The Cuban cultural challenge in the new scenario of relations with the US

by Elier Ramirez Cañerdo
translation Cuba-Network in Defense of Humanity
Intervention at the plenary session of the Tenth Congress of the Young Communists of Cuba UJC.

To a lesser or larger degree Cuba has been impacted by the influence of US culture in the Isla for more than two centuries. It couldn’t be any other way due to the geographic proximity and historical ties existing since the independence of both nations. In the 19th century these influences of US culture were already evident but during the bourgeois neocolonial republic it increased sharply although there were always spaces of cultural resistance that maintained untouched the most native of our national identity manifest in some moments of anti interference that in other moments became anti imperialist.

It had its expression in the theater, in poetry, in literature, in history, in journalism and other artistic, literary and intellectual manifestations, even during the first two decades of the bourgeois neocolonial republic in spite of the false idea that this was a period of total lethargy of a national conscience.

In the advent of new technologies of information and communication and a growing contact of the island with a globalized world in which cultural US hegemony is one of its main characteristics and has increased contact of the Cubans with US cultural products (music, video games, films, fashion, etc.) that reach us and are reproduced throughout the Island in official or non official manner and the most different formats. The so called “weekly package” has unleashed a kind of fever for the US series in a sector of the population while most films exhibited in Cuban television also come from Hollywood.

However, not everything that comes from the large cultural avalanche that comes from the north is alien to our values and identity. But this must not left to spontaneity. Although it is impossible and counterproductive to try to regulate this invasion and their reception on an individual level it is Cuban cultural institutions in public spaces be reference to establish correct and necessary hierarchies. I always ask myself why are there many films and US series that constitute an accusation of the darkest and sinister aspects of the capitalist system do not have the privilege in our television and are set aside for those farthest from cultural values that we defend.

I believe, for example in the new series being shown, the House of Cards or True History of the United States by Oliver Stone. None shown on Cuban TV. It is true that there exists a left in the US cultural production – within the political specter that does not find the necessary space in our reality and is practically unknown.

On the other hand we must not forget that Cuban culture has always had a universal vocation and very unique capacity to assimilate what is foreign, metabolize it and produce new creations, constantly enriching our identity instead of putting it at risk. But, at the same time we must have “judgmental eyes” as Martí had in his time to see both United States; that of Lincoln and of Cutting. Of the first he always recognized its cultural values and of the second – he called American Rome – he not only criticized the politics that we know more of but also the American Way of Life that extols violence, irrationality and uncontrolled cult for money that has been a constant in US culture extending to our times. With only 18 years of age the Apostle expressed: “The US postpone the utility of sentiment. – We postpone utility to sentiment (…) American laws have given the North a high degree of prosperity and have also raised it to the highest degree of corruption. They have metalized it to make it more profitable. Damn that prosperity at all cost!

What a good phrase now that we must build a prosperous and sustainable country although some may not understand that the prosperity and sustainability we pursue is not only economic but also spiritual

The most damaging cultural influences that we receive from the United States – understanding culture in its widest concept are those that promote and defend the capitalist system and have nothing to do with life, representations, emotions, symbols, values, tastes and customs in which the fundamental point of the happiness and success of possessing material wealth – means and ends at the same time – and the market defined as the leading guide of all society. The culture confronted to the culture of being. It is undeniable that the “new focus of the policy” towards Cuba announced on December by President Obama intends to boost this confrontation beyond economic asphyxiation. That is the idea – not so new – that more contact of the Cubans with the US society will achieve the transition towards capitalism in Cuba. “but how will we change society – he refers to the Cuban society – the country, specifically its culture can rapidly or slowly succeed, that I prefer, but it will happen and I believe that this change of policy will promote this”, Obama said in a press conference two days after the announcement on December the 17th and can be considered a declaration of cultural war against Cuba.

December 17th was evidently a victory of the Cuban people and its historical leadership but with the new opportunities there are new challenges. The largest are not difficult to be warned that are in the spirituality, in the culture and ideology. It is no secret that the difficult years of the Special Period have caused significant damages in the spiritual web of the Cuban nation. This is something that they have studied in depth and constitutes another element to consider in understanding this “new focus” of its policy towards Cuba.

I believe that, effectively if Cuba could not be absorbed culturally by the United States during the bourgeois neocolonial republic andwas able to make a socialist revolution under their very noses, they will not be able to succeed. But my optimism is not blind or passive. I do not think we are invulnerable and have no breach that those who now seek for a change of regime in Cuba through other means can take advantage of it. Yes, we must be optimists but active. The defeat of socialism in Cuba would be our deepest cultural defeat.

We can only rise victorious against the new challenges working tirelessly to heal the spiritual web of the nation wherever it is affected. We are the largest challenge and, above all, let us create in our society critical individuals with capacity to see that which culturally weakens and alienates us as human beings and what really elevates and emancipates us.

As we recover economically – that is indispensible and urgent – we must continue and redouble our intention of creating a different and higher culture than capitalism.

We must mobilize and articulate tactically and strategically all our ideological and cultural potential. In that integrality and organically we must think when we talk of a prosperous and sustainable country we want to build.

Anti imperialism that is part of our political culture constitutes one of our largest strengths and the enemy now intends to erase this image in the eyes of the Cubans, especially the young people. It isundeniable that imperialism has been defeated in its struggle against a historical generation of the Revolution and now works to construct the basis that allows them to reach their perfidious objectives always with the new generations through methods and instruments more subtle and sophisticated of the so called intelligent power. Now that Prospero is presented to us with new clothes, the decolonized vision of Caliban must accompany us all the time.

In face of this plane, our plan must be only to continue relying our greatest hope in the material and spiritual manner of our own efforts and not rely on alleged goodwill of the powerful neighbor to the north that now wants to appear – as has always been its intention – as a messiah for those confused individuals and those who have always played their game. I believe that the relationship with the United States can only be understood as another element – without removing the importance it requires – that all that we have done to date in the economic and cultural sphere but not the central axis. That would be a guarantee that the victory of December 17 is still a victory.

And in this sense I believe, as has been the subjects of this congress that we have a surplus of young reasons to win. We have Fidel, We have Raúl. We have substitutes. We have The Five. We continue to have a Revolution, a heroic people and a youth of the vanguard and if that is not enough we how have our flag waving in the very heart of imperialism; the most victorious and dignified flag in the world; at least in the past 56 years.

It is undeniable that we live a moment of many challenges but also renewed hope. The flag is in our hands.

Thank you very much

Acerca de Dialogar, dialogar

Historiador, investigador, papá de María Fernanda y Alejandra
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