I Only Know That I Am Afraid
“I Only Know That I Am Afraid” / Tania Diez Castro / HemosOido
Posted on April 15, 2014
HAVANA, Cuba — For almost the first three years of his regime, Fidel
Castro was not interested in Cuban intellectuals. He did not forgive
their passivity during the years of revolutionary insurrection. They had
not put bombs in the street, nor did they engage in armed conflict with
the previous dictator’s police. Even those who lived abroad did not do
anything for the revolutionary triumph. He never forgave them. Neither
he nor other political leaders considered them revolutionaries either
before or after the Revolution.
Che Guevara had left it written forever in his little Marxist manual
Socialism and Man in Cuba: “The guilt of many of our intellectuals and
artists resides in their original sin: they are not authentically
revolutionary. We can try to graft the elm tree so that it will produce
pears, but at the same time we must plant pear trees.”
But the pears that Che mentioned had nothing to do with human beings
because an intellectual, writer or artist is characterized by his
sensitivity, his pride, his sincerity. In general, they are solitary and
But also they are, and that is their misfortune, an easy nut to crack,
above all for a dictator with good spurs.
During those almost first three years of the Revolution, the most
convulsive of the Castro regime — the number of those shot increased and
the few jails were stuffed with more than 10,000 political prisoners —
surely writers did not fail to observe how Fidel Castro was cracking the
free press when after December 27, 1959, he gave the order to introduce
the first “post-scripts” at the bottom of articles adverse to his
government, supposedly written by the graphics workers.
It was evident that Fidel Castro, who controlled the whole country, did
not want to approach them to fill leadership positions of cultural
institutions founded by the regime, like the Institute of Art and
Cinematographic Industry, House of the Americas, the Latin News Press
Agency and numerous newspapers, magazines, and radio and television
stations that were nationalized.
For minister of education he preferred Armando Hart. For the House of
the Americas, a woman very far from being an intellectual, Haydee
Santamaria. For the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television, Papito
Serguera, and for the Naitonal Council of Culture, Vicentina Antuna and
Edith Garcia Buchaca, two women unknown in cultural domain.
The first approach that Fidel Castro had with writers, June 16, 1961, in
the National Library of Havana, could not have been worse. It was there
where he exclaimed his famous remark, “Within the Revolution,
everything; outside the Revolution, nothing,” and where he made clear
that those who were dedicated to Art had to submit themselves to the
will of the Revolution, something that is still in force.
The maximum leader left that closed-door meeting more than pleased on
seeing the expressions of surprise and fear of many of those present,
and above all by the words of Virgilio Pinera, one of the most important
intellectuals of the 20th century when he said: “I just know that I am
scared, very scared.” That precisely was what the new Cuban leader most
needed to hear from the intellectual throng: Fear, to be able to govern
at his whim.
Two months later the Fist Congress of Cuban Writers and Artists was
held, and UNEAC was founded. The intellectuals had fallen into line.
If something was said about that palatial headquarters, property of a
Cuban emigrant, it is that the Commandant was allergic to all who had
their own judgment, and for that reason he would never visit it, as it
It is remembered still today that in a public speech on March 13, 1966,
he attacked the homosexuals of UNEAC, threatening to send them to work
agriculture in the concentration camps of Camaguey province. The
“Enlightened One,” as today the president of UNEAC Miguel Barnet calls
the Cuban dictator, kept his word. Numerous writers and graphic artists
found themselves punished with forced labor in the unforgettable
Military Units to Assist Production — UMAP.
These Nazi-style units were created in 1964 and closed four years later
after persistent international complaints. If anyone knew and knows
still the most hidden thoughts of the intellectuals, besides their
sexual intimacy, it is the Enlightened One, thanks to his army of spies,
members of the political police who work in the shadows of the mansion
of 17th and H, in the Havana’s Vedado where UNEAC put down roots.
In 1977, one cannot forget the most cruel and abominable blow that the
Enlightened One directed against the writers of UNEAC when his army of
political police extracted from the drawers of the headquarters the
files of more than 100 members — among them was mine as founder — so
that they were definitively and without any explanation separated from
the Literature Section of that institution.
Cubanet, April 11, 2014
Translated by mlk.
Source: “I Only Know That I Am Afraid” / Tania Diez Castro / HemosOido |
Translating Cuba –