Response to Ricardo Alarcon / Eliecer Avila

Eliécer Ávila (third from left) with friends during his stay in Sweden.

This morning I was awakened by a call from a friend to tell me that finally señor Ricardo Alarcón had uttered words referring to our encounter*. I immediately started to make arrangements to see where I could download this post, but nothing worked. It was already around 11:00 and curiosity made me make a sad decision: to spend the equivalent of several yards of plaster for my house on an Internet card at the Hotel Nacional.

Señor Alarcón:

I want to thank you, first, for directing yourself to me respectfully. It is time for someone to reciprocate this conduct.

I am compelled, however, to clarify some questions.

First: At the end of that encounter, I left by another door, almost in the arms of many of my compañeros, who invited me to eat pizza to celebrate, and to thank me for having represented them. You did not converse with me, I never saw you again.

Later, they tried to destroy me in many ways and if it weren’t for the vote and opinions of my compañeros, I never would have graduated. Among the reprisals they also denied me the possibility of living and working in Havana. Angry and upset about that, I went to talk to you at the National Assembly of People’s Power. Your staff did not allow me to see you.

Prof: I am amazed and surprised to hear you say that you were censored and that I had the advantage in the argument. I spent more than two years without any chance to talk, the Cuban media has never allowed me to express myself, with the exception of the material on Cubadebate when I thought it would be alright, and they needed me to deny what later clearly would be true.

You were the president of the Parliament. Anyone in the world holding a job like that could call the national or international press and make whatever declarations they wanted. In a second, your words would have traveled the globe. Who would not allow it? I’m glad to know that it wasn’t me.

On the other hand, I must say that I owe my travels to myself and, in any case, to the decent working Cubans who invited me, one after another, to visit with their families in different latitudes.

One of them, who offered me the main invitation, and with whose wife and children I spent the majority of my time, was expelled like a dog from here, his own country, and even his little one-year-old girl, just for visiting me in my little native village and spending time with my family. Nobody told you about that?

On another note, everyone who wants to, inside and outside of Cuba, has already seen the complete video of the event. Not only your words and mine, but also those of the other kids who participated. By the way, one of them, another guajiro from Baracoa, has experienced almost the same as me, including jail cells, and now he has created an organization to also oppose the management of this Government.

Returning to the video, according to what thousands of people have told me from those days, seeing a fragment or seeing the whole thing leaves the same impression…

I take advantage of these lines to give you a message from several Cubans with black skin who live in New York. They took me for a walk along Fifth Avenue to show me**; not only were they not expelled, but many of the owners of those stores are black or immigrants of the most dissimilar ethnicities and colors… The message of these Cubans was, “Please tell this gentleman not to offend us and to stop confusing Cuban youth.” (I have it in writing.)

The issue of my traveling to Sweden and not to Bolivia*** is really annoying and demonstrates the low level of whomever raises it. It’s obvious that I can’t go to an airport and travel wherever I want. I wish! When someone in Bolivia invites me and pays my fare, I’ll go with pleasure.

Look, I am going to be honest, I don’t like it very much when every step I take someone on the street says: “Kid, are you the boy with Alarcón?”

Outside of Cuba, every time a journalist would let me I said, “Could you do me the favor and not ask me the same questions about Alarcón?” I always feel more comfortable talking about what I think we need to do to have the country we desire. I have been the Cuban who has least offered an opinion about you, because believe it or not, I don’t like to take advantage of the mistakes of others, but to advance on my own merits.

I also see that you like souvenirs. If I’d had your home address, or your phone number, or your email or something… I surely would have sent as a gift one of the excellent books they gave me during my journey. Oh wait, sorry, I remember now: they took them from me at the airport… I don’t know who ordered them to take them from me. Would it have been the same if he’d talked to you? If you like, we can go together to claim them, who knows if they’ll listen to us…

But hey, here’s my telephone number so you can call me whenever you like and without any press interest we could have coffee and converse at length in an atmosphere of decency, culture and respect…

Eliécer Ávila Cicilia


Translator’s notes:
*The video of Eliecer Avila’s encounter with Ricardo Alarcon, which came to light in 2008, is available with English subtitles here.
**In the videotaped exchange with Eliecer Avila, Ricardo Alarcon says [starts at minute 30] that when he and his family lived in NYC, where he was serving as Cuba’s representative to the United Nations: “How many times [on 5th Avenue] did they throw us out of a store? Because we had a Latin accent or by our hair color they knew we weren’t Anglos, they didn’t want us in that store. Watching, ’get out’, how many times?”
*** In the exchange with Alarcon, Eliecer asks why Cubans can’t travel freely and says he would like to go to Bolivia to see where Che Guevara died.  In his current post about the exchange, Alarcon points out that when Eliecer got the chance to travel he went to Sweden, not to Bolivia.

17 July 2013