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