Reading This is Not a Country, by Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, I grieve. Those things that sometimes we do not mention (nor look at in our brains, the doors forbidden) in order not to lose Faith, the only thing that we know that you cannot lose. For days I’ve been listening to Machado Ventura to see if I can manage to laugh, and I can’t. I think I'm walking backwards. My sense of humor suffered from the disappearance of coma-andante,* thank God I have my pictures on file, classics by others. I have even recorded in my mind the closing words of Raul's speech on the first of January that I saw the tail end of: to work hard. It must be cruel to ask such a thing of the Cuban people. That we work more? And when are they going to pay us? How much longer can this last? All the bibliography needed to unlearn the un-history learned: Castro the Deceitful, by Sergi Raffi; After Fidel, by someone from the CIA whose name I don’t remember; How Night Fell, by Huber Matos. All the documentaries of all the possible falls of all the totalitarian systems in history, to feed the Faith. The distant memories of ‘94, my father telling me his truth and me with big eyes, wondering why people are pouring into the sea. The quasi-94 since then, the cigarette boats, the dead, those missing in the sea and the disappeared whom it is better to believe are in the sea… as I said to an Argentine friend some years ago: we at least have lists; you, not even that. I don’t think about my friends who gave birth: taking antidepressants and living on soy mince so the baby eats; working until eight and half months pregnant, because they lost their maternity license – imagine it, my girl, with that contract how you are going to deliver; with three children living crammed together; fleeing to race to leave for any country, without succeeding, the youth thrown into the sewer of the toilet of our big shots; or erasing their minds until they no longer know who they are, like a Cuban friend who recently came from Argentina and grabbed a Cuban history book from off the top of my table and after a bit said: Look pal, I’m studying your history. I am more afraid of finding myself alone in this hell than I am of State Security, and we even have our brains so well washed that I wonder whether or not I signed the Varela Project,** and I see all around me the same doubt, the same fear, looking for the same justifications, that if I am not Christian, if I do not believe that… in the end. Luckily it only lasted a short time and I signed, and absolutely, I think I passed to a new mental state: I sign anything, everything for the cause, as we say a bit in jest, a bit seriously.
Translator's notes: * A reference to a song by Porno Para Ricardo ** The Varela Project started in 1998 to collect 10,000 signatures which, under Cuban law, is the threshold for citizens to propose new laws. The petition called for democratic reforms. More information can be found on the web.
This is an excerpt to a version of the song, Epitaph for Vladimir Visotski by Karsmarski Jacek (Polish dissident songwriter), which includes Ciro Diaz in his latest album, The Blue Slug, that I listened to compulsively for at least two months, especially on the street with my mp3 inherited from a friend who now has an I-pod. (Download the lyrics here) (Download the recording and album cover here) The song (in summary, which runs about ten minutes) is about a desperate artist going through the circles of hell in search of an answer or death, and at the end of his journey there is only loneliness and the weight of the supreme power above himself. So I found myself at times catching the bus across Havana at 12 noon in August under the perennial sunshine and with the distressing feeling of not going anywhere, or arriving too late, or going for pleasure ... I feel that I have already arrived at the eighth enclosure (this is the finale of the song) where there is nothing, and I feel useless and empty, and I look at people without faith who walk along the street and who have so much fear that they no longer know they're afraid, and who have seen so many Roundtables and so many news broadcasts that they no longer know what belongs to reality or just to the TV screen. They cannot discern that they no longer believe, but cannot disbelieve either, and just move along past me not going anywhere.