The Intellectual Debate

In January and February 2007, a series of texts circulated through emails among many Cuban intellectuals.  These emails formed a virtual historic debate on Cuba’s cultural policies over the previous 48 years.

The digital magazine Consenso collected this email debate and posted it in one place.  This site will provide, email by email, author by author, an English translation.  Work on the translations began in 2008, but little progress was made up to now, 2010.  Hopefully this year the entire body of communications will be translated, providing an invaluable resource to observers and scholars of Cuba. [2011 update: Still a long way to go... but a lot of people are helping... and you can too: Click HERE to translate.]

The following text is a translation of the Introduction to the Intellectual Debate posted on the Consenso website.

Introduction from Consenso website

As is well known, it all started when the young writer Jorge Angel Perez sent a message expressing his surprise and displeasure at the appearance on Cuban television of several people who, in the decade of the 1970s, played a leading role in one of the darkest periods of national culture.  Almost immediately the essayist Desiderio Navarro, the art critic and writer Orlando Hernández, and the writers Antón Arrufat, Reinaldo Gonzalez and Arturo Arango joined the controversy by sending emails that circulated among hundreds of addresses within and outside Cuba.

The portfolio shown here contains over one hundred participants, many of whom sent more than one message.   Appearing here are those who wrote from within Cuba, and those who joined in from abroad, the signatures of leading figures as well as those of the unknown, along with no shortage of pseudonyms.  There are texts, photos and cartoons; they are from academics, the passionate, and people from every side.  The sources are varied, from the newspaper Granma to the digital magazine Encuentro en la red, but fundamentally we have received the generous help of friends who have passed on the messages they received.

To facilitate searching, each debater has a page with all of their messages organized chronologically, and from within each page the reader will be able to see a dynamic index of the other participants, organized alphabetically by first name.

A note on the translations

These translations have been prepared by volunteer translators working through the HemosOido.com cooperative translation site. These texts are, in many cases, written at least in part in the “formalized” language of intellectual debate. They also include numerous references to people and events not introduced or explained here. And, of course, they are rich with “Cubanisms” and playful use of the language.  All of this is a huge challenge to our volunteers, and we are all doing “the best we can.”  We welcome comments, corrections, clarifications. Please consider these translations no more than a “rough guide” to the debate, which certainly merits the skills of professional academic translators; hopefully one day that, too, will come to pass!

That said, there are many who have questioned why we are even bothering “to translate these old emails no one cares about.” Because WE care about them and think they are an invaluable resource for a broader understanding of Cuban history.

(Meanwhile, a special thanks to Regina Anavy who has taken on this project with great energy and who is the translator of about two-thirds of the completed posts.)

What’s what? Who’s who?

We hope to bring you, in the not too distant future, a fuller explanation of the events surrounding this debate and the people involved in it. Please stand by.

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