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Interview with Ché Guevara’s son: “There is no civil society in Cuba”

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Mr López, your father is revered in Cuba as a revolutionary hero and martyr. Fidel Castro even called him a prophet. Che Guevara is dedicated to the country’s largest monument in Santa Clara. With what eyes do you see him in retrospect and what could be called his legacy?
What fascinates me today about him as an individual is his attitude with which he explored reality and wanted to change it. Even after 1961, when a new dogmatism had set in in cultural politics, he continued to talk to many left-wing intellectuals and writers who were already considered dissenters at the time. But the legacy of such exceptional phenomena as my father had is not to be found in libraries or museums, much less in memorials.

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Around a quarter of a million mostly young Cubans left their homeland this year, mostly for the United States. The Cuban art and culture scene seems to be eroding. What keeps you in Cuba?
VMany 20-year-olds here look exclusively to the USA and emigrate for material reasons. As if Cuba were the only country in the world with economic problems. But how do we want to preserve our homeland when all young people emigrate? We Cubans shouldn’t always wait for others to do something for us. For example, President Biden lifting the US embargo on our island that has been choking us off for 62 years, or the Russians and Chinese now bail us out.

Hasn’t a great deal of frustration built up in recent years among many who are now emigrating that the development of civil society in Cuba is so little promoted by the state and regularly slowed down?
There is no civil society in Cuba. There is only the government and the people, but no separation of powers and no independent judiciary. However, these are necessary for the development of a functioning civil society. Here, on the other hand, the courts are directly subordinate to the state and there is no free administration of justice.

What role do culture and poetry play in a present characterized by hour-long power cuts and daily queues in front of offices, shops and petrol stations?
Young Cubans almost exclusively read their smartphones. Older people still look at the party newspaper “Granma” from time to time. Not because of her journalistic quality, but because she has no competition. Poetry is understood by many to be just a literary genre that is expressed in books or public readings. For those who, like me, recite, improvise, and enact poetry orally, poetry represents a developmental phase of consciousness, not only of human intelligence, but of other forms as well. In this sense, the Big Bang of the Universe is pure poetry, as is the origin of our language and the development of our culture.

What is the state of Cuban literature, which has always been one of the most important in Latin America? Leonardo Padura, the author most widely read abroad, now has his books published in Spain, which are too expensive for most Cuban readers.
Similarly, there is no abstract art worth mentioning in Cuba today. This is not only due to the state, but also to the cultural workers themselves, who orientate themselves towards the globalized art market and publishing industry. Artists like Wilfredo Lam used to travel to Paris and New York to learn. Today, Cuban artists are mainly moving abroad to sell better there.

What role does literature play in Cuban schools today?
Although literature is part of the curriculum in Cuban schools, especially that of our national hero José Martí, our school system is unable to convey its meaning. To do that, you would have to change it from the ground up. Literature, especially poetry, begins where supposed certainties are questioned. It is the opposite of propaganda.

You have translated from English, Dutch and Italian, for example, Shakespeare and Pasolini. Now you learn German. What interests you most about Germany and its culture?
First of all, I ask back: what defines German culture? A territory, the language, or a certain spirit, as Hegel meant? As part of my poetic research, I have dealt intensively with German philosophers such as Martin Heidegger and the Frankfurt School. Unfortunately, I had to rely on translations whose quality I cannot assess. Now I would like to get to know the sound of the German language and the thoughts of its philosophers in the original.

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Source: Tagesspiegel

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