Perhaps I should devote myself to writing obituaries rather than reviews of Cuban-American blogs. It is easier, of course, to review something static than something in motion. The judgment, then, has a permanence which cannot be guaranteed otherwise. It is possible, though highly unlikely, that Val may have a Pauline conversion and become an enemy of censorship and flag desecration, confine his pressure cooker to his kitchen and stop calling for rivers of innocent blood to flow in our country, in which case everything that I have written about Babalú up to that time would become dated. Of course, there is no chance of that. I merely use it as an illustration of the futility in most cases of reviewing a book, a movie or a blog which is still a work in progress.
The blog that I am reviewing today Estancia Cubana has reached its final chapter and is now complete (at least to its author's satisfaction). Camilo López Darias took leave of his readers on July 12 with thanks but without explanation, as is his right. What is not incumbent upon us to do, what is neither responsibility nor duty, may be dispensed with at any time without warning or apology. No one can understand this better than a disciple of Ayn Rand's cult of individualism.
López Darias notes that "Man's liberty as something valuable and desirable has been an alien concept throughout [Cuba's] socio-cultural history. Individuality, the real essence of the most basic justice, has been crushed and subjugated [in our country] by our eternal tendency to social tribalism." If he had limited himself to the Castro era, there would be nothing objectionable in this observation. But López Darias traces our supposed indifference to liberty and "tribal mentality," which he believes are at the root of our national tragedy, to the Republic and ultimately to the 19th century, which is traversed from one end to the other by our wars of independence.
When the British historian Hugh Thomas wrote his monumental history of our country he titled it Cuba: The Pursuit of Freedom. Although his book is replete with errors of fact, Thomas did understand the great undercurrent that ran through all Cuban history. A nation of four millions which, at the end of the 19th century, had sacrificed nearly one fourth of its population to attain its independence, clearly was not unacquainted or indifferent to the "value" or "desirability" of freedom. If such a hecatomb fostered "tribalism" -- that is, if it condensed a heterogenous people into one in the crucible of war -- was that not something to be desired? Would divisions and personalismos have been preferable (not that these didn't exist)?
Unlike those who believe (as I do) that the 1959 Revolution was a historical aberration, López Darias maintains that it was the culmination of a process that led inexorably to the creation a totalitarian state in Cuba. This theory is also espoused by the Castroites except that to them this inexorable process culminated in "national liberation."
I do not believe in ineludible national destinies or historical forces that drive people in one direction or another. The downfall of our country was not the result of dominoes that had been tumbling for more than 100 years. It was the work of a homicidal maniac who seduced a people too little experienced with actual tyranny and too trusting in his sponsor, their neighbor and mightiest power on earth, into believing that no irreversible ill could come of an operetta revolution that claimed 184 lives on both sides. All of pre-1933 German history is now recounted as an anticipation of Hitler and there are antecedents and undercurrents enough to make a seemingly convincing but ultimately tendentious case. In Cuban history, there were no antecedents or undercurrents that could have pointed to a Castro. Hitler made his programme crystal clear in Mein Kampf long before he came to power. Castro not only concealed everything he stood for but sang a siren's song of freedom and democracy.
What was it that Cuba's entire history was tending towards? The siren song that most Cubans believed and followed or the death knell which only his enemies seemed to hear? Castro himself acknowledged once that if his own men had known that he was a Communist they would have certainly shot him. If all Cubans would have repudiated the real Castro if the real Castro had revealed himself in the beginning, is it not more accurate to say that he represented the negation rather than the fulfillment of their hopes and wishes? The illusion of freedom took the place of freedom. No promise of tyranny was made to fulfill a historic destiny that presaged tyranny.
No, there were no historical or empirical forces driving Cuba, the first Latin America country (then or now) to cross the threshhold of the First World, to renounce progress, and, indeed, civilization itself, in order to follow Castro on a long march away from everything to which her people had aspired as a nation for 100 years. It was as hostages, not willing participants, that they were driven on that road to national suicide. And it was not Castro alone but the two superpowers that forced that yoke on them and drove them on that road.
There is no disagreement between us that the last 50 years have been the most catastrophic in Cuban history. Our differences are limited to the causes of our national tragedy. This is a subject that will be discussed and debated for as long as there is a Cuba. It is necessary that it should be. Nor do I believe that there is only one possible explanation, though I am sure that López Darias' explanation is simply wrong because it is too informed by those "foreign readings" which Martí warned us against. Rand cannot explain to us the last 50 years. We must find our own answers based on our own idiosyncracies and experiences.
Estancia Cubana, as is obvious from this topic and almost all others it discussed, was a thinking man's blog, and its loss is much to be lamented on that account. It is not a requisite that I agree with a blogger's point of view for me to find merit in his blog. Because I disagree so sharply with Babalú and find little ever to praise in it, such an assumption receives credit that it does not deserve. López Darias is a succinct writer; you will find richness of ideas but no surplusage of verbiage in his posts. It would not be difficult to read his entire output in an hour with much advantage on many counts. It is our hope that he resumes his blog or starts another in the future.