On the Need for Censorship in Cuba / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Independent launch of Orlando's book Boring Home
Independent launch of Orlando’s censored book Boring Home

Within Cuba, contrary to what one might think from outside, one comes to miss the presence of censorship. And this isn’t irony, but a strategy of liberation. In more than one sense, censorship doesn’t exist in a tangible way in Cuba. It’s ubiquitous, but unreachable, unaccounted for. It leaves no spaces for anyone or anything, but at the same time it never stops shifting.

Censorship in 21st century post-totalitarian Cuba has learned to morph itself, mutate and resist being recognized as such. Perhaps because of this we must know how to name it and above all to give it shape. If possible, to institutionalize it, take it out of the closet where the Castro regime without Castros has hidden it, the regime that is already announced as state capitalism.

In a country hijacked by the despotism of a single party — the Communists — where since the beginning of the Revolution the press has been the private property of a military elite, in a context where there’s not much left to do that is logical, and where a first step of the absurd might well surprise the authorities.

It’s about demanding, in this case, public censorship in Cuba, preferably constitutional, To try to at least make censorship visible, in the midst of the secrecy that kills our society: to return censorship to its colonial candor, its republican rigor, its Francoism freshness, its Stalinist stamina, it’s almost more skilled than malicious McCarthyism, reinstating thus the lost prestige of the national functionary who collects a salary for professional exercising the full-time work of censor.

Perhaps it’s the lack of censors who currently maintain our civil society in its sterile state of intellectual indigence.

My experience as a writer censored in Cuba, for example, is already phantasmagoric. Leaving no fingerprints that would be credible to the next generation. My children will have more evidence to call me “coward” or “Castro supporter” than to believe in my three illegal arrests or the censorship of Boring Home, my book of stories taken out of print by the Letras Cubanas publisher in 2009.

And out descendent will be right in the imminent future, because none of my torturers will ever identify me. Like no editor will confront me to censor a single line nor give me an explanation nor written statement of why I was expelled from the Cuban literary field.

No one signed the orders to entirely remove my books from the editorial catalog, and not to allow me to present my books to my colleagues in any cultural institution. Most likely, in fact, is that no one gave such orders. In the absolute order there are no longer any orders nor intentions, just inertia and discipline.

In practice, my denunciations in this respect are already those of an autistic more than those of an artist. The lack of censorship cut my career as a Cuban writer in Cuba off at the roots, however, in exile — this preview of the future — there is no persecuted writer’s grant that fits the ridiculousness of my civic curriculum. Hence, the moral urgency of restoring the concrete role of censor in the Castro regime, at least until we dare to overthrow through other non-verbal violence all of the repressive apparatus.

On the island there is no single Department of Censorship. The official press — the only legal one — still publishes systematic critiques of the Revolution, but there is no one to demand from it such intellectual silence. It’s possible that such critiques don’t reach their editorial offices and that there is, in those offices, a rather Adamic environment.

There are not even bureaucratic rules that define what can or can’t be published on each topic — whether political or pornographic — to be able to give authors the interpretive legal battle. While it is true that in communism it’s not certain that the author exists, long before Barthes and Foucault. But it is precisely this amorphous condition that allow maximum impunity, because now every author is, in principle, the censor of the rest — fractal Fidelism — including self-censorship with which everyone humiliates himself to avoid being humiliated by the collective.

There is no rational exit from the endless mazes, where repression is mimicked at times with a political crime with global repercussions, and others with a local literary prize. Hope is then reduced to absurdity, pure folly. So, to attract bit by bit freedom of expression to the territory of totalitarianism, perhaps they could start by introducing the censorship mechanisms of the democracies themselves. Create blacklists in Cuban as a measure of restraint against the despotic power. Publish our first Index Liborium Prohibitorum — banned book listin the selection of names and topics for which the Catholic hierarchy and the Castro regime could huddle together in other shared trenches.

Afterward, the struggle would be much simpler for free Cubans: reduce to the minimum those civic spaces conceded to censorship — pornography and politics — and gradually enrich the atmosphere that today makes even breathing on the island blackmail.

Diario de Cuba, 16 February 2014, Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo