Who’s Who? / Miguel Iturria Savón

In mid-2005 I read the Who’s Who in Cuban Politics?, a reference work that is the responsibility of the Master in Sciences Julio Aleaga Pesant, who updated it in 2007 after endless research in the main cities of the island. For this he relied on territorial research teams who monitored the official and independent press, documents in archives and alternative civic institutions, and even resources from the exile and several Internet sites.

Since mid-2010, Aleaga Pesant and his provincial collaborators are at work once again preparing a new, printed and digital version of a study of the citizens who are main actors in that prickly and fidgety political and social Cuban stage, so determined by the predominance of a party that excludes all others, controls both government and the economy, and exerts a monopoly over education, culture and the media.

The Who’s Who? of 2011 struggles against the manipulation of information, but gives predominance to tolerance and inclusion beyond the usual ideological walls, and this allows it to include citizens and institutions that venture into politics, from humanistic projects to leaders of the alternative society, opposition parties and movements, librarians and independent journalists, and the women who demand the freedom of political prisoners.

The top leaders of the Communist Party are featured in it, obviously, as well as its network of organizations, the deputies of the National Assembly, and the members of the Councils of State and Ministers.

According to Aleaga, the only requirement for anyone to be included in the investigation is to be a resident on the island and to participate in its politics. The document, therefore, will be a reference tool for researchers and students of the island reality. The informative lists facilitate, moreover, potential future actors and scenarios of a nation that is beginning to move.

The repertoire of the 2011 volume has as precedents other reference works such as the Cuban Biographical Dictionary (1878-1886) by Francisco Calcagno; the Who’s Who in Cuba?, known as The Blue Book, by Luisa M. de la Cotera O’Bourke; the Who’s Who in the Cuban Sciences? by the Minister of Science, Technology and Environment, and Organizations of Cuban Civil Society Not Legally Recognized, by Alberto F. Álvarez y García, sponsored by the Canadian Foundation of the Americas (FOCAL, in Spanish); and, lastly, the 2005 document by A. Pesant, which consisted of 1,396 names—officials from the military regime, opposition leaders and gilded entities—and which was updated in 2007 for a total of 1,598 names.

The specialist warns that the objective of the Who’s Who? is to register public servants who have an influence on society, which makes it an important reference tool for libraries, documentation centers, the press, and students of history and politics. Despite the fact that the project was boycotted by the military regime through arrests, data theft and the refusal to include it in the Copyrights Registry, the document was circulated in and outside of the country in print and digital versions.

In its final stages, the pamphlet is undergoing a synthesis of the data that was collected from Cabo de San Antonio to Punta de Maisí, hindered by the minuscule and manipulated official database and by the dispersion of pro-democracy organizations, yet partly facilitated by publications in the diaspora like Cuba Net, Cuban Transition Project and websites.

Regardless of specifications regarding schedule, the individual registry, classification, quality and general tables, it is worth congratulating the coordinator and his assistants, as we are sure that their effort shines a light on the road to the transparency of information, as this new biographical framework will contribute to dislodging the wheel of immobility.


January 23 2011