Sunday, May 01, 2016

The Bridge

The Bridge / 14ymedio, Pedro Junco Lopez

14ymedio, Pedro Junco Lopez, Camaguey, 27 April 2016 – Some have
suggested I write about US President Barack Obama's recent visit to
Cuba. A great challenge after so much criticism about it. However,
despite the blockade I've suffered in international research, I lean to
two very attractive topics—and as far as my information sources permit
me to know—two that have been hardly discussed: first, the oratory style
of the American president who, according to what they are saying here,
"has the Cuban people in his pocket"; and second, "the bridge" between
the two systems and societies, which both presidents brought up.

With regards to oratory, I will not dwell too long on that of the
general-president, considering his having always been in the military,
his extreme longevity, and his usual approach of reading his texts.
Whether or not a man is an excellent orator has nothing to do with his
other aptitudes. Oratory is an art, an art that isn't learned, but that
one is born with and perfects or doesn't. But I propose to compliment
Obama's rhetoric, offering as a counterpart that of some contemporary
Cubans speaking live.

I don't think it was at Harvard where the American learned to launch
these clear and precise parliamentary arrows in the form of short
sentences; then he stops, tightens his lips and puts a brake on the
overflowing words, giving the audience time to digest his ideas and then
one phrase after another, repeats the pauses, often with a smile playing
on his lips and without losing the thread of his exposition, without
even looking at the script that guides him in his discursive ascent and
ending with the clear solidity of a prophet.

How different is the style of some Cubans who speak haltingly, breaking
their phrases as one who walks along a path strewn with large boulders
that must be leaped over, taking a breath in the middle of well known
phrases, seeking respite from the terror of making a mistake and
expounding something that could upset whoever dictated the script.

We appreciate the serene movement of President Obama's hands, always in
a lilting rhythm in sync with the idea of the phrasing. How different
from the immoderate flapping of other local speakers for whom the podium
must be cleared of ornamental objects, lest one of their swipes knock
the microphone to the floor or any other instrument on the set where
they are talking.

The people of Cuba saw a president in the flesh who proposes and
convinces, not the god who taught them to listen with meekness half a
century ago: powerful, imposing, unanswerably humbling and always

But let's address the detail of the bridge. Nothing in the theme
surprises us, when many years ago the young Guatemalan singer Ricardo
Arjona wrote and performed a song with this name; watching the video
brings tears to the eyes of Cubans who have suffered a separation from
their loved ones. This time the initiative came from the Cuban
president: it is easy to destroy a bridge; it is difficult to build it
back again; a straightforward simile, but concise.

So the naiveté of the general-president in "mentioning the rope in the
house of the hanged man" surprises; and the condescension of the
northern president in seeking a convergence between the two governments
and not taking the bull by the horns and telling a story that surely he

The first foundations of that bridge were built by the Americans and the
mambises – Cuban independence fighters – at the end of the 19th century,
when they fought together to free Cuba from Spanish colonialism. Today
very subjective concepts are put forward about what led the United
States to invade Cuba, drumming on "the ripe apple" concept. It would be
good to detail when this apple ripened, with the two principals killed
in combat and the stubborn position of the Spaniards not to abandon the
island. In Spain to this day, when something goes badly for a citizen,
they seek solace in the classic phrase: "More was lost in Cuba." The
Spaniards were so attached to our native land that no one was able to
predict how many more years of fighting and how many human lives
independence would cost.

The first foundations for the bridge were built on solid ground after
the emancipation of the metropolis, and its horizontal beams were laid
when industrialized sugar cane production, the great electricity and
telephone companies and many others were brought to Cuba. Because on 20
May 1902, they lowered the American flag and raised that of Miguel
Tourbe Tolon and Narciso Lopez—names that barely appear in our schools'
current history books—and the Cuban nation had 10 people for every
square kilometer of the homeland.

Republican governments, despite the tyrannies of Machado and Batista,
thanks to close negotiations with the neighbor to the north, paved the
bridge with the building of the Capitol, the central highway and the
walls of the Havana Malecon, despite the aberration of the Model Prison
on the Isle of Pines.

They built hospitals, highways, local roads, and made our currency equal
to the dollar, and Cuba was the most developed country in Latin America,
thanks to a sugar quota with privileged pricing worked out with the
United States.

Projects for a 96-mile highway between Havana and Key West had already
begun: a physical bridge that would link the island to the continent.
Had this project been completed, the tens of thousands of compatriots
drowned in the Florida Straits would have completed their journeys with
greater safety and comfort.

But who broke the bridge? Who led to Washington establishing a
"blockade" against the revolutionary government for having confiscated
without compensation the billions of dollars the Americans invested in
the island during the Republican period?

Who destroyed the agricultural and urban infrastructure of this unhappy
country that today will have no other pillar to lean on if Venezuela
ceases to be socialist?

Who clings to refusing to see that without fundamental changes toward
industrial capitalism and development today's young people will continue
the exodus and we will be left in this beloved land with only feeble old
people, unable even to dig the graves of those who die first?

Source: The Bridge / 14ymedio, Pedro Junco Lopez – Translating Cuba -

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