On the morning of Wednesday, July 7th of this year 2010, I received a peculiar visitor in my house: actually, I received him on the porch. I invited him to sit down, next to me, on the small bench that delimits my home’s garden. The living room in the house, the interior of my living space, is only destined for friends or people I don’t know but whose presence I have solicited.
Since this visitor didn’t meet either of those two conditions, he was kindly received on the porch.
His name is not important right now. Only, that it was the official from the State Security whose visit I earned on “my own merits” since my first texts appeared on the web (at that time this blog was not thinking about being created). No rebel, no one who stands up, no honest man, no inquirer stays in my Cuba of today without his own respective official. It is a right we all have.
Well, my Security official’s visit had a concrete purpose that morning:
– I’ve come to negotiate with you – he said, with sarcasm.
I want to make something clear: unlike the bird-brains they have assigned to counteract this blog, poor devils with no brain nor meritorious reasoning, the official who “attended” to me was the most decorous they could have assigned me. Someone with good manners, knowledgeable about his occupation, cordial when the time demanded and energetic when my words offended his institution. He was not stupid, a good debater. Someone who, if we took away his occupation of persecutor of political miscreants, and overcame that innate arrogance of those who take advantage of the impunity that the authority grants them, would be one of the people whom I would receive in the living room of my home. He could have been my friend.
So, we moved on to what he was coming to negotiate.
– What advantage do I get from your business offer? I asked, in a funny way.
– A Visa to the United States – he said, proud of his judgment.
I smiled, once again. It was ten in the morning, and the dark circles under my eyes certified the 500 miles from Havana to Bayamo that I had traveled the night before. I was coming from my interview at the United States’ Interest Section in Cuba. They had just granted me, good until this coming December, a Visa in order to be able to reunite with my family members in Miami. A Visa which, by the way, has absolutely nothing to do with my political posture, something that my official admitted as if known by all: I would leave Cuba just like another member of a family to reunite. Just that.
The juicy “business” they proposed was elemental:
– Behave- he said fluidly – and we won’t put any barriers towards your leaving the country.
You should understand: behave meant, in a more direct language: stop writing.
I can’t hide how enjoyable, grotesquely, that proposition was to me. Benevolence in exchange for my silence. The approval of the owners of this beautiful island, in exchange for my “good behavior”.
I don’t remember my exact answer. I think I faked that I would evaluate his proposal, very interesting and beneficial, really.
I had already evaluated it, actually. Two days later, on July 9th, I posted the “Prologue to the Little Brother”. I had just founded this space that counts today, after three and a half months, 31 published articles.
Looking back on what my life has been in the past three months, I must admit that it has had more charm and sleepless nights, more stress and delight, than ever before in my 26 years. And above all, truth be told: more danger than I ever thought possible, like an entirely free man, in this country which I love from one end to the other.
I have experienced the brilliant pleasure of sitting down to write, each day, with the enviable sensation that everything I say is my deepest truth. A truth crowded with subjectivities, points to analyze, polemic and personal opinions. But in the end, a truth that, as I said in that Prologue, does not admit blindfolds nor does it tolerate disadvantages.
I have discovered, thanks to my decision to be a journalist as independent from the official press as from the sensational opponents, the real meaning of freedom of speech. What I have published on this blog has only been approved by my conscience, my aesthetic standards and my ethical perceptions. I have not asked anyone for accountability, I have not asked anyone for acceptance.
I have learned to value, and to respect, the fear of those who stay quiet out of necessity, from feeling defeated before the immensity of the retaliations: “I have a family, Ernesto; I have a son who I need to support. I feel an immense envy for what you are doing, I would love to be able to do it also, but if they fire me from work like they did, how would I feed my family?” I nod, and I give them a hug, even though I can’t defeat my depression all day, and I thank them for sneaking in, in the refuge of their homes, a memory stick that will go from one hand to another, copying and reproducing the texts that I publish here every three days.
And I have also learned, how couldn’t I, the size of hate and of repression in almost all its forms. And I underline “almost”, because except physical violence and the gray bars of prison, I have already experienced on my own flesh, in my individual essence, the high price implied by being consistent with the Marti perception which prays: “Liberty is the right that each man has to be honest, and to think and speak without hypocrisy” in my totalitarian Cuba.
Many friends have been warned, they have been terrified on account of me: “If you mix with a social scourge like him, you will be treated as such.” Of course: many have abdicated my friendship. They have put our links on standby until these times of bad smell and pests pass, even though it is likely that by that time, their friendship will be hollow, unnecessary.
My telephone, tapped with aberrant notoriety, has only remained in the address books of a few suicidal friends. A virtuous painter, a Buddhist engineer, an Argentinean soccer fan on his wheel chair, and another handful of Bayameses (people from Bayamo) who might even fear for their own existence, but are more fearful of surviving without the irreducible friendship that we have known how to nourish for so many years.
Too many slanders have been raised against me. Dirty, vile hits, for which I was always ready, but even then they don’t stop surprising me, and lead me to question myself about the limits of human degradation.
The founders of so much barbarity and so much social exclusion should have to answer to their children, to their grandchildren, all their questions.
That is why I, who maintain my friends on the verge of collapse, who have had to make my family lose their sleep, who have gained the disapproval of many for putting my stability, my personal security at risk, I ask them for forgiveness for my acts, but with humbleness I confess: I would not change a single second of these last three months of my life, for all the peace and all the protection of the planet.
I also confess, for whoever takes me as their enemy – they are not my enemies: I don’t have, inside of me, space for enemies; nor would I make any deals with them, nor with them would I ever conduct any business that included a single one of my articles, one of my words. I don’t gamble with my truth. I am neither a blackmailed brain nor pen.
The longing to reunite with my family again, who now live in real freedom, is immense, and for that I have been willing to do almost anything. Except biting my lips. If the final punishment for being consistent with myself is imprisonment inside this green Island, I will accept it with the dignity of someone who still has much to do, much to write, much to live in this country that made me, with pride, a Cuban. I will accept staying on this side of the ocean, with a homeland, but without a master.
Someone who is sheltered by books, by music, by scriptures and the unconditional love of his partner; someone who saves in his chest of relics the friendship of the incorruptible, the sincere; someone to whom God gifted with an immense spirituality to feed him during harsh times, during sufferings, during the death of loved ones and the betrayal of friends for silver coins; to conclude, someone who deep inside has the antidote against all hate; someone like this cannot be repressed nor frightened.
Liberty is a spiritual state said Mahatma Gandhi, and I do not have words to thank him for the favor of giving me that maxim as a life premise.
At three and some months from writing this kamikaze blog, in which each time I offer the best and worst of me, I do not stutter in thanking all who dedicate 5 minutes of their time on reading it, and whose good energies inevitably come to me; nor do I stutter when thanking myself for taking this, the most assertive and committed decision of my young years of existence.
Translator: Angelica Betancourt
October 16, 2010