Cuba Will Have to Put Its Dreams of a Nobel Prize on Hold / Iván García

Communists or dissidents, famous or unknown, Cubans love awards and competitions. Of all kinds, national and foreign. They delight in being chosen and enjoy the glory they feel when they win.

It doesn’t matter if the prize is a diploma or a work of art. The money, yes. In pesos, it’s not bad, but in foreign currency, it’s ideal. If the money is enough, it can resolve a thousand personal and family problems.

Three Cuban writers have won the Cervantes Prize: Alejo Carpentier (1977), Dulce Maria Loynaz (1992) and Guillermo Cabrera Infante (1997). The athlete Javier Sotomayor was awarded the Prince of Sports Award in 1993. The list of musicians and composers, living on the island or abroad, who have earned a Grammy is longer: Celia Cruz, Bebo Valdes, Israel ‘Cachao’ Lopez, Gloria Estefan, Paquito D’Rivera, Arturo Sandoval, Chucho Valdes and Omara Portuondo, among others.

Since its creation in 1901, no Cuban, in any category, has been awarded a Nobel Prize. One of those who deserved it was Dr. Carlos J. Finlay, the discoverer of yellow fever.

That was in the twentieth century. In the twenty-first, with the stagnation of the economy and scientific and social research, due to the perennial economic crisis in the country, where Cuba has a chance is in the Nobel Peace Prize.

It is unknown if ultimately the Ladies in White candidacy when forward, and whether they were one of the 38 organizations nominated in 2010. It is not the first time that Cuban dissidents have dreamed of the prestigious award and its monetary support, amounting to one million euros.

In other years opponents like Oswaldo Payá, Oscar Elias Biscet and Marta Beatriz Roque have been proposed. Both in Norway and Sweden, the two countries that annually award the Nobel, they look kindly on fighters for freedom and democracy. In recent years it has been awarded to four prominent dissidents and human rights activists: the Russian Andrei Sakharov in 1975, the Polish Lech Walesa, in 1983, the Burmese Aung San Suu Kyi, in 1991 and the Iranian Shirin Ebadi, in 2003.

Nor is it known if Fidel Castro appears among the 199 personalities nominated in 2010. Acceptance of course certainly lends itself to self promotion. An interest in winning the Nobel Peace Prize explains his emphasis on speaking and writing about wars and nuclear threats. That’s one way to draw the attention of scholars in charge of evaluating the dossiers submitted.

According to rumors, on more than one occasion the comandante’s name has reached Oslo. And no wonder. Stalin was twice nominated in 1945 and 1948. Earlier, in 1939, Hitler had been proposed. This ‘select’ list was inaugurated by Mussolini in 1935.

Being the good partner of China that Cuba is, the rulers of the court and their spokespeople have been going crazy since the Nobel Peace Prize fell into the hands of Liu Xiaobo, an imprisoned “criminal.” Nor have they applauded the Literature prize being given to the “apostate from the left” Mario Vargas Llosa.

When the bearded ones came to power in 1959, Vargas Llosa was one of Latin American intellectuals who supported Fidel Castro and his revolutionary project. In 1965 he traveled to Havana to serve the jury for the Casa de las Americas Prize. So far so good. But when the Cuban poet Heberto Padilla was arrested in 1971, with wide repercussions in Europe and Latin America, the Peruvian writer decided to break with the Castro and his dictatorship.

Since then, Vargas Llosa swells the blacklist of “enemies of the revolution.” A list that now includes the Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.

October 11, 2010