e-flux journal 56th Venice Biennale
i m p r e g n a b i l i t y

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo


is a Cuban writer, photographer, fiction author, webmaster of “Lunes de Post-Revolución” and “Boring Home Utopics,” and editor of Voces and The Revolution Evening Post. Pardo Lazo graduated as a molecular biologist from Havana University and the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, and was recently a visiting fellow at the International Writers Project and adjunct professor of creative writing for the New Digital Media center at Brown University. Pardo Lazo is a comunist for Diario de CubaEl Nacional, and Sampsonia Way Magazine. Since 2013, he has lectured at US unviersities on Cuban civil society and the alternative blogosphere. In 2014 O/R Books published his new Cuban narrative anthology Cuba in Splinters and Restless Books published his digital photobook Abandoned Havana. Pardo Lazo’s short story collection, Boring Home, was censored in Cuba in 2009. He has been arrested three times on the island.





Illustration by Alen Lauzán Falcón.

Dreaming of Fidel. Cubans, though none have yet

to admit it, have begun to dream of Fidel. It is

a posthumous dream, one that bodes ill. A

premonition. A sleepless fear. A final 

humiliation of the Premier by his fellow countrymen—

technically his troops.

 

And there is also the sense that we are doing away with

Fidel: the timely nightmare that, by force of nature—

and of violence—we Cubans now need a lingering Fidel,

half-mummified, hoarse, his skin petrified or putrefied,

fecalphobic, senile or whatnot, but still Fidel.

 

Lacking icons, we now depend on that dreamed-up

image—unwillingly, even—in order to

continue being who we were, after half a century

of despotic dictatorship with an angelic twist. I,

who am not quite sure how to say it: Revolution

 

We dream of this, both within and outside the Island. In

Havana’s socialist torpor, or in the hyper-Havana that is

the Mephistophelean malls of Miami, we dream it.

In the ever more cosmopolitan Cuban ghettos, and

in the cemeteries filled with bones of an ever lessening

local color, we dream.

 

We fall asleep in the middle of the day and dream of it.

Like zombies on a bus bound for home,

nodding off without realizing we’ve already missed

our stop, dreaming of it. Chewing the gum of

victory as we drive down a Florida expressway

or march in a militaristic parody right across

Revolution Square, dreaming, ever dreaming of it.

 

Children and the elderly. Men and women. White and

Black. All of them mixed, and yet immiscible. Like

water and vinegar. Like the Revolution and the future

which was ever coming to pass. Like Fidel and the collective

dream that Cubans now conjure of him, both outside

and within the Island: how do we diagnose geographies after

a cancerous century of geopolitics?

 

Dreaming that we dream of Fidel. One after another,

all of us together, dreaming this same, shameful

dream in harmony. The Revolution is a sounding board,

a watch that now has just a bit of

residual tension in the springs. A zigzagging, pessimistic-tock:

reading oneiromantically between the lines.

 

It’s best just to lie to our psychoanalyst in Brickell,

Barcelona, Santiago de Chile, or West New York. When

being interrogated by officials, it’s best to pretend

in exchange for pesos issued by the Minister of the Interior.

And it’s best not to confess anything to Cuba’s Catholic Cardinal,

a profane pastor who would later confess everything

to Fidel in another dream.

 

Blame gelds us all as Cubans. Guilt has trained us

to be a submissive breed. The shame of feeling sorry

for our perpetual dependence on a Founding Father.

We don’t want to be accomplices to Fidel’s eternity,

just as we are about to show off our best clothes

at his wake.

 

But we cannot walk through the world without Him. We

lose our way if we cannot count on His center of mass—

comfort for the masses. This is why we are surprised and

not surprised by these unfathomable dreams of Him.

 

Too many decades trapped in too much country. 

Cuba is a scaffold, a conspiracy theory on a cerebral

level. We float on Fidel, on a raft of barbarism.

Castro is a hell of a cork who won’t allow the Island

to sink, preventing we Cubans from drowning in peace.

 

It seeps out of us, not just from every nook and cranny, but also

from our dreams. It leaves us. We exude Fidels through every

pore, we savor them in every bite of Creole food, we rhyme

them in each bit of bad poetry and in every perfect piece of

plagiarism: here the oneiric yearning, the long lost transparency

remains

 

On and even deeper within the Island. Fidel directing

the firing squads from the La Cabaña fortress;

Fidel designing the underground trenches that have turned

the Cuban capital into Swiss cheese. Outside and far beyond

the Island. Fidel infiltrating the capitalist studios of

Radio y Televisión Martí; Fidel applauding from the runway

while Cuban-American supermodels like Vida Guerra,

whose name is a spontaneous metaphor

for our unepic little epoch.

 

Fidel on the cover of Playboy for his sixtieth birthday,

Wednesday the 13th of August, 1986. Fidel as the official

shield on the red passports for deserting the

proletarian paradise—and the paracivilian police. 

Fidel swindling the other post-paradise exiles that are

the bills, the taxes, and the online goodwill of Obamacare. 

Fidel with no aspirations and now with no animus,

while we Cubans dream of ourselves,

even confounding the image and the likeness

of the shapeless specter of a Morpheus called Fidel.

 

Perhaps we are those dreamers of an uncivilized

Bertolucci, a race of New Men who then dreamt up

Ernesto Guevara—AKA Ché. In the left hand,

the AKM rifle of virtue. With the right, depositing

the tribute of a dark-penny-party-parted-down-

the-middle in the juke box in the last nationalized bar.

The Power of the People: that indeed was power … Not

one drop of water in the sea … Only the crystals crack, while

the men sleep standing up

 

We are happy here, feeling one hundred percent Cubano.

We have fallen ill, true, but we have yet to be

evicted. We have a fistful of pills that are ineffective

when it comes to stopping this dream, and droves of

free doctors conferred by the State in a clinical,

cyclical referendum from which we can’t even manage

to centrifugate ourselves.

 

Sleeping while standing up. Or with the neck resting on

a pillow stuffed with op-eds from Granma, the political

pamphlet from the only political party that has no

expiration date. Standing up or in choirs committed to

an organic—though never orgasmic—intellect: I have been a

Communist, all throughout my life, goodbye my darling,

goodbye my darling, goodbye my darling, bye bye,

and Communists all must sleep

 

Cubans have become the orphans of Icarus, not unlike

Odysseus without his Ithaca. With no wings to fly, and a

Cuba to which we cannot return. A carnival of siren songs

beneath a baton-wielding Cerberus with 1959 heads,

beneath the boot-trodden palindrome of 9591 bodies.

 

From orgiastic to an ergastulum. From moral indolence

to material indigence. From tribal enthusiasm to

the skeptical stampede. From semiotic solidarity to

the tobacco knife that nicks your face, papi, or your ass,

mami, so that you learn some respect.

 

From the museum of historical anniversaries to the

mausoleum of the Retrovolution. From the marvels of Marxism

to the miracles of marketing. From History with the capital H

of a nuclear Holocaust to the lowercase h of a humorous

history of molecular hirony. Wunderkammer, Wunderkafka.

We shall overcuba, we shall overcuba, we shall overcuba

one day

 

Erotic schizophrenics from dream to dream. From

lucidity to libido. Onanistic oneirics, executing the

most faithful fellation on the seminal speeches of “El Caballo"

Fidel, Stud in Chief of a streetcar named, at times,

“duty” and otherwise known as “pain”—a puppet theater

without puppeteers, the last act of intrigue, hypothalamus of

the vigilant watching the vigil. Oh, not anymore

 

There can be no more awakening on the Island. Or we awake only

to realize we are awash in another sea of delirium. And within

someone else’s delirious dream. Swimming in a liquid nothingness

covered by a milky skin created not so much by tears but by

rheumy sleep. Bailing buckets of Cuban tears evaporated

by the unbearable insularity of being, each of them

bearing a tattoo of NaCl on their cheeks.

 

Nationalism as insurmountable mountains of salt. Eons of

Iberian ions. What power does the sun have against a people

who enjoy the rhetorical rhythms of their own narcolepsy? 

Hear the bugles bang … Uno, dos y trés Uno, dos, y trés

What a cool way What a cool way … My conga bangs like Che

 

Sleepiness as an anesthetic. Ah, if Fidel were to escape

at the precise moment in which he has reached his

greatest definition. Amnesia, amnion. Amateur

shit from the multimillion dollar grants from the

leftist academy. Morbid morality from the rotting right.

Unethical ethnography, lifeless biographies. Cremating the

Dantesque concept of the “comandante.” Serialized

editorials in the Old York Times. The Rockefidel Foundation.

Who puts the bell in the Cubans’ castroistic catalepsy?

 

We appear as Poe characters. A Ravenlution of atonic,

catatonic little beings. The catcher in the Ryevolution.

But in the end we’re just children dreaming about their

dad: millions of Sleeping Beauties, virgins poisoned

by the fruit of the moringa tree with the thorns like a

marabú bush.

 

Peter Pans with Stockholm syndrome. Passengers on the

Mariel boat lift, seasick from the surf. Scarfaces from an

antiestablishment Oliver Stoned. Naive northalgia. Rites

broken to reconcile the Cuban nation with itself, at least

as long as this REM sleep continues, this symphony playing

Do-Re-Mi in D sharp major, this Oedipus Rev, this sinister

siesta of the Rewindvolution.

 

The strange thing is that dreams of Fidel are always

silent, fairly unfocused, filmed with a high-speed slow-motion

lens, and our retinas are blinded by the high-contrast

atmosphere. Intimate and intimidating neorealism. And

that massive muteness, that vocal void, that hollow echo is

our untimely revenge against the fifty-year monologue

with which Fidel mesmerized us.

 

What no Cuban knows is that everything is happening

to every other Cuban in the exact same way.

That the curse of utopias is never personal,

but rather collective. And that this daily dozing

is not announcing the fall of Fidel, but rather that

of his faithful: we, the sleepwalkers, to which Castro

do we owe our survival?

 

Suddenly we find ourselves neither inside or outside the game,

but rather with nothing to play. The dominos are stuck.

The genie with the tuft of hair extinguished Aladdin’s lamp.

From siá cará to San Finishin. Santero-socialist spoils mixed

with bitter escuba shrubs and cursed water. The courage, the

discouragement: the fountain of faith has ceased to flow. There is

no game, but then again, nor are there any moves. Being in

Zugzwang, the beginning and end of the Cuban dreamverse.

Cubaom

 

The Cuban who moves now does not appear in the photo

of self-transition: from dictatorship to dictocracy. For the

Cuban who moves now, it is better to die before he is killed

like Laura Pollán and Oswaldo Payá: Christs of Democracy with

the criminal Cubansummatum est of the Cuban Catholic Cardenal.

From biopolitics to necropolitics, and for the cruel one who

tears out the heart which beats inside of me,

I nurture Castro and Ortega

 

May the muted dreams not impede the dreams in English. 

The language in league with the enemy. Everything tempts

the United States to reach out and touch down, with that

extra force, upon our Latin American lands where fidelism

is the most fertile. The carrion Caribbean. The fideloma that

ultimately metastasizes into ballots rather than bullets.

 

May being silent never prevent a dream from being

deafening. The whisper of a totalitarian Tatlin: the

cry that catapults Cubans generation after

degeneration, like little sleepwalking animals. We had

two homelands: Cuba and the night. Or were they

one and the same?

 

Dreaming of Fidel. Cubans, though none have yet

to admit it, will never stop dreaming about Fidel. That

murderous dream constitutes us as an impossible people.

We gesticulate with the same rudeness as him. We think

with his same impoverished perversion. We repeat his

argot of war, both in the tribune and in the tribunal,

applauding our out-of-fashion supermodel, Muerte Guerra,

whose name is more familiar to us in dreams than that of

our own mother: Satán María de la Sierra Maestra,

ora pro nobis.

 

Or perhaps the idea of us no longer exists. Absolutely

apocryphal, faced with the false fossil of Fidel, we are now

all a bit of him. A crust of Castro covering the soul,

our castrated spirituality. And yet we also have the

sense that we are aborting Fidel. The intuition that,

by force of habit—and by vileness—we, the Cuban people,

are for the first time what is undreamable for Fidel:

we have finally become the fetus of a future of which

the Caudillo could never conceive.

 

Thus, our dreams of Fidel are neither a tribute

nor an interment, but rather a cenotaph: a crypt

without its exquisite cadaver. A stateless palindrome.

A crossword puzzle without a clue. A tongue twister

for the illiterate. A communion at the boundaries of the State

and of God. A vaudevillian verity: that every Revolution is

both sleep and dreams, which are themselves merely

the dreams of dreams.

×


© 2015 e-flux and the author