Photo taken from eldia.es
It was hard for me to convince my friends at pre-university to let me listen to some songs by Silvio Rodríguez on their Russian tape players. I was born in a neighborhood that vibrated to the rhythm of salsa, rumba and guaguancó, where the poetic images of that singer were not very well received. I could only manage to hear a bit of Ojalá before one of them would change the cassette and play something from Los Van Van or NG La Banda. The official media, however, was constantly playing “The Blue Unicorn” and we speculated whether behind the metaphor we would find a woman, or a pair of jeans stolen from the clothesline.
Just when I was beginning to get excited about the compositions of this singer-songwriter, everything collapsed around me. The crisis* came, the beatings in response to the Maleconazo* and I could see the rafters setting out on the slice of the sea visible through my shutters. I was shocked that so many wanted to clear off, meanwhile Silvio continued singing: “I live in a free county, which can only be free on this earth at this moment.” Still, the minstrel of San Antonio touched me, especially the themes that plucked on the heartstrings, because those of a social and political nature seemed passé. Then came university and, in his voice, the song “The Fool” appeared, and with that I finally identified him with the system, the government, the status quo, “the thing,” in short, the group in power.
Just today I have been able to read the full statement made by the author of “For Whomever Deserves Love.” The official press avoids it, but it ricocheted around the foreign media until finally reaching us. His words seem to deny that chorus of “I died as I lived,” where he announced his refusal to accept the changes we Cubans have been crying out for for decades. But now, disenchantment lending him a critical ear, he listens, but with the stealth of someone who has too much to lose if he shares all his opinions about the national disaster. He knows that in our eyes he is “their man,” sadly typecast as a troubadour who, from the beginning, played the strings of intransigence.
During the launch of his latest album, Silvio ventured a linguistic play on words to overcome “the R in revolution” and in its place give priority to “evolution.” As if, in place of excluding a new dissident, it is better to accept him into the group of those of us crying for openings; I am going to follow his lead and eliminate the inconvenient letter at the beginning of “repression.” With a certain slight metamorphosis — removing an R and slipping in an X — that word and all that hangs on it would mutate to free “expression,” which we so badly need. Meanwhile, speaking of R’s, the R in the name of the one who governs us needs to take its owner, leave the stage, and give way as soon as possible to the other consonants of our plural alphabet.
The crisis = After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the loss of its financial support for Cuba.
Maleconazo = A social uprising, that is a riot, that erupted along the Malecon in August 1994.