On Friday, January 7, as part of an almost all-star lineup, on the program Impronta on Cubavisión, dedicated, as the name of the show indicates, to those creators that left an imprint upon our national culture in the arts or science or sport, a show was broadcast dedicated to the media rise of Luis Pavón Tamayo. Photos with high national leaders, covers of his scarce books, a feeding frenzy over an ostentatious multitude of medals, and an interview about his present day, about the works he is currently creating. With an almost inaudible voice and shaky hands, this viewer thought he heard that he “advised” some unknown institution or publishing house.
Once the program ended, the immense city of his victims, hundreds of them fortunately still living, began to call each other by phone, horrified that Cuban Television, more than thirty years after these opprobrious events led by the now immaculate Luis Pavón Tamayo, would dedicate some of its precious time and schedule to one of the most detestable people in the history of Cuban culture, including those from the colonial and neocolonial periods.
There he was, without a doubt, a man who during five long and sterile years presided over the principal institution of our culture, from his high tower in the palace of Segundo Cabo in front of the Plaza de Armas. There he was, speaking as if nothing had ever happened, washed clean by virtue of hiding, from all responsibility of his conduct in those years. Neither in the laudatory text read by the newsreader, in which the viewer-victims were informed for the first time of his importance as a poet, nor in the incoherent mutterings of the interviewee, was any reference made, not even for a second, to the ominous past in which he presided for those five years over the National Council of Culture.
That is to say that they had all drunk from the Lethean spring that causes amnesia, hoping, on the other hand, that the victims would remember their executioner. There he was, dressed in white, the great parameter-setter of important artists, now in flesh and blood, he who persecuted and expelled them from their jobs, who brought them before the workplace tribunals and robbed them of their salaries and their posts, who condemned them to ostracism and social scorn, who populated their dreams with the most horrible nightmares, who annulled national dance, mutilated the puppet theater, who sent into exile artists who were willing to work within their country and within their culture, who pursued painters and sculptors, despoiling them of their professorships and of the possibility of publishing their work, the great censor of musicians and troubadours, there he was, the person who taught Cuban artists an exercise that has almost never been practiced in our history, that of the self-censorship. The inventor and patron of mediocrity that filled his era with works that today, fortunately, nobody is interested in remembering, a kind of critical wisdom that the TV directors and their ideologues have not known how to imitate.
There he was, with a small voice and an inoffensive appearance, the man who created and indoctrinated into cultural work what Desiderio Navarro has aptly called “management styles and mechanisms that have cost decades to eradicate.”
These historic events, made to vanish by the decision of someone, nevertheless should have been known by the television viewers — the victims know them in the flesh — mostly the new generations that lack information on that period. Thus the imprint of Luis Pavón Tamayo on the national culture could be fairly judged by everyone.
Of course he is not the only unburied corpse that Cuban Television tries to put into circulation, until today without knowing for certain why. Not long ago the victims of Jorge Serguera, the former President of the ICRT, were able to see him gesticulate among the candles of a kind of radiating chapel, without moving a single muscle of his face, about his years as the leading persecutor. He also did not ask for any pardon, and on the contrary exclaimed, very full of himself, that he “regretted nothing”. His victims, in another sense, also have nothing to regret. But these two unburied are not the only ones. Some months ago on a program on Channel 2, Diálogo abierto (Open Dialogue), also broadcast during prime time hours, a cattle hand from the Pavón administration was interviewed: Armando Quesada, who had been charged with seeing to the “cleansing” of the Cuban theatre world. And that’s what he did, of course, during the time that his foreman was in power.
The only “medal” that can be accredited to Luis Pavón Tamayo is not included in the narcissistic collection that the cameras, out of place even in his own home, with the accompanying lighting technicians and make up artists, recorded arched over a table prepared as if for a theatrical set piece. This “medal” is the one that was won in fair battle when the Supreme Court found him guilty of “abuse of power” and of “unconstitutional” measures against those employed in culture. This is his greatest honor, and the most unique: he is nearly the only revolutionary leader who has obtained it. There they are, the Official Records with their various verdicts, several in total, that provoked, to a great extent, his dismissal.
Perhaps to a deterministic philosopher, Pavón would not be absolutely responsible for his actions as head of the Council. In a certain and dark measure, he is an eventual victim of the pavonato* — the peacockery* — that he himself instituted. We find a partial truth in that observation. As in Catholic theology wherein the stars incline us but do not force our free will, in modern social doctrines both circumstances, and the complicated fabric of a society at a particular time would also incline us, like new terrestrial stars, without determining our volition. According to the concept of human liberty, even in the most unyielding circumstances, a man can refuse, argue, propose various solutions, influence, or at least not exceed himself in violence. Perhaps the fact that Pavón did exceed himself provokes in his victims explanations of a psychological nature. There are desires, pleasures, phobias, and envies that contaminate any decision that appear to be impossible to avoid.
When the rehabilitation of the artists and writers that Luis Pavón Tamayo tried to annihilate forever began, and political culture entered into the period of revolutionary rectification, and the victims of the pavonato* — the Pavón régime* — were recognized in their value as creators, the old ex-President approached one of his friends to warn him, with words similar to these, ‘don’t ‘get involved too much with those who are now National Prize-winners, soon all of this will be rolled back.’ A strange thought in a professed Marxist: to conceive of historical eras as an eternal return.
Another message from Anton Arrufat
I am sending this proposal only to the four of you. It seems to me that, given the energetic reaction of so many Cuban writers and artists against the screen appearance of Pavón, Serguera, and now, I have learned, Quesada, we are in a position to ask UNEAC to require that ICRT make a public apology for what has happened. I believe that there are reasons and clout to try it. I do not think that the apology will be offered, but it would be a way to pressure them further.
P.S. Today I will be in San Antonio de los Baños all day. If I do not respond to any call or message, it will not be out of negligence or laziness.
* Translator’s note: “peacockery” (pavonato) is the author’s play on Pavón’s name- literally meaning, to the Spanish reader, “peacockery” and “Pavón régime”.
January 9, 2007
Translated by Ricote and Jorge Alberto Navarrete Llaguno