Note to the Censor: Why Can’t ‘El Estornudo’ be Read in Cuba?

El Estornido (The Sneeze), Allergy Chronicles

El Estornudo, 26 February 2018 — In just over two weeks, on March 14, we will be celebrating two years of chronicles, photo-reports, essays, illustrations and opinion columns. As a reward for this small but integrated exercise of resistance, the Cuban government has decided to block direct access to our magazine from within Cuba, making us lose not only a considerable number of readers, but also a good part of our core readers, those for those who El Estornudo probably fulfilled a more vital function, citizens who suffer the information grayness of the state’s propaganda media and bravely look for the true and honest story of a country that resembles the country in which they and we really live, governed as of today with ineptitude and an iron fist.

It is a gesture that, in some ways, is not surprising. There are many other press sites blocked on the island, such as 14ymedio, Diario de Cuba, CiberCuba and Café Fuerte. But we can not embed censorship. Although that is already the natural state of things, we must continue to remember that censorship is arbitrary and forced, the deprivation of the basic right to speak and exist, the profoundly unfair shutting down of the plurality of views and opinions. The exercise of journalism as a discourse critical of power, the scalpel of the conflicts the beat of politics and society and the witness and archive of time and historical memory is non-transferable and non-negotiable, regardless of whether the conditions for engaging in that exercise are more and more precarious or adverse.

There is, however, a single ground where, for the time being, the acts of the dictatorship can not win or impose their logic of exclusion: language. This measure, therefore, will not modify the editorial line of our magazine by one inch, nor is it going to make El Estornudo dialogue with the political power on the terms that the political power expects.

We are not going to descend to that conciliatory and pusillanimous form of discourse in which we do journalism almost as if we were asking for forgiveness, giving free explanations to the repressor instead of demanding them, or purging with half measures a kind of punishment until someone considers that we have understood the lesson and decide, ourselves, to raise the fence again.

Neither will we respond with incendiary disqualifications, with an increase in the the use of epithets, making ourselves the news, passively assuming the role of victims, restricting our information agenda and becoming, in this way, the type of emphatic and militant press so useful to the government’s interests, playing on the ground imposed by the Havana regime.

That Cuba is a country deeply involved in a serious moral, economic and social crisis that seems to have no end, is something that we will continue to demonstrate through various reports and analyses, not because we expressly want it that way, but because in the long run this seems to be the only thing that is demonstrable in Cuba, and, in the same way, we continue to insist that the country is much richer, more plural, diverse and subversive than its leaders want it to be.

We are interested in politics, power, the Communist Party or Raúl Castro to the extent that they are present and influence, harm and often determine the lives of Cubans; as a means of access to reality, not as the end of it. We flee from the synonymy between government and country, because we consider that it would be to give the government more territory than it deserves.

Someone, however, can still read us in Cuba. This editorial is written for only one person and that person is the Censor, who alone knows in the strict sense the size of the ignorance of the rest of Cubans. The Censor is the scholar of totalitarian states, the great apostolic sage of societies denied to themselves. There is a point of irony in the fact that we can and should continue to read just those who do not want others to do so. While someone keeps reading something, that something must continue to exist.

The Censor justifies the presence of what he wants to erase, that is, he can not completely disappear from what he himself gives life to. Whatever it is that causes the Censor of the moment to read El Estornudo, a secret pleasure, an unspeakable rage, or the interweaving of both, we hope to keep feeding him to the limit his capacity.

The Kurdish writer Musa Anter said: “If my tongue shakes the foundations of your state, that means that you have built your state in my land.” El Estornudo has decidedly helped to build the narrative map of the events of the last two years in Cuba, fundamental to the national history and the future of the country, and has also looked back on some of the main events of the Revolution, its genesis and its fall, contributing along with other voices to dynamite the false apothegm of the official truth.

In a country where printed publications can not circulate outside the margins of the State, where Internet access is extremely limited, and where they then block the address of your media so that even through that limited access people can not read you, we must remember that this magazine also exists so that Cubans can find out tomorrow what was happening to them today.