José Martí, Los Aldeanos, and a Christmas Celebration / Claudia Cadelo

There are those who say that every effect has its cause and that there is no chaos in the universe. Each to his own philosophy. A friend — half joking, half serious — asked me is I could define the year when our reality became an absurdity. Something like the Big Bang of our island reality — in an implosive sense, of course, a kind of anti-Big Bang. Jokingly I replied: After seeing some of Fidel Castro’s speeches in the archive, I’d say 1959. Later, when I was alone and thinking, the joke wasn’t such a  joke and the year perhaps not totally exact because I have no first-hand experience. I was born in 1983 and it was just a few weeks ago that I realized I haven’t lived in any other reality than that absurdity my friend was asking me about. Disheartening, no?

Turning to the effect, to the cause and the chaos, it would be illogical to draw a coherent line between the Christmas Eve party, the music of Los Aldeanos, and some of the thoughts of José Martí. However, two brothers from Holguin, Marcos and Antonio Lima Cruz, could attest otherwise, having been prisoners since December 25, 2010, charged with “public scandal” and “insulting national symbols.” This last paragraph from the Penal Code is only surpassed by the emblematic “Disrespect” — mocking the figure of the Commander-in-Chief — whose very existence as a criminal figure implies a hilarious joke, I would say.

In Holguin — anywhere outside of Havana can be frightening territory for freedom-related activities  —  Marcos and Antonio decided to write some of Martí’s thoughts on the wall of their house. Phrases we never see written on the government’s banners though it’s worth pointing out that some of the latter are apocryphal and wrongly attributed to the “Apostle” — as Martí is known to Cubans. Although the reasoning isn’t clear, if we follow the logic of the official propaganda, they supposedly admire Martí so much that they no longer remember what he wrote and what he didn’t, and after several repudiation rallies in front of the brothers’ house, Martí’s thoughts were erased in favor of Fidelist slogans.

Then came the night of the twenty-fourth — young in Cuba, recovering traditions through the perseverance of a people who did not forget them despite certain ideologies — an authorized party, a gathering of those in the area, music for the people. And the people’s music includes Los Aldeanos. So the Lima brothers listened to it while they celebrated Christmas. And because they were celebrating Christmas in Cuba, perhaps they came walking down the street — the rappers in the background — wrapped in a Cuban flag.

So the party was over. They are prisoners. And you, like me, might be asking yourself how listening to Los Aldeanos can become a public scandal, and in what way wrapping yourself in, dancing with, shaking, breaking or burning the country’s flag may offend a patriotic symbol. I didn’t know this outrage could be exercised against inanimate objects. There is no cause-effect relationship, it’s not logical, there isn’t least bit of sense in it, and yet, it exists. Wouldn’t this latter be the rejection of some Marxist principle I can’t remember right now?

February 7, 2011