Saturday, July 12, 2008

Eliezer Aronowsky's Tribute to the Cuban Flag

Despite their merit and relevance, there are names that elude history's attention. In the case of Eliezer Aronowsky (1910-?) we are at a loss to explain why. Aronowsky, who immigrated to Cuba before the Holocaust, was our most prominent Jewish poet. He authored two books of poetry in Yiddish entitled Kuba: Lider un Poemes (Cuban Cantos) and Tropisch Licht (Tropical Light). Several of his poems were translated into Spanish by Andrés Piedra-Bueno, who also published a translation of Aronowsky's epic poem Maceo [Habana, Cuba: Ediciones Bené Berith Maimónides, 1950]. He was also a regular contributor to the Habaner Lebn, a Yiddish daily newspaper that was published in Cuba from 1932 to 1960.

Eliezer Aronowsky's greatest claim to fame, however, is as the author of the first book about and denunciation of the Buchenwald concentration camp, which was published in Cuba in 1939 (In kontsentratsye-lager Bukhenvald: pedzenlekhe ibelebungenfun Samuel Hilovitsh. Havana: Havaner lebn, 1939).

While perusing a copy of the Cuban-Jewish magazine Genesis (May 1950) dedicated to the centenary of the Cuban flag, I found the following poem by Aronowsky entitled "To the Cuban Flag," translated by Piedra-Bueno. Unfortunately, the original Yiddish version was not included.

What facts I could gather about him were obtained from bibliographies of Jewish poets or Holocaust writers. Not even the year of his death or place of birth is known. The few facts that we do know about him are enough, though, to attest to his love for his adopted country and his vision and courage as one of the world's first denouncers of the Holocaust.

A la Bandera Cubana

Blanca, como el fulgor del claro día;
azul, como el hechizo de la noche;
roja, como la hoguera del crepúsculo,
y tu estrella de plata, flor de flores.

Cifra de libertad, hace cien años
que ondeas sobre muchos corazones.
La roca es gris, pero tu suelo es verde;
y a esa esperanza virginal respondes...

Por ti, todas las razas se congregan
y en tu corona sus brillantes ponen,
porque la libertad que representas
es un brazo en firme para todos los hombres...

Fuiste borbada en la sangre heroica
al conjuro marcial de épicos sones,
tal como el bayamés que escribió el himno
y que murió por él, en recio bronce

Como en el río se refleja el cielo,
en tu cielo de amor brillan dos soles
-- Martí y Maceo --, que la patria alumbran
en una eternidad de resplandores...

Aunque las sombras rieguen sus semillas
en el surco ideal del horizonte,
por ti el pueblo se encuentra y levanta
y las cadenas coloniales rompe...

Por ti, la tierra su cristal desata
en musicales cauces y en inefables voces...
Al besarte dos mares, es como si Dios mismo
te besara, bandera, en beso de fulgores...

Eliezer Aronowsky
Traducción de Andrés de Piedra-Buena

I have highlighted the third stanza because it voices a sentiment which was widely felt by immigrants to our country for whom Morro Castle represented life and freedom no less than the Statue of Liberty did for Emma Lazarus. Before 1959, Cuba was a nation of immigrants, having received, proportionally, more immigrants in the years between 1920 and 1958 than its neighbor to the North. A third of Cuba's population of 6.6 million in 1958 were immigrants or first generation Cubans. These included refugees from Tsarist and Soviet Russia, the Republican and Nationalist sides in the Spanish Civil War, and Nazi Germany and the captive countries.

Fidel Castro forced many of these immigrants to leave Cuba after he had robbed them of their life's work, and now their descendents, newly reclaimed by Spain, will depart their country for the land of their ancestors, to begin new lives as citizens of a foreign country. Though this new disposition will mean freedom for millions of our countrymen, it will rob our country of the people that it needs for its reconstruction after Communism. This, too, is Castro's legacy to our country. With the hemisphere's lowest birth rate and one of the world's highest rates of abortion and suicide, and, now, the probable immigration of 3-4 million Cubans, the question may well be asked, how long before our country is wholly depopulated?

At moments when we despair about the fate of country, and the last 50 years are a rosary strung with those moments, it is good to refresh our souls with the poetry of those whose faith in our country's future was boundless because so did her horizons seem then. In Aronowsky's ode we see the great importance that our national symbols and heroes had for Cuba's immigrants. As these were for them the most accessible expressions of their new sense of national identity and patriotic fervor, so, too, should our national symbols represent for us today in the diaspora our firmest anchor to our country and most sacred reliquary of our love for it.

The desecration of our most important national symbol, which would once have seemed inconceivable, has became no more than a joke to Babalú's anti-Cuban "patriots." Those who obsessed so much about the symbolism of "Che" t-shirts could not see that tearing in half the star on Cuba's flag or serrating its stripes was an act of desecration.

One cannot love Cuba and hate her people.

One cannot love Cuba and insult her flag.


Vana said...

Beautiful poem Manuel, I have never heard of it, too bad Aronowsky was not better known to us.

To think that emigrees loved her as we do, loved the freedom of our country as we did is heartwarming, and heartbreaking, for some who were born there, or born here from her loins do not love her or respect her or her symbols, it trully breaks my heart when I see her desecrated by the pen of "Cubans" to me the flag is like a mother, and should be viewed by us all thusly

Anonymous said...


This is proof positive that these people are outside the mainstream and refuse to assimilate—even, after almost half a century of residency in the U.S., with all the attendant benefits and opportunities. What INGRATES!! We urge Senator Tancredo to roll up his sleeves and attack this outrageous state of affairs at once.

Posted by Humberto at 01:10 PM | Habla (0) | Leenkaso (0)

Angel Garzón said...

"...The desecration of our most important national symbol, which would once have seemed inconceivable,..."

This is just another one of the many evils that have been perpetrated upon the Cuban people, for even though there are many of us middle-aged sons and daughters of Martí and Macéo's motherland, that were taught the values that we eventually became to know as patriotic Cubanism which we have chosen to adhere to of our free will and not because of inherited tradition or blind patriotism, a spirit that we owe to our parents and grand-parents whether they were Cuban born or adopted citizens, it becomes more apparent every passing year that even if the usurpers are defeated, we may pass from this worldly plane not being able to see the completed work of restoring our motherland to a greater glory than that enjoyed by our ancestors.

We who left the ravaged bosom of the motherland with the utmost patriotic intentions of returning with arms at hand in order to fight for her and even die for her if that was God's will, we who came to find that the nations of the world from whom our motherland had accepted, protected and embraced so many, had simply decided to ignore our plea, though a handful of them and many of its patriotic citizens did us proud, we came to witness first hand how the wills of imperial minded world powers prevailed, we realized that in the global game of chess that came to be known as "The Cold War" it became an "acceptable loss" to the nation that had trumpeted to the world that it would stand by us through thick and thin, only to betray us just as it had done to the generation that preceded us, we understood that all of us became nothing more than pawns that could easily be sacrificed for what the game players considered a greater goal, and so our people came to be "expandable" to every player of the global game, by the thousands were our contemporaries martyred for causes foreign to us all, to the service of foreign masters and their interests were we enlisted with and without our clear consent, the soil of distant continents and the seas near and far from the motherland have claimed our brethren, their remains never to be found and their lives nothing more than fading memories to those who called them mother, father, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, grand-son, grand-daughter.

The indoctrinated minds of so many and the passing fads of the so called "modern world" have also become part and parcel of the mentality of so many of Cuba's sons and daughters in the diaspora, who believe that emulating what the majority, if not all but for a minute exception such as the Kasstro Clan, of their ancestors had known as cubanismo is nothing more than the result of "obtuse mentality" of "guardians of the most rancid cubanía" and old fashioned "viejos cagalitrosos no hay tarde que no me enojen!," therein putting into practice another one of the aforementioned bad habits, something that was not the norm in our culture, but rather an exception practiced only by a fraction of the population in certain well known quarters commonly known to us as "solares" or "cuarterias", our cultural and civic traditions having wisely taught us to respect and learn from our elders, familial or otherwise. The damage has been profound indeed, the mission of repairing it and restoring it, will be an arduous one that may take decades to be completed.

Chat Cubano said...

Hola, encontre este sitio por conexion cubana (Yoyo)

Que viva cuba libre sin comunistas y la Bandera sin alteraciones

Ms Calabaza said...


beautifully stated. It's a shame your humble and erudite plea to remove the flag post was attacked and then deleted. It was another window of opportunity for mediation that was closed.

Anonymous said...

angel, two questions. is your real name angel garzon? are you a US citizen?

Jinetero… ¿y qué? said...

Hi Manuel,

Because that kind of ideas, I wrote in this post: “… No es que Babalú sea santo de mi devoción,…”. I used to visit Babalú when I started blogging. Who did not? They are a reference in Cuba Blogs. But, once I realized our differences were too big to be discussed I just did not comment there anymore, I visit, read and leave it. It’s a matter of respect. There is enough space for everyone in Internet.
About this topic, I deeply encourage you to see this graphic as a message, not as a Flag. This is not the first time I encounter variations to our flag. I saw it behind bars, with image of Che Guevara or Dr. Biscet. Nowadays we are calling for a Bloggers event which has a modified Cuban flag (a “@” instead the star) as identification. Amazingly that “flag” was democratically voted for dozens of Cuban Bloggers and no one felt offended.


I do really feel a deep respect for our nation and all Cuban (no matter the way they think), I am really sorry if my comments offended you or anyone They have not been made with that intention. (The style of the language in my Blog is irreverent, nothing personal. I treated the same way Castro, Bush or God. You are right, the voice in my Blog is a person who lived in a solar. It is a matter of style).
I visit dozens of Blogs from extreme left to extreme right. I am aware we all are different and we have to learn to live with that if we do not want to commit the same errors in the future. We are shouting in the wrong direction, the bullets should not be among us.

P.S.: I know Fantomas is just kidding!

Manuel A.Tellechea said...


Anyone who reads Babalú on a regular basis cannot fail to note its disdain for Cubans who are not political prisoners. It's almost as if Babalú had appropriated the Castroite motto "Patria o Muerte," leaving no other alternative for our countrymen on the island. A blog that holds the Cuban people in so little esteem as does Babalú would, of course, devalue our national symbols.

Any alteration of the Cuban flag, regardless of the intention, is unacceptable.

Most people would be repulsed if a vandal sprayed grafitti on the Mona Lisa. Why, then, should we not object to the desecration of our flag?

If the disfigurement of the Mona Lisa rises above mere protest to constitute a crime against the human spirit, why wouldn't the desecration of the flag be at least as onerous and objectionable?

No one has ever died for the Mona Lisa; or been tortured for it; or spent half his life in prison because he desired it to wave over a free people.

If human suffering sanctifies an object, then it is the flag that has been so sanctified and by right should be held as inviolate.

Mamey said...

Thanks for the historical note on Aronowsky (I remember that my family had several 'polaco' friends back in Havana--boy did they love Cuba).
The problem over at Babaluland, and I'm not saying anything new here, is that they are thoroughly ignorant of Cuban history and Cuban civics. They also have a distorted view of Cuban culture and often confuse it with U.S. American culture.