More than 10 years must have passed since I met Juan Antonio Garcia Borrero. During those years, I participated in the cinema critique sessions which, along with Luciano Castillo, would take place in his native Camaguey. A swarm of youths would move from diverse universities throughout the country to see some good cinema and to presume that they spoke better or worse than a critic. The working days were just excuses to make ourselves believe that there was a second cinematographic chance, beyond the Havana hustle and bustle and its Film Festival each December.
But one good day, Juani — as his friends call him — opened the blog “The Insomniac Pupil” (absolutely nothing to do with the fundamentalist blog of the former regent of the Cuban Book Institute, Iroel Sanchez), and his followers from national newspapers and other spaces would delight ourselves down paths which were less worn than those which some specialists of the dark camera have us accustomed to.
A few days ago, I was at the presentation of a new entry, an edition of Cuban Letters for the disconnected (which are the majority) of his posts from “The Insomniac Pupil…”. It was in the city of Holguin, in the 10th edition of the Documentary Festival, “For the First Time”, there were only ten exhibits for those who were sitting and another set which were taken down immediately, without explanations. There will eventually be an opportunity to take it all in with less heat and prohibitions in the book stores, after all, any book sold for twenty Cuban pesos is condemned to eternal sleep on a bookshelf.
The best part of the gathering occurred during the presentation and debate which was carried out by the words and provocations of Gustavo Arcos when he challenged Garcia Borrero to share what were his scarce possibilities of connectivity as a member of the UNEAC, or honorable member of the AHS from Camaguey, respectively. Tell them, said Acros, how much and who pays you to write your blog.
The interesting thing is that from the intelligence which accompanied him, as well as his prowl amongst state circles which have tolerated or authorized his “bloggeries”, Juani suffers from the same technological orphanhood as any independent blogger. Although he mostly writes about film, he also takes on aspects of everyday life which bombard any writer. For me, in particular, I really enjoy this fragment of “Surgeons and Forensics”: “I haven’t written in so many days that now my words are heavy, as if they were sacks of concrete, or perhaps it’s that the tiredness of the previous week has started to kick in”.
“In the end, lots of pulp for the urgent forgetfulness, due to the lack of having an independent voice”.
But the mistake enjoys lots of popularity, so much so that one can have the luxury of continuing to demand to be called “writer”, without it having to imply an abuse of confidence towards our friends. On “This day”, a reflection about a television space by the same name, Juani says: “On today’s Cuban television there are nightly brief sections where we remember the most important happenings of the day. It has always awoken curiosity in me to know exactly what are the parameters taken into consideration to determine the importance of these events. Who decides what deserves to rank among the most important books of history? Based on which elements do we establish this valuation?”
I always am assaulted by similar doubts — who decides who is a blogger and who is not? Citizen, intellectual, Cuban, without being weighed down by such useless epithets and out of style like deserters, mercenaries, or sell-outs?
A writer at last, Juan Antonio Garcia Borrero is an intellectual who thinks and lightens our minds up with incomparable effectiveness, with a tendency for tolerance which makes you want to embrace him. Something which many autocrats must see as a crystalline map of the Cuba which most of us dream of.
Translated by Raul G.
29 June 2012