Cuba, the United States and the New Times

It’s about time to extinguish the fire of confrontation. Cuba and the United States must refrain from attitudes that trigger disbelief and resentment. It’s more than a momentary desire, it has become a steadfast aim based at pragmatic thinking and other attitudes that would eventually accelerate restoration of diplomatic relations that have been broken since January 3, 1961.

In line with indisputable facts, the new North-American administration has shown its disposition to explore other ways that would lead to an agreement; it would be but one step in the slow process of moving forward, with palsies and potential regressions. All this should be taken into account when analyzing the course of something that has hardly began – a process where various interests clash with long-term disputes and distrust resulting from the gap between concessions and the inherent need to start extensive and responsible negotiations that – as it seems now – are not likely to appear among the events that the upcoming months will bring.

Regardless of these hypotheses we must insist on opening and strengthening the frame of contacts whenever and wherever they entail equality and concrete results. Tyranny yields counterproductive results. It has not created a nervous atmosphere, most of the time and I would even say that in a sustained manner it has also served as an excuse for the dictatorship when extending the limits of repression within the island, providing it with the necessary tools for gaining support of a large part of the international community.

The isolation of the Cuban regime has remained an intention with few good points. Rather than a coherent policy it became a symbolic goal that is still present in the theatre play known as the Cold War.

The existence of the very regime that assumed power in 1959 itself is a piece of evidence that has shaken the credibility of those who resist reformulating the policy towards Cuba. I don’t mean that they are totally misled. There is no such thing as absolute truth.

However, legitimization without anything in return is inadmissible. To continue brandishing the boycott to force the aperture is a wrong way, which is likely to freeze the situation in favor of the Cuban nomenclature.

For the sake of the new era it is necessary to overcome the hackneyed strategies. More skill and creativity is needed now than ever before. Beating with a stick should give way to a realistic policy with verifiable results with regard to profits and commitments.
The unilateral profile of the relative US blockade against Cuba raises as the biggest obstacle to achieve and maintain the respective efficiency quotas.

As it hadn’t been possible to multi-lateralize the isolation, it became a stumbling block likely to cause diplomatic frictions with allies and friends and other inconveniencies while implementing foreign policy, which might not be so clearly visible but still play into the hands of the Havana regime.

Among the factors that explain its long survival we could even mention the embargo imposed on October 20, 1960 and its subsequent tightening.

Both nations, especially Cuba, have become hostages in a conflict that has mutilated the possibility of interchange and other ways of creating and strengthening their relation that should be something natural due to the proximity of the two countries and a range of various elements that they have in common with regard to cultural identity.

The art and the culture are fields which could become a possible ground of cooperation between the two nations. To make it possible it would be necessary to gradually and irreversibly dismantle obstacles and conditions, mainly on the part of Cuba, with regard to arbitrary and selective attitude to North-American artists and intellectuals willing to show their works in the island.

For the Cuban conservative political-ideological mentality it seems difficult to imagine that there could be a seamless development in this area.

However, it would be good to try to encourage this type of contacts despite the impediments and difficulties that could occur.

Mounting of a theatre piece, a concert given by a pop star, plastic arts exhibition, presentation of a literary work by its author; such initiatives taken by people living in the USA would gradually break the imposed cultural patterns, certainly more unstable and weak than one would suppose.

The official discourse has nothing to do with the desires and visions of the majority of the people, mainly the young generation and adolescents.

While there is a clear need to overcome the barriers of submission and limitations and extend the cultural and living scope, these ideological corsets go unnoticed.

That’s why it wouldn’t require much effort to find means to facilitate a dynamic change and originate a mass interchange that would put an end to the philosophy of a perpetual enemy.

The US culture is so powerful that it continues to exert influence in the whole world. It has had a considerable impact even in Cuba despite the hostilities that have marked the history of the two nations in the last 50 years.

One of the fields where the affinity couldn’t be broken is music.

Since the past – we could refer for example to the 19th and the 20th century up until now, the art of music has been an element of extraordinary value in shaping the indestructible bonds between the two nations.

Many national rhythms that have become jewels of the international music took inspiration in harmonic components created by musicians born in the USA. Mambo, which was popularized by the Cuban musician Dámaso Pérez Prado in the 1950s, featured obvious jazz beats.

In the same era, the singer Benny Moré put together an orchestra in the fashion of American Big Bands that appeared in the 20s of the last century and thrived under the baton of the famous pianist Duke Ellington and the trumpet player Dizzy Gillespie, two of its most outstanding personages.

More recently, to be precise in the 1970s, the Cuban bass player Juan Formell created “el songo”, a rhythm combining Afro-Cuban tones with jazz syncopations. One could further mention the names of Mongo Santamaría and Chano Pozo, two Cuban percussionists who managed to combine pattering of drums with the Bebop rhythm and other typical jazz elements. This was the origin of one of the sources of Latinization of this music genre.

There are innumerable anecdotes describing the proximity of the two nations – we could even say their natural inclination to share ideas and projects that have left a footprint of brotherhood that the time and the isolation have not been able to erase.

It is true that the representative figures in this field have succumbed to the official propaganda. It has almost completely destroyed the role they could play within Cuba, from bringing fresh ideas that would have nothing to do with censure and manipulations with which the governing communist party loves to season its directives.

Through its cultural watchdogs, the Cuban government has achieved relative success -although not contemptible if we consider its efficacy when drawing the attention of quite a bunch of stars such as actors Sean Penn, Danny Glover, Harry Belafonte, film makers Oliver Stone and Steven Spielberg, writer Alice Walker, to quote only several names from the list of artists and intellectuals, including Noam Chomsky, who have been openly showing their sympathies with the system for half a century.

Tactics should be invented to change their favorable attitude which frequently springs from superficial values resulting from the absence of a real contact with the whole range of social actors that would undoubtedly lead to a different and a more substantial view of the reality.

There are projects that seem not to cross the limits of theory; however, this could result in poor appreciation. The probability of promoting large-scale cultural interchange would result from a process where other mechanisms of influence would intervene – perhaps undervalued at present but with a potential to gradually break in the undoubtedly slow and troublesome restoration of the bilateral relations.

Business, lifting of bans to allow North-Americans to travel to the island, intensification of migration talks, joint effort to combat drug trafficking, the possibility to achieve bilateral agreements on communication – all of this would form connecting links of a policy of implication in favor of gradual defrosting which would always need to pay heed to mutual advantages.

Culture is a bridge that shouldn’t be underestimated since it is strongly rooted in every human community regardless of its social characteristics. This is even more true of Cuba and the United States.

The art and politicking repel, although the Cuban government has been always trying to melt the two into one solid piece. However, the welding of this assembly is fragile.
A massive flood of concerts, picture exhibitions and theatre performances of the North-American art would suffice to petrify the torturing Marxist ideology.

More than a few independent Cuban artists and intellectuals are perfectly willing to participate in these scenarios planned ahead, although they still belong to the sphere of hypotheses.

Let’s hope that one day it will succeed. Surely the reluctance would be on the part of Cuba, always trying to set the rules in its favor. In this case it would be better to wait until the conditions for a true nation-to-nation contact ripe.

Cultural interchange will continue to be seen as a fundamental pillar of the future oxygenation of the Cuban society suffocated by excessive controls and bans. These types of relations between the two nations will rise from the ashes as Phoenix.
This separation is unsustainable, artificial and therefore destined to work in a limited period of time, not forever.

The end of the separation is near. The history will not stop in spite of the breaks constructed in governmental workshops. One day the body of government officials engaged in delaying the course of events will go to a final strike or it will have to change its production portfolio. How could it manufacture breaks when there is a demand for accelerators?

Autor

Olivera Castillo is a former political prisoner. He published number of books. He lives in the old part of Havana.

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