By Alina B. López Hernández
Pseudo-republic, limited republic or neocolonial period. That’s what it’s been called in the past. For some time now, historians are calling it, with somewhat less spitefulness, bourgeois republic.
To give birth to it, rivers of blood ran for decades in the fields and cities of the island. To defend it, two revolutions were organized: in the 1930s and in the 1950s.
Generations of Cubans stood in the way of tyranny so it couldn’t hinder it. Unlike what happened in other nations in the region, no despot who tried to violate it reached one decade in power.
She gave birth to our parents and grandparents, good men and women who knew what love for the Homeland meant. ‘Not foolish love for the land or the grass our feet tread’, but rather ‘insurmountable hatred for those who oppress it’ and ‘eternal resentment for those who attack it’.
In his poem ‘El sitio en que tan bien se está’ (‘The place where you feel so well’), Eliseo Diego outlines an intimate republic which transcends mere forms of state: Tendrá que ver cómo mi padre lo decía: la República. (…) lleno el pecho, como decir la suave, amplia, sagrada mujer que le dio hijos. // Como si fuese una materia (…) una parte cualquiera de su vida. (You’ll have to see as my father used to say: the Republic. (…) with a full chest, was like the soft, wide, sacred mother who bore him children. // As if she were substance (…), a part of his life like any other). Republic. A word which, as my friend Javier says —his son, like her, was born on may 20— the poet transmutes ‘into realization, into hope, into solid vital fruit of all Cubans, into a symbol of the present and the future’.
Historiographical discourse after 1959 degenerated the Republic into an archetypal stage, a well of iniquities and disparaging adjectives: puppet governments, appropriation of public funds, political and administrative corruption, gambling and prostitution… among other similar terms. That’s how it is described in the History textbooks at schools. That’s how schoolchildren learn about it from their tenderest youth. Against all common sense, the Stalinist period in the former USSR has received a more benevolent treatment than our wretched republic.
Can it be denied that it had some of that? No. But, along with the shadows and dark corners, the lights it undoubtedly had must also be acknowledged: the freedoms it guaranteed her citizens; giving birth, by force of popular pressure, to the most progressive constitution of her time: the one from 1940; the fact of having been the most tolerant country in the Western hemisphere with regards to ideology; and having educated her children with the most noble civic principles.
It wasn’t as golden and perfect as they’ve left the effigy of the Republic kept in the National Capitol, after the restoration works that concluded only a few days ago with an official ceremony. However, they were meant not so much to renovate a damaged statue, but to revamp an unfair historical image we have eroded the representation of our past with for more than half a century.
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(Translated from the original)