Sparrows Without a Country / Ernesto Morales Licea

"The Great Blackout," emblematic work of Pedro Pablo Oliva

Few intellectuals more timid than the Cuban must have existed in the history of art and contemporary thought. Few intellectuals with such iridescent skin that it amusingly changes tone and nuance according to the light that passes over them.

In these days when a monumental name in Cuban art has just suffered the endless fruits of intolerance, of ideological militarism, it occurs to me to ask where are those intellectuals committed not only to their society, but to the destiny of art itself through its practitioners.

The new ousting of Pedro Pablo Oliva, his beautiful and transparent statement, and the sepulchral silence of those for whom the weight of their titles requires them to take part, presented a new scenario for the intellectuals of the island to show off their pale condition.

Where are they, in this second, those writers and playwrights who staged an electronic fuss after the television appearances of Luis Pavón and Papito Serguera? Yes, where now is the host of the National Literature Awards, who only appears to jump–shyly, timidly, when they step on the keys of his memories, his memories of exclusion and punishment for hidden homosexuality or conflicting poetry? Where are the presumed chroniclers of their time?

Where is the discordant denunciation of the members of the National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba, demanding explanations, rejecting the methods, lining up on the side of an irreplaceable creator in his moment of courage and honesty?

Under what pretext, with what pantomime as an excuse have the purported names of Cuban thought, let’s say Desiderio Navarro, Reynaldo González, Alfredo Guevara and Anton Arruda closed their throats? Or is how they won’t touch with the tip of an opinion the Theoretical-Cultural Center homonym; how the practices of institutional homophobia and film censorship seem to have eased off; and how The Seven Against Thebes is published without reprisals, so it’s not worth it to raise your voice?

While a senior representative of Cuban art is accused of being a traitor and unpatriotic, and is forced to close his workshop of artistic fantasies, where are the words of the media figures Nelson Domínguez, Alexis Leyva (Kcho), Ernesto García Peña, Roberto Fabelo?

Will Amaury Pérez denounce in his much loved television program this offense against an author whom I dare say is among those he most admires? Will Roberto Chile feel motivated to turn the focus of his lens, and will he film not a postmodern promotional, but a documentary about the outrage against Pedro Pablo?

I know these are all rhetorical questions. I know they are sullen and empty questions. Because we all know the answers. And because Pedro Pablo Oliva knows them too.

In the presentation of his catalog, I read some words of Pedro Pablo Oliva that come to mind now, as if caught on a hook. Pedro Pablo who, incidentally, does not write as dazzlingly as he paints… but almost.

In this text the Pinar del Rio artist evoked his mother, in the old house where the family lived, scaring away a flock of sparrows which every day sought rest within. His mother waged a war without quarter. But one afternoon of stifling weather, of the island heat, the painter’s mother decided to escape by passing the time under the damp shade of the fruit trees that crowded the entrance to the mansion. There, above her, were the same sparrows that she frightened from her home with curses. They were perched on the branches of the tree: their home. And they did not attack her for sitting underneath. A few hours later the woman returned to the old house and proclaimed, “I will never again frighten a sparrow from this house. Here there is room for everyone.”

Unfortunately, dear Pedro Pablo, on your beloved island there is still no room for all the sparrows.

May 24 2011