To walk to the edge of the stage and speak only within limits, is required practice for certain critical artists still living in Cuba. Occasionally they offer us a phrase seasoned with dissent which will be published in foreign newspapers, though it will find no echo in our national ones. With one foot inside and one foot outside the Island, it must be difficult to go from speaking out to whispering. The long stays abroad have thus become a catalyst of opinions for some representatives of our culture. Evidently, interaction with other realities – with their achievements and their problems – have made the triumphalist slogans sound very distant while the intolerance in their own backyard becomes insufferable.
Pablo Milanes’ last interview – published in Spain under the title, “I want change in Cuba as soon as possible” – shows, on the one hand, the restraint with which he avoids burning the bridges of return, and on the other the audacity of someone who is very worried about what is happening in his country. There is, undoubtedly, an enormous risk in calling those who govern us, “reactionaries of their own ideas”; these are the people who have censored so many writers, musicians and actors for saying much less. The author of the song Yolanda walks the knife’s edge along which others have been cut to shreds. Protecting him in this undertaking are the strength of his international reputation and the support of people from every place and generation. An unknown neighborhood singer-songwriter would pay dearly, but they need Pablo.
Emigration has marked too strongly the artistic level on our stages. Not only have my colleagues from the university and my contemporaries from the neighborhood left en masse, but Cuban culture has a percentage of its representatives – some would say a majority – outside our borders. To lose, now, this strong voice would be to admit that those who composed the background music that accompanied the construction of utopia have stopped believing in it. So no website of any official institution is going publish an aggressive and threatening diatribe against the frankness of the interviewee. Nor will they inform the Madrid consulate that he is no longer welcome in his own country, nor accuse him of speaking with the words of an “American lover.” None of these stigmatizing strategies will be deployed against Pablo, but in the off-hour ministerial chats and the closed circles of power they will not forgive him for having behaved like a free man.
*Translator’s note: The title of this post is taken from the title of one of Pablo Milanes’ songs.
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