Critical Observers? / Miriam Celaya

The organizers of the Critical Observers at Karl Marx Park. Photo courtesy of Reinaldo Escobar

At 2 P.M. last Saturday, May 12th, I started out to participate in a rally organized by members of “The Critical Observers Protagonist Web”, whose declared objective was to support the outraged group movements of the capitalist world – referring to foreign capitalism, of course — that was due to take place at a park on Belascoaín and Carlos III Streets, just three blocks from my house. Since we have so many reasons for being angry in our own country, and there are a growing number of the unemployed here who can’t decide whether they should be angry or open a chips stand, I thought that something must be up the sleeves of self-proclaimed protagonists and anyone who believes they are the defenders of the rights of the proletariat. I would not miss this for the world, I thought.

So I decided to stroll down to see what “true” socialists might be up to this time. They have, on occasion, criticized the government from their website, and have suggested some proposals even more reforming than those of the General, at least in theory. To be truthful, I confess that on my way to the park my curiosity was beginning to stir at the prospect of seeing a group of young people brandishing slogans and positions right out of the first two decades of the XX Century. For me, it was like visiting the Jurassic Park of ideology. I love feeling close to antiquities. After all, that is why I chose Archeology as a profession.

Unfortunately, I didn’t even reach where the group had gathered. It turned out that about half way into the park, the little comrades of the political police stopped me and thwarted my very good intentions. I was so extraordinarily lucky that my friend and colleague, Eugenio Leal, who had already arrived, came to my support on seeing me with such dubious company, so the Tropical Gestapo decided to have him take part of the tour, and so I was not at all bored: after placing us in the patrol car, they dispatched us around 42nd and 35th Streets, in the Playa municipality, where they informed us that we had reached the end of our excursion. I’m sure they had already spent too much of their allocation of Chávez’s gasoline.

Here I want to make a fair comment: we were taken by blue-uniformed police, that is, they were law-enforcement, not Gestapo. They were respectful. They did not hand-cuff us, did not search us, they didn’t even take my purse. Eugenio and I, during the drive, were commenting about some details of the Biennial shows and performances that are taking place now in Havana. The silent officers did not interrupt us. At the end, they gave us back our cellular phones without looking at them, and they had us leave the patrol car. Both Eugenio and I had the impression that the cops never understood why they had been ordered to take us away from the gathering, and neither did we.

Meanwhile, other friends were able to attend the event, so I have first-hand information, no less than from a true journalist, Reinaldo Escobar, who filled me in on the details. This is what went on: The four lonely guys from the Critical Observatory that were there unfurled a banner reading “Down with capitalism” (not specifying whether the introduced state capitalism in Cuba was included in that command, since they seem to be a bit more cryptic than critical) and another one that read “If you think like bourgeois, you will live like a slave” (with this, I understood that the olive-green theocracy is just a bunch of slaves, and I felt a great relief). They read a kind of communiqué and sang the Internationale. It was all over in about 15 minutes. No kidding.

First thing today, Monday, I went onto their web portal and found out a few other details, such as the so-called support they got from the secretary of the municipal PCC. I did not hear from any witnesses about the “joy and courage” that the speakers were going to show. Anyway, no great amount of courage is needed if you have the support of the PCC. I was also surprised that some of them were a bit ill at ease with the moderate expectation that was created around this event; one must suppose that when they summon you from the web, the expected response should be your attendance. Conspiracies are not advertised political practices. That’s what the Internet is about. When you buy a head, you should not fear its eyes, or maybe it’s just a case of stage fright.

In the end, I think the saboteurs of the event – I’m talking about the combination Gestapo-Policía Nacional Revolucionaria — did both Eugenio and me a great favor. If we had attended such an event, I think I would have felt the same sense of anachronism and shame on their behalf as when they play the Pimpernel Duo over the PA system at the Carlos III Market. Instead of suffering through such a spectacle, I enjoyed a couple of cold beers in the company of a good old friend.

I must also admit that I expected more from the Observatory boys. On occasion, I have read truly interesting and courageous articles in their bulletin, though I do not share in their political sympathies and their Marxist longings. I firmly believe that everyone should have a place in our country and that a bit of political folklore never hurt anyone. However, I think that they should revise their handle, because “Critical Observers Protagonist Web” comes out a bit pompous (just saying). At least, judging by last Saturday’s turnout, they are not exactly a web, not so observant, and not as critical. And if they were the protagonists of anything there, it was of breaking the record for the least to show up among their own brothers in arms. Come on, you guys, a bit more modesty … and more enthusiasm!

Translated by Norma Whiting

May 14 2012