Cuba: Good Bye, Fernando

The Minister of Culture, Alpidio Alonso, together with the then Vice Minister Fernando Rojas, during the attack on some artists who were peacefully protesting, on 27 January 2021. (Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yunior García Aguilera, Madrid, 10 January 2024 — These days the dismissal of Fernando Rojas, the vice minister of Culture, has been in the news. There are many who have publicly celebrated the end of the career of one of the cultural commissioners who arouses the most antipathy. There have also been many, too many, affected by the exclusive and abusive cultural policy that the regime has carried out for decades.

But Fernando has been one of the most enthusiastic and visible executioners. He never refused to spearhead a cancellation. And despite all his efforts to show himself worthy of occupying the highest position in the ministry of censorship and ultimatum, better known as Mincult, no one trusted him enough to be the standard bearer.

We have both been antagonists in several of the most recent episodes, so I think it is pertinent to give my opinion. I do not intend to add to the insults, which are already many, and which contribute little, beyond personal relief. I will try to give the most honest view possible about someone who has just lost the little power he had left and whose life is definitely going downhill.

I will try to give the most honest view possible about someone who has just lost the little power he had left and whose life is definitely going downhill

The first time I exchanged words with Fernando was during a small reception that the ministry offered to Antón Arrufat. They told the playwright that he could bring some friends and I was among his guests. Suddenly, amidst rum and Soviet jokes, Abel Prieto made an unexpected confession: he was retiring from the position. So he told the younger ones: “Go out and smoke with Fernando, because he will be the next minister.” I remember that Fernando took out his tobacco, he paused and appeared as if he had already received the official appointment.

A short time later the news would come out, but nothing about Fernando being named. The new minister was a certain Rafael Bernal. He would only last two years in office, being dismissed after an art theft scandal. Once again, Fernando was left quietly in his chair. The appointee was then Julián González, and this time it would be Rojas himself who would be in charge of sawing the floor for his new boss. His appointment seemed inevitable, but… not even! Abel Prieto himself would be brought out of his sweet retirement to resume his position until 2018. By that year, Díaz-Canel was betting on a closer friend: Alpidio Alonso.

When in 2016, during a meeting of the Hermano Saíz Association (AHS), I asked Luis Torres Iríbar 15 uncomfortable questions , it would be Fernando Rojas’ turn to answer me. His answers must be recorded somewhere. Fernando lamented that we Cubans could travel without an exit permit, buy a cell phone or a computer, or buy and sell our own houses. For him, all those decisions were painful and must be temporary. From that moment on, I think he began to see me as an annoying intestinal pimple every time we met at those useless AHS or Uneac assemblies.

He even visited me at my house on a couple of occasions, concerned about the direction my Facebook posts were taking

However, I dare to speculate that, despite everything, Fernando appreciated me. It took it personally to try to keep me in the “uncomfortable artist” zone and not cross that invisible line where you are considered “incorrigibly counter-revolutionary.” He even visited me at my house a couple of times, concerned about the direction my Facebook posts were taking.

But November 27th arrived. That day, we both held a long and tense telephone negotiation, until the protesters were able to enter the ministry, well into the night. The false dialogue would be broken two months later, with a simple slap of the hand and an unjustifiable beating .

The last time we saw each other was at the Argos Teatro headquarters, after a performance of one of my plays. In the dressing room, I told him: “Before we start discussing our differences, tell me how your son is doing.” Fernando burst into tears for about ten minutes straight. Apparently, no one in his camp had asked him about the boy’s health after a domestic incident.

I’m delusional if I think he really appreciated me. He did not hesitate to go house to house of some colleagues to publish videos against me. He didn’t hesitate for a second to close my group and ban all my works. He applauded the lynching that my family suffered in the same house that he himself visited one day.

Fernando is already ancient history, but the worst of all is that those who replace him today are made of the same material.


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