Desde Dentro de Cuba.

Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. - http://www.cubafreepress.org

Abril 7, 1999

EUROPEANS LEARN ABOUT CHIEF HATUEY'S FATE 350 YEARS LATE By Raul Rivero, Cuba Free Press.

HAVANA - The "news" about the burning alive in a crackling colonial bonfire of Chief Hatuey, the native Cuban leader (actually he came from the Dominican Republic), was published in Europe nearly three and a half centuries after it happened.

The pious Spaniards who set the rebel Indian on fire did it hoping that Hatuey would go directly to heaven so (they thought) they would not need to face either justice or the criticism of their peers, since this evil chapter in history, in spite of the flames, unfolded in the dark.

The "History of the Indies" written by Father Bartolomé de las Casas, essential narrator of the chief's torture, was edited in Madrid in five volumes between 1875 and 1876. But the priest started writing it in 1527 when he wasthe bishop of Chiapas.

If the arrival of the "conquistadores" had been preceded, as is the norm nowadays by a mediator caravel, the colonization process and the extermination of the autochthonous (aboriginal) communities might have been different. I am convinced that if members of the Human Rights Royal Apostolic Commission had traveled in one of the cabins of "the Pinta, the Niña or the Santa María," the unfolding of the process in which some men forced their philosophy and customs on others would have been different.

I do not want to continue with this sort of fictional journalism because I speak the same language as those who came by sea, and besides it is rather stale news.

I speak about this matter because darkness, silence, pseudonyms, masks and remoteness, constitute a paradise for executioners of all times.

That is why transparency's ability to offer something unreal and blurry is not as important as the nakedness of absolute light at each crossroad of modern societies, wherever the intolerant, the powerful, the corrupt and the dogmatic and their servants impose their will.

The presence of arrogant people with their cameras and questions, indeed only the announcement that they are about to arrive, sets off the alarm of every offending category. They will be negligent and hound, harass and crush, but their photos will be taken and they will be characterized and fixed with their terrible gestures.

Journalism is not God's embassy. But a community or a country without a free press may turn into a military camp or into an arbitrary plot.

The Cuban authorities, always on the lookout for a decree or a law with which to paralyze our work as independent journalists have started to utilize their press to confront serious internal social problems.

Not so long ago national TV showed some criminals, nicknamed ninjas because they assault trucks and vehicles on the road. The thieves were caught while at work not by the police but by the press. They were fleeing the cameras, jumping fences and small ravines.

This could be a lesson. Under the scrutiny of the international press, with that solidarity which surpasses the press releases and news - without meaning to - but only carrying out the duty to inform, the world's communication means are placing their civilized imprint on contemporary Cuba.

Fortunately there is no need to wait three and a half centuries for the whole world to find out about the news. Technology has brought the rivers Seine two blocks from home, the Ebro can be seen from my balcony and at times I am able to see fishermen walking toward the Mississippi.

During sleepless nights and at times of preoccupation and fear, star gazing in Havana and seeing the Polar Star, Orion and the Big Dipper and the smaller constellation of satellites which watch from outer space, serenity and peace are bestowed on me.

Raúl Rivero, Cuba Free Press.


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