The Artist Behind the Barricades / Angel Santiesteban

The writer and journalist Amir Valle, in a still unpublished interview, asks me the following question.

And what about the powerful Cuban culture that has been developing for five decades already in exile, in many parts of the world? How do you think it can contribute, from the outside, to the need for a social change on the island?

Without attempting to be an analyst, political strategist or demiurge, just one more artist who humbly offers his point of view, I believe that intellectuals in exile should stay as close as possible to Cuban culture, defend it firstly as an art, and then from the political position that they see fit. That should never be forgotten: first comes culture, then everything else. I am sure that that artistic weight is what raises consciousness and respect for a national dialogue which will result in a political change for the rebirth of democracy and the will of Cubans, although some claims, as usually happens, will be backed by a minority.

I like this phrase so much, and I’m probably not quoting it verbatim, because having repeated it so often, it is so much a part of me that I made it mine: “I may not agree with what you say, but I will fight to the death to defend your right to say it.” Therefore,they must continue making use of their freedom and their technologically advanced media, which cannot be persecuted nor suffer direct reprisals like the confiscation of their computers.

In some measure they should create a space for the nation’s denunciations, be the voice of those inside the island. Soften esthetic disagreements, self-serving attitudes, in the interest of achieving greater unity. The strength of the diaspora offers security to those of us still inside, those of us who demand the rights of all to live together in a future free and democratic Motherland, that will open her arms for the long-awaited reunion of her children scattered throughout the world.

What I have no doubt about is that the Cuban intellectual class, inside and outside, is called to contribute profoundly to the future political transition of the country.

October 7 2011