Answer to Innocence / Angel Santiesteban

Photo: Reuters

I know that logically I don’t have to respond to the mostly anonymous commentators in Internet forums. But this time I’ve decided for forget protocol to respond here because so much raving frightens me.

I don’t deny the education that I received, but I most thank my mother, who often skipped breakfast so that her children could go to school with something in their stomachs.

There is a misconception, that the Government has given a gift, as they say, a “free” education. We know they have no way of getting the money other than through the sacrifice of the workers, so it was our parents who paid for our education, which would be a great contradiction, if our parents paid, and if you put a high price on our education, then how “free” are we talking about?

You know, I never wanted to be a politician, I think the extreme sides should come together, so if you see in me a desire to go into politics you’re mistaken, of course, I always said I was an anarchist, but later I learned that even silence is political, whether we practice it consciously or unconsciously. If I had wanted to be a politician, I would have done it many years ago, but notice that I never jumped at the chance. In 1992, after learning that I had won the Casa de las Americas prize with my book South: Latitude 13, minutes before delivering it they let me know that I would not receive it, that State Security intimidated the jurors, if you don’t believe me ask Abilio Estevez who ashamedly explained it to me. And since them I knew to shut up because I never wanted to be recognized for extra-literary scandals, although somehow I was.

Accustomed to keeping silent

In 1995 I won the writers’ guild, UNEAC’s, most important prize and the book wasn’t published until 1998, after half the pages were censored. In those three years I shut up because I still didn’t want to be an international scandal. In a dossier prepared by the Casa de las Americas about the literature of my generation, they asked for a story from every writer, and despite my having sent five stories none was chosen. And I still shut up.

Then, recently, in 2006, I won the Casa de las Americas prize for my book Blessed Are Those Who Mourn, and according to what they said the book would be printed for the next call. I had to wait two years to get it into the hands of readers, after several conversations with the Department’s organizer for the literary event. And I kept silent.

Keep in mind, if my intend is to take advantage and become a dissident I spent two years supporting this research to see if they were withdrawing because, of course, the accusations embarrassed me although I knew myself to be innocent and wanted to avoid scandal.

With respect to emigrating, with all due respect for those who have and their reasons for doing so. I personally have visited the U.S. on more than one occasion, invited by universities because of my intellectual work. Despite the pleas of my family and friends that I not return, here I am, hearing someone tell me to take advantage of the circumstances to emigrate.

As for my broken arm, if you search in Google, you can read that the cast was put on a military hospital: The Naval Hospital I said it was at the time, but in addition the Ministry of Culture asked the Interior Ministry to initiate an investigation, to silence the protests of international opinion. An investigation that, at least for myself, I never knew what determination they came to.

Phantom aggressors?

In any event, it’s a bit laughable that they are seeking, and so much so that instead of investigating the phantom attackers, they did it with me and I said at the time the name of the Lieutenant Colonel who led the supposed investigation, that in fact was dedicated to pursuing my friends, rounding them up for twelve hours of interrogation about my life, what I did, who I saw, if I talked to foreigners, etc. So, needless to say that if they had questions about my fracture, going to the hospital and interviewing the military doctors who treated me would have been enough.

But if that’s not enough, the questioner can write to my personal mail and I will send them an image of the medical certificate and the x-ray. For the rest, I posted the name of my lawyer and the Collective Law Firm where she works.

With respect to Yoani Sanchez, whom you mention, I would be impossible for me to reach or exceed her, she is an icon within our society, and if we can be of any use to her it is to protect her, to offer her out shoulders so that her voice continues to be heard, and so that all of us know what she says.

What else could I offer you but good luck with this innocence you possess. Don’t worry, I understand, most of us were like you. If I’m not mistaken you could be a foreigner, because so much innocence is impossible to maintain here, inside, not even the Communist Party members themselves are so candid and recognize what is happening inside the country. What’s more, on my travels through the world I could meet many romantics like yourself, who see Cuba through a lens of idolatry, who see Fidel Castro as a paradigm, but never, unfortunately, thing of the sacrifice of the people of Cuban, the price we pay for their utopias.

These defenders of Cuba, some professors at major universities, bright middle-class professors, after defending the Cuban regime at all costs, commented bitterly to me that they were going to go on strike the following day to demand salary increases. And I couldn’t stop looking at the residences where they lived with their families, children in private schools, their unused swimming pool, their expensive cars.

I could never help but wonder how long they would continue to support the regime of Fidel Castro, when they had to go out to get on a bus packed with people, and get home not knowing what they were going to cook for their children. And look at their worn out shoes and remember that they had a hole in the sole of their own they were constantly trying to hide from their colleagues. But that mental exercise wore me out. Nobody wants to look beyond their own prejudices.

I am staying in Cuba

Finally, to ask some European president, as you mention, out of kindness, to give me asylum, but you know that not all the prisoners of conscience left prison and decided to leave, some stayed in prison because they refused to leave the country. Anyway, I thank you in advance but reject it. I’m staying. Here I first saw the light of day, and here I will see it for the last time.

But without being President, save of my blog, I ask you to come and live in Cuba. Later you can tell me how much pretense there is in your words, how mistaken your look. The sad thing is to be blind when you think that from a watchtower you can make out the horizon.

It is my desire to instruct, read the books by writers who have fled their country. Read the bloggers of [which you can read in English in], come to Cuba and get off the bus, walk the nearby streets. Leave the tour guide and find your own people to talk to, those who do not have a speech they learned to serve as a shield not to be persecuted. Don’t stay in the hotel swimming pool, walk along the Malecon, and enter the Cuban reality. Don’t waste time with the shows at the hotel. Go to the theater, you can see the dilemmas facing today’s society. Don’t just buy traditional music, which I recommend, but also music that is not promoted, music whose songs are passed — thanks to Bluetooth — from cellphone to cellphone.

Hopefully my request doesn’t seem offensive, I’m just trusting in this naiveté that has exceedingly touched me.

Accept my greeting and much luck to you.

Related article: Declaration of Principles.

August 29 2011