Message From Leonardo Acosta / POLEMICA: The 2007 Intellectual Debate

Since 1959 to the present, the ICRT has been characterized by being the media and cultural (????) organism that has enjoyed, or better yet suffered, the punishment of having the most mediocre and/or flailingly abusive and irresponsible leaders of the country, almost always ignorant of journalism and culture, or indifferent to both professions. That character “Papito” Serguera owned the strange privilege of having every single one of these “qualities,” which added to his anti-historical performance as a diplomat, which unfortunately has been forgotten, and that almost destroyed our friendship with one of the Third World countries most strongly tied to Cuba through the revolutionary processes of both countries and the first and hugely important internationalist mission from Cuba confronting the imperialist invasion against these brothers.

In the case of Luis Pavon, there are so many overt and covert accomplices that it’s not worth mentioning them here, but it is unarguable that his term at the head of National Council of Culture (CNC) for much more than a “five-year stint” only served to engender or at least prolong the state of “Blood, Sweat and Tears” in the national culture.

But the praise of both characters, now added to the frustrated, resentful and vengeful Torquesada [after the 15th century Spanish Grand Inquisitor, Torquemada] and the disastrous Congress of Education and Culture of 1971 is simply a disgrace and an insult to the memory of Jose Marti, Felix Varela and all our heroes and intellectuals.

This makes me think that there are sinister people behind this true campaign for the rehabilitation of the hit-men who have done so much damage to our country and the world prestige of the Revolution.  Who must we hold responsible for these excesses?

I estimate, first of all, the ICRT (Cuban Institute of Radio and Television).  I believe that as journalists, writers, artists, scientists, and of course the clear political minds that abound in our country, we have an obligation to unite to make them explain to us how it is possible that this lack of tact is permitted, with respect to the sensitivity that places us on the plane of certain countries of the South Cone under the power of people like the terrible Menem, champion of neoliberalism, with his so-called laws of pardon and forgetting toward the torturers.

Act quickly with tact and intelligence.

Leonardo Acosta

Link to original post
January 2007

Luis Pavón, the Forgotten Official / POLEMICA: The 2007 Intellectual Debate, Alejandro Armengol

Luis Pavón in 1971. (Courtesy of the personal archive of Hamlet Lavastida.)
Luis Pavón in 1971. (Courtesy of the personal archive of Hamlet Lavastida.)

It’s not that Luis Pavón died without fanfare, it’s that he died officially forgotten. No one mentioned his death in the official Cuban press, no brief note, not even a moment on the cable news agency to record the fact. Another of the ironies of fate, history and politics — rhetoric doesn’t matter here — has been that there has been more comment from the exile, or at least mentions, of the end of someone who, with good reason, was considered and has always been considered a bastard. That he no longer exist does nothing to change that opinion. At least it’s consistent.

Pavón, was the director of the magazine Verde Olive (Olive Green). He was also the apparent author of a few texts under the name Leopoldo Avila — works that have also been attributed to José Antonio Portuondo, another mediocre Stalinist — which served to unleash terror in writers and artists at a time when dogmatism, mediocrity and foolishness was being imposed on much of Cuban literature. Without event becoming a kind of tropical Marat or Robespierre — not for lack of vocation, simply for lack of opportunities — this mediocre poet relentlessly tried to ruin the lives of various creators. He would get better at it during his presidency of the National Council of Culture between 1971 and 1976, when he could fully exercise his vocation as censor.

After his brief reign of cultural terror he passed not only into almost total obscurity but into rejection barely less absolute. Then he served as a pretext for one of the many plays with multiple roles that have happened on the island since 1959, when he appeared on a television show in 2007. It’s possible that the “little war of emails” — that followed that show — would benefit some; what’s certain is no one is disposed to repeat it now, not in the slightest skirmish. Perhaps, after everything, it has been fear, not of Pavón but simply of mentioning Pavón, that explains this momentary silence in the Cuban press.

There is also irony that it was Norberto Fuentes who reported the news to the exile. As it always happens: the censors end up depending on the censored. Too bad they never learn the lesson in time.

From Cuaderno de Cuba

27 May 2013

Luis Pavon Tamayo Dies, One of the Executors of Castro Censorship / Diario de Cuba

Luis Pavón in 1971. (Courtesy of the personal archive of Hamlet Lavastida.)
Luis Pavón in 1971. (Courtesy of the personal archive of Hamlet Lavastida.)

He chaired the National Council of Culture in the ‘70s, which marginalized hundreds of intellectuals and artists. He reappeared on TV in 2007 and caused the “little war of emails.”


The political commissar Luis Pavón Tamayo, one of the executors of censorship in the ‘70s, died Saturday in Havana, according to the writer Norberto Fuentes who reported it in his blog.

On Sunday Fuentes wrote, “Recently he had felt depleted and said he felt like he was skin and bones. Midmorning he was sitting in an armchair in the indoor hall, at the front of the house, and his last act was to tilt his head on one shoulder.”

Pavón, who chaired the National Council of Culture between 1971 and 1976, is considered the main enforcer of the policy that censored and marginalized hundreds of intellectuals and artists, including José Lezama Lima and Virgilio Piñera.

In 2007, Pavón made headlines when he appeared on a television show dedicated to glories of Cuban culture. His return sparked a wave of protests known as the “little war of emails.”

Pavón (born in Holguin in 1930) participated in the clandestine struggle against the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. After Fidel Castro’s coming to power he was editor of the magazine Verde Olivo (Olive Green) and contributor to other national publications. He published books of poetry and two novels.

From Diario de Cuba

26 May 2013

One Year Later / POLEMICA: The 2007 Intellectual Debate, Yoani Sanchez


The wheel of life doesn’t stop turning: Luis Pavon Tamayo died in Cuba, one of the Torquemadas of the infamous Five Grey Years.

One Year Later: Originally posted in January 2008

What pushed me to this adventure of writing a Blog was the bad taste left at the end of the controversy of the intellectuals in January 2007. On an afternoon like today, the 30th of January, we waited – a group of young people – to be able to enter the conference: “The gray five years, reviewing the term.”  The meeting in the House of the Americas would try to channel and institutionalize a debate that had been raising the temperature of Cuban emails for a couple of weeks already.  A select list of guests began entering the “Che Guevara Room,” while our “group of impertinents” watched, from outside, as midnight arrived.

We were there, obviously protestors, blocked by the custodians and the bureaucrats from entering, to debate and discuss our encounters with censorship and dogmatism.  We put a rhyme to a cadence as an appeal to the main organizer of the event: “Desiderio, Desiderio, hear my opinions,”  but that didn’t work either.  Inside, the voice of the Minister of Culture repeated the idea that in a place under siege, dissent is treason.  Meanwhile, on the same corner of G and the Malecon, the frustration of those who were not heard disintegrated into exhaustion and a mass return home.

A year later, I don’t know what we have left of those “Words of the Intellectuals” exchanged by email.  What is left to us from that package of complaints and demands that started as criticism of the political culture of the revolution and grew to a questioning of EVERYTHING?  I sense that the debate was hijacked by the institutions, jailed by an academic world full of concepts and fancy words, and condemned to take the course of the imminent conference of the UNEAC [Cuban Writers and Artists Union].

However, we were left – at least those of us who were outside – with the conviction that we can’t wait to be allowed inside the next debate. To me, personally, it added a definite push to start this exorcism called “Generation Y.”  It gave me the spatula for the long contained vomit (sorry for the nasty metaphor) that has fallen resoundingly over this Blog.

Here is a small text about the “Intellectual Debate,” a point of rupture that marked my life in Generation Y. // The punishment of the censors, of the Torquemadas from so many eras, is the in the end some of their victims end up being more free than them.

26 May 2013

The Intellectual Debate: Background / POLEMICA: The 2007 Intellectual Debate

The Intellectual Debate

In January and February 2007, a series of texts circulated through emails among many Cuban intellectuals.  These emails formed a virtual historic debate on Cuba’s cultural policies over the previous 48 years.

The digital magazine Consenso collected this email debate and posted it in one place.  This site will provide, email by email, author by author, an English translation.  This debate is an invaluable resource to observers and scholars of Cuba. Those who want to help complete the translations can click HERE to translate.]

The following text is a translation of the Introduction to the Intellectual Debate posted on the Consenso website.

Introduction from Consenso website

As is well known, it all started when the young writer Jorge Angel Perez sent a message expressing his surprise and displeasure at the appearance on Cuban television of several people who, in the decade of the 1970s, played a leading role in one of the darkest periods of national culture.  Almost immediately the essayist Desiderio Navarro, the art critic and writer Orlando Hernández, and the writers Antón Arrufat, Reinaldo Gonzalez and Arturo Arango joined the controversy by sending emails that circulated among hundreds of addresses within and outside Cuba.

The portfolio shown here contains over one hundred participants, many of whom sent more than one message.   Appearing here are those who wrote from within Cuba, and those who joined in from abroad, the signatures of leading figures as well as those of the unknown, along with no shortage of pseudonyms.  There are texts, photos and cartoons; they are from academics, the passionate, and people from every side.  The sources are varied, from the newspaper Granma to the digital magazine Encuentro en la red, but fundamentally we have received the generous help of friends who have passed on the messages they received.

To facilitate searching, each debater has a page with all of their messages organized chronologically, and from within each page the reader will be able to see a dynamic index of the other participants, organized alphabetically by first name.

A note on the translations

These translations have been prepared by volunteer translators working through the cooperative translation site. These texts are, in many cases, written at least in part in the “formalized” language of intellectual debate. They also include numerous references to people and events not introduced or explained here. And, of course, they are rich with “Cubanisms” and playful use of the language.  All of this is a huge challenge to our volunteers, and we are all doing “the best we can.”  We welcome comments, corrections, clarifications. Please consider these translations no more than a “rough guide” to the debate, which certainly merits the skills of professional academic translators; hopefully one day that, too, will come to pass!

That said, there are many who have questioned why we are even bothering “to translate these old emails no one cares about.” Because WE care about them and think they are an invaluable resource for a broader understanding of Cuban history.

(Meanwhile, a special thanks to Regina Anavy who has taken on this project with great energy and who is the translator of about two-thirds of the completed posts.)

Message from Esteban Morales / POLEMICA: The 2007 Intellectual Debate #Cuba

Dear Rogelio,

It appears to me that your observations are very wise. As you know very well, I arrived at the Office of the School of Political Science and Dean of the Faculty of Humanities two years later, with the ashes still hot from the ”last battle,” the lassos brandished to hang “the children of the Revolution”; the Saturns* were passing by our Colina* in these moments.  dark time, which fortunately today we have already overcome and to which we won’t allow anyone to return us.

The revolutionary intellectuals of this country, can not return to the dark stage of the cavernous combination that occurred in those years between ideology, culture and mass media. Attempts to resurrect those dead on television, where they could confuse so many and even change their history, belong to opportunists.

The Revolution has matured a lot. But we must be alert, because it is precisely at those moments we are experiencing in these months, those who lend themselves to the revanchists, the dusting off of corpses and the opening of tombs. I don’t think we’re confronting ingenuousness.  And if they are ingenuous, they wouldn’t have the power to appear on TV.


Dr. Esteban Morales

*Translator’s notes:
Saturns: The myth of Saturn devouring his children is a popular Cuban reference point.
Colina: Reference to the area where the University of Havana is Reference to the area where the University of Havana is located

January 2007

Message from Mirta Yáñez / POLEMICA: The 2007 Intellectual Debate

Dear Marilyn:

Thanks for sending me the three letters. I am completely in agreement with Desiderio and Arturo. Really, I had already begun to worry some months ago when I read the incoherent letter from Guillermo Rodríguez Rivera on the subject of “The Bridge,” which, because of the pathetic quality of some fragments, could be looked upon with scorn, and in fact I did.

In this letter he tried to justify some harmful actions of those low years, effectively, the previously mentioned “owed obedience.” And Guillermo said, darkly and someone shamefully, that one had to navigate in “these waters.” Many didn’t surrender their ethical principals nor did they agree to “navigate,” and it cost them dearly. Some of them cannot be with us (not even to feel nauseated as happened to me) like Ezequiel Vieta, for example. Yes, I think this nefarious, opportunistic and repressive thinking is still with us, and looking for every opportunity to appear.

So many shovelfuls of lime, and much was lost under them, the grains of sand still feel isolated, but they gladden the heart. Let us keep hoping that the pleasant will cover all the wounds of the unpleasant. And we will manage to live to celebrate.

Mirta Yáñez

January 10, 2007

Translated by Regina Anavy

Message from Marcos García / POLEMICA: The 2007 Intellectual Debate

Things are heating up… really, I believe one should not stay silent under things like these. I applaud from my heart Desiderio Navarro and all of those people who write their name when they are giving their word.

I didn’t live in the television era nor do I remember “El quinquenio gris” — the five grey years — but what I’ve been told will suffice: so many smart voices cannot be wrong about the same subject, at the same time.


Translated by: Yenny Fernandez

January 2007

My Point of View / Eliseo Alberto Diego – "Lichi" / POLEMICA: The 2007 Intellectual Debate

“When I close the door, I never know whether I’m inside or outside.”

(Judith Vázquez)

I open the door. The unexpected and inexplicable (and as yet unexplained) return to TV of Jorge Papito Serguera, El Gordo Quesada and Luis Pavón Tamayo, a.k.a. (some say) Leopoldo Ávila, has awoken a logical agitation in Cuban intellectual circles, and this email turbulence has gone beyond the Island’s servers to arrive, as a choral ensemble, on the shores of the Cuban exile – where many of us follow with attention, surprise, and, almost always, anguish what happens in Cuba, for better or for worse. Those of us on this side of the border are up-to-date, if not up-to-the-day. We belong.

On 8 January the first email correspondence between Jorge Ángel Pérez, Reynaldo González, Desiderio Navarro, Sigfredo Ariel and Arturo Arango began to appear on the Internet. Messages come, messages go, the recipient list of such stinging correspondence (at first private, and then public) grew into a very long list of addresses in just a few hours.

Reason tried to impose itself on passion without complete success because ideas were running, rushing around with vibrant impatience, without time to consolidate a firm statement: so intense was the need to advise each other of the danger.

Necessity and consternation. From Havana, these unexpected “resurrections,” or the somber interpretation of the same, were not considered (as I thought from afar) more or less alarming coincidences, but rather clear indications that “some” thought that some past time was better and, compared to the current situation of the country, unpublished and critical, drastic measures should be taken.

The infected areas, for “those of the Old Guard,” were the margins of relative intellectual liberty that local writers and artists had gained thanks mostly to the renewed value of their works and also to personal stances, ever more autonomous, more independent. Titles remain. Also actions.

The shout provoked the echo. In this case, if the echo reverberated from wall to wall it was due to the enormous, thick retaining walls that “official history” has tried to raise throughout thirty years of distorting truth for its own benefit. The shriek bounces and rebounds, it pleases who it pleases and it weighs on those it weighs on.

At times, the resonance is more bewildering than the shout. Just five minutes of Cubavisión prime time entirely dedicated to praising the man (Luis Pavón) who still carries on his conscience the responsibility (not exclusively) of the worst period of cultural politics of the government and the Communist Party of Cuba, was more than enough to open old wounds for many victims of that era.

Memory also has a heart. Memory can also have heart attacks.

One day later, Tuesday, a surge of messages overwhelmed the rivers of the cyber-dialogue and the first handkerchiefs from the exile pump arose – almost all in support. From the pigeon loft where I have lived for 17 years, I sent this email to Reynaldo González:

“Dear Reynaldo: Messenger pigeons arrive atmy rooftop flat in Mexico Cityfrom Havana with references, or parts thereof, to the anger that has been unleashed on the Island by the televised resurrection of Pavón. I listen, excited, to the choir of dignified people. Tell it with my voice, my scars, and my word: add my anger to the anger of friends. Hopefully the waters will return to their level and loose judgements won’t stir up the wasps’ nest – although, if they sting our memory, let’s call bread ’bread’ and wine, of course, ’wine.’ I feel, I am, on the Island and together with you all – as always. If you can, give a hug from me to everyone, to Antón, to Desiderio, to Arturo, to Sigfredo. First to you. Lichi.”

In his response, quick and brief, Reynaldo asked me for “positive energy”.

The author of “Siempre la muerte, su paso breve“, he had reasons to ask me for “positive energy.” I understood that this is what Havana needed: fervor for what is good.

The choir was gaining new voices. Most didn’t question the possible motives of such a ridiculous “return of the ram to the past”in depth,but rather expressed their “solidarity” with writers who had dared to raise a hand and send out the alarm, on time and in haste. At least for me, thesolidarityconcept continues to have deep meaning: it is more than just a word.

However, something must have happened that Tuesday night (they say an urgent meeting in the Ministry of Culture) because on Wednesday the 10th the polemic grew quiet and a heavy silence settled on Havana. Maybe because “the misunderstanding” was cleared up. Maybe. Perhaps.

Perhaps the injustice wasn’t as grave as we thought. Having seen the case and tried the evidence, it wouldn’t be a bad solution. I say there are worse. In silencing Havana, some took advantage of the recess to stretch.

I find Internet space given to various critics who are too severe, in my opinion unjust and for many reasons inappropriate, with self-sufficient resentfulness, that intersperse jabs of intolerable tensionamong undeniable truths. I respect and admire José Prats Sariol and Jorge Luis Arcos. They are my friends. I do not know Duanel Díaz personally, but that is not necessary to appreciate his intelligence and analytical rigor: it is enough to read his writing. As they say in Mexico, colloquially and without offense, I have the suspicion that the three missed an excellent opportunity to be silent.

It was not, it is not, the moment to drown ourselves in a past whose witnesses we remember painfully, and to look for the major people responsible, name them on account and risk. We would all lose this inappropriate suicide bet. Who doesn’t know the rules of the game “by heart”? If I recall them? There’s no need. They haven’t changed in 48 years. Or they have varied only slightly.

What has changed are the players on the field and the spectators in the stands, neither the managers nor the judges. They remain there, on the bench, the old tyrants. But we are in this game, not out of it. “He does not want to be a hero, / not even the romantic around whom / he could weave a legend; / but he is chained to this life and, what terrifies him even more, / fatally condemned to his era,” said Heberto Padilla in his poem “El hombre al margen (The Man on the Margin)”.

Some accept it, others no. Why be embarrassed by it if this is (was and will be) our life? What touched us, those within and those that, for some, decided to leave – or were thrown out. In complex situations like this, how we long for our deaths! How we miss Tomás Guitérrez Alea, our irreplacable Titón, as smiling as he was brilliant! What would he have said? And Jesús Díaz? I seem to hear him. He snorts. And Moreno Fraginals? And Lezama from Trocadero 162? Gastón Baquero warned us, with the innocence of a fish that leaves its testament in the sand, that “culture is a place to meet” and that clear-sighted motto turned into the raison d’tre for the magazine Encuentro.

Also forTemasor Criterios, each in their own way. Had I asked the opinion of Santiago Álvarez, Reynaldo Arenas or Guillermo Rosales, Mirta Aguirre or Juan Marinello or Carlos Rafael Rodríguez, Guillermo Cabrera Infante or Nicolás Guillén, I may not have shared their wisdom or premonitions, but I would have taken them into account because the “respect for different opinions” as it is for Martí, is also fanaticism for me.

I will not try to respond in detail to the articles of Prats, Arcos and Díaz: they needed to write them and express their points of view, well thought out with the advantages that an exercise in reflection provides, and not with the light logic of someone who writes an electronic SOS on the fly. I am only putting forward, through the same Internet path, a pair or trio of observations and dispatching them to the long list of senders implicated in the dispute.

For my good friend Pepe Prats Sariol, “what is not transparent or insinuated in the Aristotelian rhetoric of the reports against the media’s homage to the peacocks is, simply, if they have already lost the little faith remaining in their dome of Power. There it is, it seems, what eludes them.” Who knows. Revolutionaries also can “lose their faith” and not, because of that, stop feeling compromised by what had been, until the light of day, the main reason for living. Hope is salvation for many.

To the author of the excellent and little-known novel “Guanabo Gay,” my favorite among his books, it is evident “that the falcons have flown the coop” and predict that in a few weeks we will know if there will be changes “in the government employees directing the cultural politics of the Government” or not.

And one asks, without arousing the wasps: Are we seeing the renewal of the undisguised repression of artists and writers that the Power knows to be dissidents? Did limbo end?”

Yes, without a doubt, for the time being (I think), purgatory is over, that field of bad weather without visible leaders, angels or demons, in the middle of the sky between hell and paradise.

OK, are they really dissidents? No. Dissidents on the Island are closed in prison or in their houses, valiant, besieged by the same press that today silences the loose polemic on the resurrection of dangerous figures, corralled within fences of repudiation.

Pepe Prats knows it well; he was one of the few that defended and aided our brother Raúl Rivero from his wooden house in the neighborhood of Santos Suárez.

Jorge Luis Arcos does not leave his state of astonishment. For him it is “simply incredible” that this deals with negating what to him seems “evident”: that the events do not “respond to a strategy of power, as it was in the past, and as it is in the present,” and it leads him to suppose “that a considerable part of Cuban intellectuals take it for granted that the current regime is going to continue existing with them in it, in all their varied range of complicity, silence, opportunism or even happy approval.”

The adjustment that Arcos proposes is no different, but rather repetitive. He forgets to mention that, in spite of the sorrows and “due to the many blows that life gives you,” as Fayad Jamis said, many Cuban intellectuals are revolutionaries. And they have the same rights as us to not be. Duanel Díaz focuses his attacks against what is expressed in his letters for Desiderio Navarro, and inverts the spyglass to exaggerate his own sentences (Duanel’s) as if the amplification of a truth was enough to sustain it, while forgetting that, misunderstood, reality seen through a lens at times only serves to distort, not to rationalize.

Díaz strictly guarantees that the Revolution does not allow for “critical conscience”: that to “really criticize it, one has to sit outside the game. It comes from his own tongue: pass from ’Fidel’ to ’Castro’. While ’Fidel’ exists, no longer as a physical, but rather conceptual, provider of legitimacy, the symmetry between ’politicians’ and ’intellectuals’ that Navarro suggests becomes false; in fact, in Cuba, there are no ’politicians’, since there are neither parties nor parliament.”

What is serious is not that there are no “parties” but that there is only one – more an Assembly of Popular Power composed almost in its whole of militants. At these levels of the “party,” after so much rain on what was already wet, in Havana as in Miami, just after having heard the proposal to choose between a name “Equis” and a surname “Zeta”, an alternative that, without the need for myopic lenses, dressed up what was an evidently theoretical obfuscation.

Many years ago, during a visit to a work center in the port of Havana, during exorcisms anticipated by the 4th Congress of the Party, Titón and I were listening to a state director that said, from the tribunal, this foolish musketeer: “All for one and one for all, or what is the same: divide and you will conquer.” What this shows, if need be, is that the extremes have been reached.

The classic goal of unity was identical to its opposite: in dividing into teams, both strategies cancel out. What this implies now is to come together: what remains is lost. It would be a very grave error to mistake our opponents since there exists the possibility of ending by being one, our own enemy. Not counted with me are those who only see spots on the Sun. Someone warned us: “He who looks for truth deserves the punishment he finds.”

I close the door.

Eliseo Alberto Diego


Translated by: M. Ouellette


Message from Magaly Sánchez / POLEMICA: The 2007 Intellectual Debate

I think that creating a climate of concern and anger among Cuban intellectuals at the moment is the best service you’ve been able to provide to the ideological enemy. I think you have to get away from this tendency to make amends for and single out people who, geared towards I don’t know whom and with evidently much pleasure, left such painful footprints and not just within the field of culture.

Magaly Sánchez

Translated by Regina Anavy

January 2007

Message from Magaly Muguercia / POLEMICA: The 2007 Intellectual Debate

Outside Cuba there are revolutionary intellectuals who chose to emigrate when it was impossible to make their thinking public. Subtly, the access to publishers and university classrooms was blocked.

There is also a generation of young professionals who are now between 30 to 40, who are educated in revolutionary principles. They left for economic reasons but also because of disappointment and feeling tired of being forced into subservience. I know a lot, because it’s my children’s generation. They are thoughtful and cultured people. But we are scattered around the world. If we were called, if someone calls us to return to Cuba, many would return to claim the right of every Cuban revolutionary, now, to think about the country’s future. It’s time to call on those who are outside to return to the country that we love and to say it, because it’s clear that Fidel’s convalescence is opening undesirable doors.

These doors usually are opened toward internal repression of thought and external acceptance of pseudo-socialist models: capitalism with a repressive state.

Translated by Regina Anavy

January 2007

Discordant Chorus – Leticia Córdoba / POLEMICA: The 2007 Intellectual Debate

After so many years of being gagged, we couldn’t hope for anything other than this discordant chorus in which voices climb, one above the other – you have to answer the opinion issued yesterday, also be quiet, stop just long enough to be read and overlap with others that are already collected on our computers or under the covers of some ordinary-looking file. All there: some reasonable; others, excessive. An indispensable whole, to understand the hurt and pain that we Cubans carry on our conscience.

Just like Galileo Galilei they showed us the instruments of torture, this time on television. The functionaries of culture and/or the Party must have been amazed that the same silence as always didn’t happen. You’d have to be very naive – I know it’s a very polite adjective – first, to swallow the story that it’s a perverse sequence of blunders, and, secondly, to believe for a second that Cuban television is the place where “belligerent ignorance” is located.  Alfredo Guevara should know this full well, because since 1960 he has called on Cuban intellectuals to please have the clarity to follow the objectives and the inspiring example of the Revolution: “The only limit to freedom is freedom,” a witty phrase in which it’s unclear what freedom is, but clear what its limits are. With the passage of time and the vicissitudes of practice, this call was made less obsequious.

Can anyone defend the idea that the Round Table is a TV show? Is it an initiative of the “ignorant” who, according to Guevara, conspire against the revolution?

There is no doubt that the government of Cuba has known very well how to keep people at bay for 48 years. One of the reasons many compatriots left was to be able to express an opinion, something they couldn’t do here without regretting the consequences. It’s been some time since the regime showed how it can reduce a man’s book of poems to a pulp, along with his spirit. Now we have the poet Delfín Prats to prove it. The regime turned the others into a show.


We who live here shouldn’t forget that wherever we are, we’re Cubans, and the homeland is ours not just by happening to live in it. On matters of Cuba, any Cuban has the right to give an opinion. José María Heredia does it every day in his clear verses:

“Don’t forget our past. We need it desperately to be able to decipher our present and to confront our future.”

In the mediation during Fidel Castro’s meeting with the intellectuals, at the José Martí National Library which discussed the theme of artistic creation, after the prohibition of the documentary film P.M., in June 1961, Alfredo Guevara said: “I want to clarify, of course, I am not one of those who’s afraid. I don’t expect more of the Revolution than positive things in all areas, including the field of art, including the field of creation, and I believe that with the Revolution we have found all we need to express ourselves, all who have something to say, all who want to say something. We have found the opportunity to say it with absolute freedom, and to say “no” not just in a small group of bourgeois or fans, but to say it before all our people, to the broader public, the public that connects the entire nation. Because the Revolutionary triumph is the story of the entire nation with its own purposes, or at least that is how I understand it, specifically for artists.” (Revolution is Lucid, Ediciones ICAIC, 1998, p. 181)

This seems to be the answer to a very brave opinion issued in one of these meetings. A man said, aloud, that he felt fear. His name was Virgilio Piñera.

We would diminish the scope of Virgilio’s declaration if we don’t hold onto a startling date. In 1952 he published a strange novel, La carne de René (Rene’s Meat), a tale of the terrors that surround meat. René, the protagonist, has received an inheritance from his father and grandfather in the cause of meat. So his life has been a series of escapes and imperious resistance to his calling. With his refusal to accept the cause, René shakes the precepts of an established world. In turn, that order will use all its weapons to persuade him. This is a sinister game in which each man has been a victim, but also a victimizer. It’s worth mentioning this date as the beginning.

You know the rest of the story. Virgilio died in 1979. They say that his funeral was attended by very few people. In 1968 he had written Dos viejos pánicos (Two Panicked Old Men). He had had the bad taste to insist on fear as a subject at a time when displaying macho swagger was demanded.

Now in a statement by the UNEAC Secretariat, in a predictable text written in an irritating language, we are called on to not abandon the flock, to remain as silent as lambs of the purist stock, now, when we are threatened that speaking out means we are in favor of annexation. I can’t forget the emaciated figure of Virgilio, walking to a microphone to confess his fear.

Leticia Córdoba

Havana, February 16, 2007

Translated by Regina Anavy

Message from Frank Padron / POLEMICA: The 2007 Intellectual Debate

I am disgusted as is any honest intellectual Cuban who knows a bit of history and who, one way or another, has lived it. Now: if we don’t take immediate action (.) we run the risk that all of this does not exceed the usual web controversies in the style of The Difference. I also think that the “airing” right after two shadowy figures is not a simple coincidence nor a mere blunder (“for variety”) of our beloved Television Institute.

Frank Padrón

Translated by: Yenny Fernandez

Link to original post
January 2007

Message from Ena Lucía Portela / POLEMICA: The 2007 Intellectual Debate

Dear Reynaldo González:

In the middle of the little avalanche of e-mails that have been stirred up by Luis Pavón’s return to the stage, I have respectfully read your views. I am writing just to let you know that I fully agree with you, with every one of your words. Only in place of “mistakes,” for elegance rather than being obvious, I would put “criminal acts,” which of course continue and will remain so long as they are not openly and publicly recognized as such, with absolute transparency, which I fear will not happen under the present circumstances of our country.

I take this opportunity to tell you that what caught my attention — although not much, to tell the truth — was that in Cubavision’s program, This Day, on Dec. 19, they didn’t include among the important events anything more or less than the birthday of José Lezama Lima. Was it also a coincidence? I don’t think so.

Nor do I believe that our deplorable television (the same that showed mutilated versions of Philadelphia and The Kiss of the Spider Woman, and that glorious spot to alert us to the dangers of drugs and harmful substances that turn young people into homosexuals, the same television that has never broadcast a single image of the gay pride demonstrations taking place in other parts of the world, the same that indulges in jokes all the time, or rather promotes the worst kind of homophobia, among other insults), is a being apart from our culture. No, it isn’t. Come on, at this stage of life we’d have to be very naive to believe that. As our Desiderio says in his magnificent and very timely article, Symptoms of what?, let’s ask ourselves about the causes of things; these dirty tricks, to put it gently, are signs of … something. And not precisely of something good.

Dear RG, I thought first about sending you this little message in private, just for you, partly because I’m not used to screaming in public and partly because you and I, if memory serves correctly, know each other personally and… Well, I was afraid maybe you would misinterpret me. But then I thought that if one is to express support and solidarity with someone who shouted, he shouldn’t do it quietly. So I’m sending copies to others. I hope you don’t mind.


Ena Lucía Portela

Translated by Regina Anavy

January 2007

Message from Loly Estévez / POLEMICA: The 2007 Intellectual Debate

Respected colleagues:

I have learned, by email, about part of the exchange of opinions stirred up by the appearance on the Cuban TV program “Imprint” about Luis Pavón and Jorge Serguera, interviewed in “The Difference.” I don’t know the contents, and now I’m actually in Spain invited by the Ateneo “Jovellanos” de Gijón. I confess my surprise when I saw in some of the messages I received that Quesada’s appearance on “Open Dialogue” several months ago was equated with the mentioned “events.” I explained to two friends who asked me about it that this was a program designed to assess the five years of work on the program, and that it included a previously recorded opinion about Quesada in his capacity as adviser to the Directorate of Programming for Cuban TV, as the Manager of “Open Dialogue” and other programs.

The fact that the emergence of Quesada several months ago was linked to refer to a matter that was specific and technical, with the inclusion of Luis Pavón in a space dedicated to people with an intellectual work accepted as capable of making a mark, and with Jorge Serguera’s presence and statements in “The Difference” didn’t seem too strange to me.

What does surprise me and motivates me to write these lines is that the Secretariat of UNEAC endorsed a Declaration where he admits sharing “the righteous indignation of a group” on three television programs and mentions “Open Dialogue” first, which automatically implicated him in “expressing a tendency outside the cultural policy that has guaranteed and guarantees our unity”; in the valuation of the Presidency of the ICRT that “in its conception and execution they committed serious errors” and in the “stupidity” that they can be exploited to harm the Revolution. I wonder if they took the time to review the “Open Dialogue” that they so “generously” describe. Before giving an opinion – and publishing it – you have to investigate.

As director and founder of “Open Dialogue,” I affirm that for six years we’ve been off the air with respect to Cuban culture and its protagonists. Our daily feeds are not the award for its category received by the program at the First National Festival of Cuban television with the theme “Where is the newest trova?”; nor the Special Prize awarded by the critics at the Second Festival (2006) for the space devoted to “cultural criticism in the media”; our difficult struggle for the complex task of making Cuban television breathe, thanks to viewers who respect us and personalities who, by their means and zeal for collaboration, turn up in our studio to give us the prestige of their presence and words. There have been National Awards from different specialties, experts on plenty of categories, officials of the culture and the media, established artists and intellectuals, and artists who will be the stars of the future.

I declare that I’m happy to have been for 27 minutes of my life together with people whose existence and work guarantee culture and unity.

I didn’t mention names not to incur oblivion, but I suggest that those officially charged with “assessing” and “declaring” and those who would exercise their right to give an opinion request criteria about “Open Dialogue” from people like Reynaldo González and Miguel Barnet (they themselves have been invited to the program). those who managed to turn into a work of true imprint the time of regret that a period that now is symbolized in Luis Pavón caused them.

I suggest that we don’t mix that which – like oil and vinegar – will end where it belongs according to natural and social laws.

I suggest that we don’t state that the outrage is only from “a group,” but that we remember Hemingway and his tip of the iceberg.

I suggest that the cycle of conferences scheduled for the singular and penetrating Desiderio Navarro be united with the voice of Dr. Isabel Monal, who along with Fernando Martínez Heredia (and other Marxist-proof mediocre, opportunistic and superficial people) might remind us how much the so-called “real socialism” cost us, like ignoring the concepts of Antonio Gramsci; or the time that Lenin devoted to the cultural debate with the poet Mayakovsky; or artistic achievement in the Paris of the avant-garde and not in the Moscow of the October Revolution of the talents turned away by the ignorance and irresponsibility in terms of cultural politics that followed Lenin in the then-besieged and admired Soviet Union.

I suggest, above all, that we don’t pretend to put an end to a necessary debate. From such discussion light is born: this was taught me by my mother, a woman raised in an Asturian home among the prejudices of the first half of the twentieth century, who was a volunteer teacher, a founder of the CDR and the FMC, and who decided to marry a Gallician immigrant, known as “Idiot” for his communist and trade-union militancy, in the days when Machado assassinated labor leader Enrique Varona.

I thank those who have read me to the end. And those who continue giving their opinions.

See you soon.

Loly Estévez

January 22, 2007

Translated by Regina Anavy