Azucena Plasencia, Havana, 16 Nov 2014
The first three issues of IDENTIDADES are already in circulation. It is a publication of the Plataforma de Integración Cubana (Platform for Cuban Integration), a “non-profit, non-partisan organization whose goal is to advocate for the rights of Afro-Descendants and other marginalized groups in Cuba, and recover the history of their active participation in the founding and development of the nation and its culture.”
IDENTIDADES is a continuation of ISLAS, a bilingual journal published in the United States with support from U.S. universities. For ten years it served more as an academic instrument than as a real form of communication with Cuba’s inhabitants, and was censured and impounded at the island’s airports. It intellectual relevance was noteworthy, given the figures—historians, essayists, researchers—that were published in it. Now, IDENTIDADES stands out because of its real circulation in the country’s interior and its dissemination amidst broad segments of the population.
Structured in set sections—“Race, Class, Gender in Cuba and the World,” “The Cuban Civil Movement and its International Repercussions,” “Democracy in Cuba: Challenges and Perspectives”—its articles are signed by historians, psychologists, attorneys, independent journalists, sociologists, and essayists like Enrique Del Risco or political scientists like Manuel Cuesta Morúa, leader of the Progressive Arc Party (PARP). Using studies and first-hand data, and exploring used and abused statistics, their texts reflect upon, evaluate, and analyze their current society’s situation: “the crises, traumas and fractures we endure can no longer be hidden by government manipulation and silences” (Leonardo Calvo, “Against Fractures and Divisions”). They also revisit history in different articles, all sharing a common, passionate thread: Cuba, its identity, its internal struggles, and its difficult integration into the modern world.
In addition, we read about “Monetary Chaos and its Social Effects” (Armando Soler Hernández), “A Critique of the Cuban Penitentiary System” (Veizant Boloy), “Rastafaris in Cuba: The Hidden Truth” (Guillermo Ordóñez Lizama), “Female Leadership and its Challenges” (Yaremis Flores), “Ifá Predictions for Cuba un 2014” (Víctor Betancourt) or “Ingredients for a Cuban Ajiaco Stew” (Ricardo Lazo Páez), among other things.
The journal’s first three issues together are an overwhelming collection of writing about injustice and its causes; they offer an assertive array of ideas about democracy and demand a transformation for Cuban society. The value of each author can be measured by what he or she is able to contribute to a public conversation: frequently, this debate is being carried out by thinkers who are the same age, have had similar experiences, likeminded theoretical rhetoric, and “a collective task” to bring to fruition.
IDENTIDADES has come on the scene and is now essential reading for understanding how we have come to be whom we are, or politically analyzing how we think. Welcome!