Permission to speak
Posted on Saturday, 09.26.09
Permission to speak
BY GINA MONTANER
`There's a man seated on a throne / who perpetuates himself as an
executioner / and he promises everyone / a happy, happy, happy future.''
By Porno for Ricardo
Gorki Aguila, leader of the Cuban punk band Porno for Ricardo, has come
to the United States to begin what he calls the Freedom Tour.
It shouldn't surprise us that he uses the word libertad, freedom, to
define a tour in which he'll promote his record Faded Red. We should
remember that the punk movement grew in Britain in the 1970s because, to
a great extent, of the unemployment and a social situation that
condemned many young people to marginalization.
Gorki knows a lot about marginalization — a lot more than he would
like. He was born under the Cuban dictatorship and, at age 40, his life
experiences are associated with shortages, repression, fear and
political persecution. This artist with the soul of a destroyer could
have chosen the style of the Cuban New Trova and could have been one
more member of the school that still seeks inspiration in the lyrics of
Silvio Rodríguez, the emblematic singer of pure-and-hard Stalinism, in
its Caribbean-Castroite version. But even as a youth he dreamed of being
a rip 'n' smash rocker, not a singer-composer infatuated with a blue
It was inevitable. Gorki Aguila found a reference that fit the context
of his country in the esthetics and repulsive content of groups like the
Sex Pistols, the Ramones and Clash. From the implacable and harsh
socialist realism one can defend oneself only by kicking back with raw
and bleeding lyrics that bring to the surface the muck of a putrescent
It was also inevitable that someone would try to knock out this enfant
terrible because of his boldness and irreverence, because he has refused
to join the clumsy pantomime. That is why, on two occasions, the Cuban
authorities have detained him on charges of “social dangerousness,'' a
frequent weapon used by tyrannies against the propagation of the truth
that unmasks them.
Gorki has come for the first time to Miami and has expressed himself
like the free man he decided to be from an early age. The Castro
brothers and their nomenklatura may have preferred that he be content
with being the new and servile man, but the fellow turned out to be a
rebel with a lot of causes.
In a country like Cuba, you've got to be very heavy, very destroyer to
get up every morning with a firm purpose to say what you think. Inside
and outside the island, the singer of Porno for Ricardo has said
repeatedly that he has felt and feels fear. A fear that is internalized
and can end up crushing your soul. But in his daily exercise of spitting
out truths like fisticuffs, he has managed to push the fear aside and
hold on to his dignity.
Gorki walks around in a red T-shirt with an inscription that says in
Spanish: “59. The year of the mistake.'' Nothing could say it better.
It was a disastrous year. The Cubans sold their souls to the devil, and
darkness has reigned ever since. Self-confidently, without drama, Gorki
denounces that fact to whoever wishes to listen.
Probably for that reason, he and his group could not step on the stage
in Havana where Juanes, Miguel Bosé and other artists walked the high
wire of euphemisms, to confront the core issue: The Castro military
junta is an unjustifiable crock of filth. Two days after the concert,
the Spanish newspaper El Mundo published an on-target editorial
headlined Juanes & Co. missed their chance.
Gorki Aguila hopes that the Cuban government will allow him to return to
Havana, where his daughter, friends and band members await. Meanwhile,
he's running loose throughout the world, calling things by their name.
Relaxed and in good humor, he declared at a press conference that if
freedom for Cuba must wait for the Castro brothers' death, well, let
them die right now, because his country's disease, he said, is called
Fidel and Raúl.
That's how free men speak, because the truth is always heavy.
Gina Montaner is a columnist for El Nuevo Herald.
Permission to speak – Other Views – MiamiHerald.com (26 September 2009)