Jorge Olivera Castillo

* 1961  

  • “Well, the scholarships really were not what they were supposed to be... I realized that it was a way to take away some of the parents’ power. In other words, the State, as has happened throughout this process, has appropriated and has usurped the space that belongs to parents in the sense of education. And for that reason, all the issues that we are facing in this matter now, thus in moral matters, in ethical matters, are given for that very reason – for that separation at really very complicated ages... To separate, to give a scholarship to the students, thus, to separate them from the guardianship of parents. I believe that it is part of the indoctrination of the State. It is a program for a greater purpose, for social control. To manipulate the minds of the students, of the boys in this exact case, and to uproot them from the family in that way.”

  • “To shape a society takes time, and we still have not left the Castro regime. And I believe that we will not leave it in the short or medium term. I do not think so. Castroism, as I told you, is legitimized, it belongs to all international forums, it is accepted, the level of criticism is minimal. For example, regarding Venezuela and Nicaragua... It is accepted and tolerated. The only country with which Cuba has no diplomatic, commercial or economic relations, is the United States. That has been exploited to a certain extent as a source of legitimacy for the Cuban government. Unfortunately, [Castroism] is accepted by Europe, and these are very important countries in the international context, they are not countries that can be set aside. The dictatorship has been accepted. And in the United States, the issue of Cuba has become more likely an electoral issue more than anything else.”

  • “Cuban society is a sick society in many ways, it is a society that has put a policeman in each person’s mind. There is fear, nobody trusts anyone, everyone suspects their neighbor or their friend could be a policeman. Breaking those patterns is very difficult, because they have been passing on from generation to generation. It is also difficult to be under the constant bombardment of the media, the indoctrination in the schools that remains unaltered... And all these things create a kind of stagnation that is favorable to the government, as of course the government itself ensures that this state remains the same. Above all, there is also the inability to sustain ourselves economically, I say this because of the impossibility of the Cuban people being able to live off their own sweat, their effort, regardless of if it is physical or intellectual, and this also creates a dependency on the State. And since there are no legal means of providing for sustenance in these mechanisms, Cubans have to ask for help from their relatives or friends who are settled abroad, or if they do not have this option, to live from illegal activities, which then becomes prone to blackmailing. In other words, being forced to commit a crime against the established laws in order to survive, and I say to survive, not to live in luxury, nor live with excess, so then you already become an ethically demobilized being, a being that is prone to blackmailing, as he is doing something illegal, and he does not have the morals or ethics necessary to assume a role in a group, because they would ask him: ‘But how did you buy this?’ Therefore, it is a society and a system created to build a kind of servitude. Because we are really slaves. When we analyse how the Cubans live today, we are all slaves.”

  • “When I share my beginnings, let’s say in a professional sense, with literature, so not only as a reader but also as a writer, I always say that they developed in a hostile environment. And I cannot explain why this creative spark – to capture all the accumulation of experience that I had in my head, to dump it or convert it with literary tools – appeared when I was in the isolation cells there in the Combined Provincial Prison of Guantánamo. I think the loneliness and the huge shock which I felt being in those conditions, and above all the loneliness... I had to fill the space in some way, I did not talk to anyone, my only visitors were the rats, the ants and the wasps that entered between the bars of the window. And to remember... To step on a little ledge, to look out of the barred window, at the grass, making my ideas, remembering the good times of my life, remembering my family, my wife, my children. That was a way to fill the space. Because there, in the cell, one day is a whole week.”

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    Habana Vieja, Cuba, 19.09.2018

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Edgar Allan Poe imagined all those sinister things. I lived them in person

Jorge Olivera Castillo
Jorge Olivera Castillo
photo: Post Bellum Cuba

Jorge Olivera Castillo was born in 1961 the neighborhood of Belén in Old Havana, Cuba. He is a Cuban poet and dissident. For ten years he worked as an editor at the Cuban television station ICRT, but after an unsuccessful attempt in 1991 to leave Cuba on a raft, he was relegated to an inferior post, and so he decided to quit his job as a television editor. In 1993 he made his first report for the Miami-based Radio Martí and joined the opposition. In 1995 he and other journalists founded Havana Press, a free journalism agency of which he later became director. He was prosecuted during the Black Spring of Cuba in 2003 and was part of the Group of 75 imprisoned opponents; he spent nine months in solitary confinement. At the trial, he was sentenced to 18 years in prison, but this was changed to a conditional sentence for health reasons after 18 months. His literary work is based on his prison experience; he focuses on short poems and stories.