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12 figures reflect on the last 60 years

'The Cuban Revolution has died every time it has not sought forgiveness'

Tania Bruguera, artivist.


The Revolution, although initially presented and advanced as a social process, very soon became a personal matter. That is why the Revolution has ceased to exist every time a person has become disillusioned with that process and its promises, and every time one sees the gulf between what is said to be and what he actually experiences, and every time one has had to lie to defend it.

It has been the destiny of each generation to experience an event after which we can no longer utter the word "Revolution" with the same conviction. One cannot talk about the Revolution after incidents like those at Camarioca, or Mariel, or the Raft Crisis. Or after the UMAP, or the war in Angola, or the execution of Ochoa and Tony de La Guardia. Or after all those sacrificed in the name of the Revolution, or when you see a veteran of the Angolan war walking the streets, without dignity.

It is very difficult after doctors have been used as economic pawns to profit the country (although no one really knows where the money ended up), and when everyone is asked to sacrifice, while Fidel's son celebrates his birthday as if he were an Arab sheikh.

The Revolution has ceased to exist every time a mother begins to see her daughter's body as a means of sustenance for the household. Or the day that the president of my CDR, following the guidelines of the Government, prevented a person with excellent grades from going to the university, because he worshipped God, inside his house, apprehensively. And when later that same prominent CDR official euphorically received three different popes on their visits to the island, without even blushing.

It has been hard to believe that the Revolution exists every time someone has been thrown out of the Communist Party, or lost their job, just because they answered a call from a sister, or even a mother, who had left Cuba.

It is especially difficult to believe that the Revolution still exists when you were once forced to scream at the top of your lungs while throwing eggs at a certain group of people, and later forced to receive them with open arms because they are bringing dollars.

The Revolution has ceased to exist every time a dissident has been imprisoned, or beaten, or when you discover the reality behind a historical event, and realize that it was not as you were led to believe your whole life. When you realize that the Revolution has been extremely contradictory, and the only thing about which it has been consistent is its own defense.

For me, the Revolution has died every time it has not sought forgiveness.

We citizens have always accused of betraying the Revolution, but it has been the Revolution that has betrayed us, which has negated our existence. The question should be, rather: at what point did the Revolution negate your existence?

However, it must be said that the Revolution still exists, because there are still those who honestly believe in it, or are grateful for it.

What should be saved from the revolutionary period?

To forge a new Cuba, first we have to throw off –all of us– the little dictator who they have tried to saddle us with. Then we must undergo a difficult and honest process of healing in which rights are restored to those who have been deprived of them, and in which all are politically represented, including those who do not live on the Island.

We must strive for moderation, because it is as easy to be an extremist on one side as on the other; and conscious of the fact that nobody, absolutely nobody, is blameless for everything that has happened.

Perhaps this new stage could be built on the foundations of struggles for social justice, humanism, solidarity, and the equal rights of those of different races, genders, sexual orientations and political opinions. But these concepts must cease from being abstract and alien, and become part of how we behave in our daily lives.

Education should be free and compulsory. Family doctors should serve the public, and health care should be free – but qualityhealth care. The Government should not get in the business of selling bread with croquettes, or surveiling its citizens for accumulating wealth obtained at a cold cuts stand, but rather worry about maintaining equality among its citizens, and ensuring that their rights are respected.

I would like us not to lose sight of the fact that, as a country, we can be more. That we can dream of a Cuba where good work earns a good salary; one of decent homes, free Internet access, renewable energy throughout the country, high-speed trains, the implementation of the latest technologies, and cutting-edge scientific research. I would like us not to lose the faith there once was behind the effort to build a country not satisfied with being Third World.

I would like people to laugh in Cuba, not because they are going to have their picture taken, but because they are proud of who they are. I'm not interested in the new Cuba competing with Cancun, but rather with Sweden or Iceland.

But none of this will come about if there is no democracy and institutional transparency.

How would you classify the current period in Cuba?

I would like to think that people are beginning to discover that they can protest and that, in fact, this is the only way that will things change.

Maybe now we can wake up from the political malaise of recent decades. Maybe people will refuse to wait any longer.

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