Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Apropos a Dream Called Republic / Miriam Celay

Apropos a Dream Called Republic / Miriam Celaya
Miriam Celaya, Translator: Norma Whiting

One hundred and ten years since that May 20th, 1902, it appears that the
Republic is only a beautiful woman of proud bearing, covered by a Greek
tunic, with long curly hair and wearing a Phrygian cap and a bright red
single star. Or maybe some Cubans here think that the Republic is a huge
bronze statue cloistered in a space too small for that monument to
national vanity which we know as Havana's National Capitol. At any rate,
the sculptural symbol seems opportune, because Republic, until today, is
a kind of abstraction that always been too big for our breeches.

I say this because, for over a century, the Republic remains a pretext
for nostalgia (the Republic we lost!), for criticizing (the "hindered"
Republic), for boasting (we had the most advanced Constitution of its
time during the Republic) or for hoping (Oh, the day we once again have
a Republic!).

The Republic has been and continues to be an essential reference for its
proponents as well as its detractors. In that short 47-year dream,
Cuba's greatest civic and economic strides and worst social evils are
cited by both sides. Again and again, each May 20th memories are
rewritten, and every time it seems that the best representation of our
Republic is just as fragile, ethereal, ephemeral and elusive as a soap
bubble. And, like any dream, the lost Republic was born wrapped in a
series of myths that are even repeated today and in which many believe:
myths that enshrine the historic fate, like heavy burdens on our
destinies, the myth of heroism, sacrifice and revolutions as avenues for

Risking general animosity, it is for all our past and present whims and
national myth mania that I have decided to honor this new anniversary of
the Republic with this radical statement: I don't want a return to a
Republic that was, with its sorrows and its glory, the one that was not
able to protect us from barbarity. I want a new one, where the podium is
occupied by its citizens.

I am not going to deny the history of my country through its epic poems,
its traditions and its portraits, but I prefer to think of heroes as men
and not as titans. Titans produce legends, not republics, that's why
prosperous nations call their founders MEN, not titans, apostles or
messiahs, and they do not call their children "soldiers of the Mother
Country", but citizens.

I want a republic, yes, but not one that is born of failed revolutions
and the perpetuation of historical lies repeated a thousand times by one
or another harmful messiah. I want a republic in which Cubans do not
feel compelled to invent heroes to defeat an ancient and ill-concealed
inferiority complex, imagining themselves as heirs of a patrimony of
pure warriors, naked and holding a machete on spirited horses,
sacrificing their lives or delivering their blood to the altar of the
Country. I do not want a republic that appeals to mothers who send their
children to supposedly holy wars, but wars, nonetheless –full of hatred,
death, violence and cruelty– or emerging from "redemptive" revolutions
that end up snatching rights and perpetuating injustices; but one that
stems from conciliation and peace, from consensus, from inclusions and
from respect: a place for citizens. It must be so, or we will, once
again, be orphans, without a Republic. Right now I can't think of a
better tribute.

Translated by Norma Whiting

May 21 2012


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