who doesn’t expect miracles, already knows that everyone, here and now, here in exile and on the island, is concerned about tomorrow and what will happen to them this year, and what they expect will finally end up being their lives.
February 4 2013