The Magicians of Empty Text / Angel Santiesteban

1429880622_magos-del-texto-vacc3adoEvery 21st of the month, my family — in their visits to my penitentiary —  supply me with the national newspapers. Many times they accuse me of masochism, but I find it necessary because it helps me understand where the Government’s nonsense is going.

Sometimes — after much practice — I can infer, almost guess, the political, cultural and populist strategies that they outline. I invest around twelve hours reading, and I can’t hide the fact that, once I complete the aberrant task, the journalists’ cowardice stays with me, their “robotic” writing that translates the boss’s order of editing to cover specified news, after those bosses have received it in a chain that begins in the ideological office of the Central Committee of the Communist Party.

As a Cuban, a writer, a citizen immersed in the daily social problems of Cubans on the ground, I am ashamed of those who — unfortunately — have access to those spaces, because they, unfortunately, stick to the subject matter ordered by the Government.

In the last Congress of the Cuban Journalists Union (UPEC), there was talk and boasting of an “opening” that would do away with “secretism.” That speech was a joke. They were talking about another country, another system, with different leaders. Immediately there was an echo from some “journalists,” very good at repeating the government line, magicians of the empty text.  Now, one year later, probably no one remembers that bland, misleading propaganda, which simply impressed a collective that displays sheepishness like no other sector in the country.

I finish reading the pile of newspapers and am left with a sensation of betrayal from the names I recognize. They are incapable, at the least, of being honest with themselves, those who say that the projects in the Cuban nation are in full swing, although it’s not important to them where the old Castros and their fawning followers are taking them. Twenty-one days of articles and feature stories, which assure us that Cuba is Paradise (although there are things that need to be changed), and that outside its borders you live in Hell.

The press has no other intention than to deceive and terrorize people, who should continue with their heads bowed, because a rebellious attitude is too agonizing.

Someone once told me that as a psychological defense, in order to stay sane, you laugh at the economic and other news, and about how much deceit you’re already saturated with. As much as I try, I can’t even crack a smile. What I feel is pain for those common intellectuals who – after being kicked and humiliated in the decade of the ’70s – today pretend they have forgotten. They write for a press that is as worn-down as they are, and are incapable of expressing their own opinion, one that is different, authentic. They conform to being that way, filling a harmless space without being straight, with the dictators’ vision.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Border Control Prison. Havana. April 2015.

Translated by Regina Anavy