Carlos Aguilera

* 1970  

  • "I think [a waste of time] is something that has deep roots in Latin America from the past, but in Cuba it is intensified by the revolution. Not only intensified, the Cuban Revolution has turned the waste of time into a ubiquitous symptom. In fact, if you deprive someone of the possibility of a better future, because the only future that awaits everyone is marked by permanent sacrifices you make, and everything that happens next will only be an aimless continuation of the present state, so people will lose even the smallest interest, they´ll lose all motivation to work on themselves. People in Cuba do not live in time, they live in something which is just a waste of time. And it negates the very essence of time. I remember talking to someone once, I was still in Cuba and the person was a foreigner. He told me, 'Here in Cuba, you have so much time for writing and things like that. Obviously, everyone has a lot of time here. 'And I replied,' But it is not so. The problem is that on one hand there is time as something we perceive and think about as an opportunity to create something. On the other hand there is some free time, but not in the sense of free time to create, but in the sense that you have time off, just because you don't know what to do.' "

  • "I was very impressed when I was returning home once in Bonn. I think I went to see a friend and we drank and talked. When I left to go home, it might have been three o'clock in the morning and streets were completely empty, not a soul anywhere, I spotted two people standing on the pavement edge because the traffic lights were red. They were waiting for them to turn green so they could cross. I was absolutely gobsmacked. You don't even wait in Cuba at midday. You just cross the street wherever you can. At that moment, I realized that there was a certain concept of order that I hadn´t known until then, which I had to learn to understand."

  • "It's very complicated because you permanently have to get used to a new environment. In every city you move to, you basically start from scratch. It puts you in a position where you are much more vulnerable. There are times when it's not easy. You feel that you have nothing to lean on, anything to catch. It takes effort to find some points of contact. You have to find your footing again and again in each new place. It is not quite a pleasant situation and I would say that at some point you even feel scared. I went through about four or five different cities like this. I think that the frequent changes made the whole process of getting used to exile quite difficult for me. And again, I don't want it to sound like a lament, because in this context it might sound pathetic. But yes, I must say that the constant new beginnings were sometimes hard for me. You don't really know where your place is, because every time you arrive somewhere, you know in advance that it's going to be only for a while."

  • "It was difficult for me to go into exile. I spent the first year in Germany, but I knew absolutely nothing about that country. I couldn´t speak the language and everything was completely different - whole way of life. Bonn was the first city I stayed in. I remember having a rather depressing period there. The winter hit very hard, I didn't speak German, it was difficult. Some people around me have tried to help me in Bonn and make my stay as pleasant as possible so that I could cope with it, but you still get into a depressive tunnel. Suddenly it is difficult for you to work and even functioning normally costs you a lot of effort. It takes an effort to overcome it because you suddenly feel lonely in a totally new environment. You don't have your old friends and your whole life is lost. Plus, the language barrier... Altough life in Cuba was hard, it was still life you were used to. Suddenly you don't have any of that. People speak differently, behave differently, touch each other differently. It was a long process before I was able to get into it in a way. Of course, there's nothing special about the fact that things work differently in other places, I don't want it to sound like whining. You probably just have to get used to it.”

  • [After a long, unnecessarily thorough and confused inspection at Havana Airport.] "Until the last minute, it was one big agony. Until the last moment, they threatened that I wouldn´t be allowed to fly out of Cuba. Which meant that I would have to stay there, that I would be punished and humiliated. After all, we are talking here about a country where you are more or less humiliated all your life. Then I remember how we finally managed to get on the plane - there were three of us - when we got on board and all the passengers had been already sitting in their seats, waiting for us, I sat down in my seat and the plane peeled off the ground. I felt immensely relieved. I told myself I would never come back. When I managed to get out of there, then until there was a change and this system disappeared, I would not return. And I did not come back. I flew out of Cuba in 2002 and I haven't been there since then. That departure meant a great relief to me. It meant to me that I would no longer have to experience such humiliation. Not only at the airport, but in life in general. I will not be humiliated like this."

  • "I began to understand what was really going on at the moment when I started to discover the world of literature. Thanks to reading, I became critical of Marxism and began to oppose the Cuban Revolution. Gradually I read more and more and I also spoke with people. I began to notice the perversions that were evident in the relationship between the ideology and the society. I began to understand what was going on here. It must have been a little later, I could have been fifteen or sixteen. I remember that in school we had a teacher of Marxism-Leninism, which was a separate subject in the second grade and at secondary school. We were in his class when he started to explain that all means of production belonged to the people. At that time, we were already asking questions and doubting it. And then the teacher told us, 'Look, nothing of what I'm saying here has absolutely nothing to do with what is really going on in society. It does not exist. Therefore, do not ask any questions. It has nothing to do with reality. 'I remember this sentence very well even now, and it has been forty years since then."

  • "For the first time, something broke in me - and I was nine years old, so I wasn't quite able to absorb it and cope with it in any way - when in 1980 people were leaving Cuba via the port of Mariel. I was in a lower class in primary school. At that time, one of my friends didn´t show up at school for about a week. I thought he might be sick or something. But one day the teacher announced in the morning that we would have to go together to throw stones in front of his house while shouting slogans. I wasn´t able to find an explanation for it and I was confused - he was my friend, so why? His parents had decided to leave Cuba via the port of Mariel. They had asked for permission and were waiting. I didn't understand it at all, but it was the first time I noticed that something strange was happening."

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    Praha, 28.05.2020

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You can’t look forward to anything in communism and that sucks

Carlos Aguilera in 2020
Carlos Aguilera in 2020
photo: Post Bellum

Carlos A. Aguilera was born in 1970 in Havana. He and his mother lived in the El Cerro district near the city centre. As a child, Carlos did not stand out in any way, his family did not differ from the majority of the Cuban population in social and political behavior. He used to go to the Pioneer organization and his mother worked as an accountant. In the 1970s, their lives were marked by constant power cuts and a lack of money. These are the main things that Carlos recalls of this period, which was very difficult for almost all Cubans. The lack of basic things was nothing extraordinary at that time. A little later, when he was about twelve years old, he slowly began to get acquainted with the world of literature. Since then, his life has been affected by books. He knew from the beginning that one day he would become a writer. With this in mind, he became a part of various literary circles and workshops, where he had the opportunity to meet people with the same interest. He attended public readings in the homes of Cuban writers and, together with several friends, they founded a literary group that later turned into one of the most important voices of contemporary Cuban literature - Grupo Diáspora (s). The group published a magazine dealing mainly with such topics as the relationship between an intellectual and the state. The goup spoke out against generally accepted realism in literature and culture. They perceived the writer primarily as a performer and a person who thinks about literature. Due to the specific character and ideological orientation of the group, the Cuban authorities soon became interested in its members. Nevertheless, Carlos managed to publish some relatively successful books. In 2001, he was offered the German PEN club scholarship. At first, however, everything indicated that he would not go anywhere due to his political conviction. This eventually changed after the pressure, which was exerted on the Cuban authorities not only by the German PEN club, which threatened to make Carlos’ case public, but also by the mayor of Bonn, where he was to stay during the scholarship. After leaving Cuba, Carlos has never returned. As an author, he was a success and won many literary scholarships in several Central European cities. He stayed in Germany, Austria and finally in the Czech Republic, where he still lives with his Czech wife. He continues to write, his books are translated into many foreign languages. He is also involved in the InCubadora project, which supports a network of independent libraries in Cuba.