In my youth, I was a founding member of The Union of Cuban Writers and Artists (UNEAC) and I must say that despite everything, the institution has always strived to foster the cultural development of Cubans. The sad thing is that it has never been allowed to do so.
Ever since its foundation in 1961, it has been crashing against a wall built up thanks to certain political practices applied in the highest ranks of the government. How many followers of José Martí has Fidel deprived of the poet’s concepts of free thinking, in the name of everyone’s well-being?
Democratic leaders prior to Fidel did not care the least about writers. They were given no significance but were free to write at their own whim. This changed with the communist regime. Writers had to either write in favour of the Revolution or sell mangos at the market.
A team of secret agents sniffed around writers and artists searching for any dissent or nonconformity demonstrated in either published works or works to be published, in paintings or drawings, radio screenplays or theatre works.
The history has captured everything: the disobedient ones who did not abide by the words of the State faced expulsions, books burning, prison or exile; always in their favour, always against the creative liberty.
After Nicolás Guillén, a famous Cuban poet and the UNEAC president, passed away, he was replaced by a stooge, Abel Prieto. Once in charge, he referred to the cruel destiny of this organization. He described it as dogmatic and did not forget to mention that “talented writers and artists have been given an unfair treatment”. The interview made many people think that the stiff institution would be given a blow of new air refreshing its environment.
Nothing of this happened. Abel continued the most convenient journey. In the end, he changed into a demagogue expert that tirelessly repeated the same hopeless receipt: “we must defend this socialism, making it more efficient, better in the terms of human dignity, environment, life quality.”
In 1990, Abel was interested in the world of ordinary people, as he himself put it “the antiheroic and grey world”, or the people from neighbourhood, not those with pips on their shoulders. Now, in 2016, he returns to the rhetoric of fighting against deterioration and says nothing about the thousands of Cubans escaping the island in various ways, dissidents that remain active, independent journalists that fight for saying out loudly what is happening.
In reality, his declarations are surrealist. In 2005, he stated that Raúl Rivero, a poet and journalist, was not condemned for having a different opinion but for collaborating with a power that declared war to Cuba, that having a different opinion is not a crime in Cuba and that there were no extrajudicial executions, nor cases of torturing or abusing of prisoners. He assured that owners of print media that lie should be sentenced for life. In 2009, when asked about the desertion of Cuban artists he was able to reply only that “this has absolutely no significance for the Cuban culture”.
As for me, all I can do now is to send him a book of my poems where I declare how I was tortured at Fidel’s command in a dungeon of the State Security in 1990. It would also be appropriate to lend him books written by many of the prisoners where they narrate all the torturing and abuse they had been exposed to for decades in the country’s prisons. And finally, I am going to email him this simple, sincere and courageous article. Just to see what he says.