By Luis Sexto
The North American administrations over the last 47 years, which have sustained the hostilities in front of the Cuban revolution, even the governments that intervened on the independence war and frustrated afterwards the newly-formed republic with the Platt Amendment lacked the sagacity to realize that Cuban culture has a link from its very roots with the history of the nation. That is why Cubans could never accept, as a country, the condition of being a protectorate or a neo-colony imposed by the United States.
It is not excessive to warn that the independence wars were not just urgencies of economic and political freedom under the colonial oppression of a medieval and exclusive Spain. They expressed a national and cultural feeling that came together on the military struggle. Black and white people, Creole and Africans, and Chinese and people from the Canary Islands, apart from Spanish people from other regions, set themselves up on the battle field trying to make come true, on a new nation, whatever long-lasting and well-defined had been accumulated during four centuries of being a colony.
The independent conflicts of 1868 and 1895 showed the world an almost unusual picture then: that the master would assign on the previous day his dominion so that the former slave, however brave or more intelligent he was, could order him in combat. The fight for freedom made them equal no matter the color and the wealth. And the identity, the fact that they recognized themselves as part of something, a habit of being, of walking and of expressing themselves which was to be formed between the abstinence and the blood, made them live is a communion of nationality.
Every October 20, Cubans celebrate the National Culture Day. It is amazing that this is not the date in which the pretended discoverers disembarked on the Cuban beaches with the cross, the sword and the notarial deed. It is not either the day remembered because a printing press reached the island, or a founding poem or a newspaper appeared, and it doesn’t even celebrates a religious festivity. On October 20, was the day when the Bayamo Hymn, was first sung – making an echo of the inaugural shrapnel of the independents Revolution – which was also a social Revolution, because it freed the slaves and established the abolition on the Upraised Republic. The Bayamo Hymn, later the National Hymn, was composed during the previous conspiracy and its author, Pedro Figueredo, wrote its lyrics on the saddle of his war horse in 1868.
We can see clearly how the spiritual and historic culture interwove in Cuba with the birth of the nation itself. It were these same Cubans, commanded by Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, a poet and one of the authors of the laminar song in Cuban music, who united to dictate the laws of the Upraised Republic, established universal and free teaching for every citizen.
Such an origin, in the middle of the struggle for freedom, left a mark in Cuban culture with the sign of resistance and mixed races. When the abandoning Zanjon Pact was signed in Cuba between Cubans and Spaniards in 1878, a mixed race musician conceived almost at the same time the danzón, a dancing music born out of the European contredanse and, but with cells on top of which were built the synthesis of being Cuban which was suffering at the time its first political setback. And isn’t there much of the patriotic frustration of the time on the presence, on the melancholic solemnity of the danzón, which with time became the national dance?
Another push of resistance and mixed race occurred when, after the republic intervened by the United States with the consequent limitation of independence on the political and economical spheres, Cuban culture managed evident and belligerent synthesis in the face of the neo-colonial mimicry. These are its milestones: The poems by Guillen, consortium of the black and white over any black people fashion, and on the happy finding of the national poetic expression and the music by Roldan and Caturla with the Afro on the symphonic, and the height of the son on the voice of the Matamoros, and the paintings by Abela and Carlos Enriquez who dazzled by extolling the Cuban over foreign influences, and afterwards the poetics of the Origenes Group, magnificence of Cuban baroque style from Lezama Lima, and attachment to the pleasant things, from the Catholicity of Cintio Vitier, Eliseo Diego, Fina García Marruz as well as the popular on the fresh short-story telling of Onelio Jorge Cardoso, and the defense of the national verse, the decimal, on the verses by Naborí, and the survival and development of the music on the exponent of the filing, on the rhythm by Benny Moré, and on the extension of the classical dance with touches of being Cuban in Alicia, Alberto and Fernando Alonso.
If we had to reduce all this to a single feature, we would accept that, in effect, the mixture is the defining feature in Cuba, its identity and culture. There are, therefore, a Cuban rhythm and color. And two components are combined primarily on its essences: the Spanish and the African, apart from the native Arahuaco and the Chinese, in a smaller grade, and even within the Spanish, the componenet from the Canary Islands. Fernando Ortiz found the exact image, the exact metaphor, when he said that Cuba was a ajiaco, which means, the dish par excellence in our country: a mixture of many meats and many vegetables and tubers, which after cooking achieve a typical and unique taste. To look back at it would be very long. Because since 1959 culture found what it had never had before: people who learned how to read, and to see, and to listen to, and who wasn’t embarrassed by calling Ochún to the Charity Virgin, the patron saint of Cuba for black and whites on the syncretism, the synthesis, the mixed races and the greatest culture of the Revolution, despite the hostilities of the United States governments.