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    peoples of the sea

    The Caribbean, like modern Hellas, a handful of close cultures surrounded by common seas, is still my homeland. Now I live in New York, which in some of its parts, but especially in some of its moments, is an extension of the Caribbean, that is, a dynasty of rhythm as a way of organizing life. Rhythm is the use of “the effective word”, a term coined by Leopold Senghor in a mixed deviation from Flaubert’s “the right word”. I want to believe that the search for that compass, the education of the ear as an organ that executes the inner gaze, will allow me to fight and overcome the condition of exile as a mere state of defenselessness, since that is the first way in which exile appears to us. .

    The link between the Caribbean and the classical world of the West has been with me ever since I found in The island is repeated, the important book by Antonio Benitez Rojo, the description of our territories as a set of meta-archipelagos. The parallelism is drawn by him, not me, although it is already mine too. We are peoples of the sea, and it is precisely the kinship that we came to establish with the sea, the gateway to and from the other, which will define our specific form of government and our poetics of the world.

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    I come from a country that has turned the sea that surrounds it, each of its points, its shallows, coasts and inlets, into the prelude to a cemetery, the valley of tears that we do not always manage to cross in search of the promised land. . With our backs to the water, to its sinuous currents and abundant mysteries, we have lived suffocated on a piece of land, ignoring or depriving ourselves of that verse by Lezama that I now remember: “breezes that hold the secret of the two waves, / the chill of the dew on the skin/ and the detachment of the body from another nailed body”. We have despised the sea and the sea has taken revenge on us, engulfing us and cornering us.

    The abstract universalism of the West, let us now invoke Edouard Glissant, has turned the battle of Thermopylae into a prodigy of heroism, an individual feat, sufficient in itself, the touch of grace given by the Spartan warriors to the imposing Persian troops of Xerxes I. We can almost say that each ideology finds in the past the examples that confirm it, and that Thermopylae, thus, detached from any other simultaneous event or minimal context of the Second Medical War, seems either a totalitarian or neoliberal adventure, with its fair dose of immolation and nationalist messianism, which is the direct link between both perversions.

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    However, what truly saves the Hellenic world is not the episode commanded by Leonidas, but the battle of Salamis, which consists, as we know, of a maritime confrontation led by a people that not only was not divorced from the sea, but had He made the sea his partner, which is why at the right time the sea sided with him to defeat a vastly superior naval force. This town is, of course, Athens, which comes to give us a simple lesson, but not yet properly learned. There is no democracy, salvation, or collective story without the sea.

    Through what arrives from the sea, but mainly what the sea hides, I can then articulate what have been for me the three main lessons bequeathed by Glissant, a beloved and old friend that I discovered in Havana, in a compilation of House of the Americas called The Antillean speechand with whom I later strengthened my affective ties even more in Mexico City, where I bought the volume Faulkner, Mississippi.

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    The first of these lessons is linked to the concepts of “poetics of opacity” and “relationship politics”, categories that I have seen manifest before me and that I use in a forthcoming book-chronicle titled intruders. There I tell the story of the San Isidro Movement, a group of artists, mainly Afro-Cubans, who in recent years bravely confronted Castro’s police power in Havana.

    Finally, and despite the capital importance of these two points, the third lesson is perhaps the most extraordinary, as brief as it is forceful. He says like this: as a writer, as a Caribbean subject, but, above all, as a common citizen, you have to remain supportive and solitary. I still recoil a bit from the power and euphonic grace of this idea, which he would so much like to deserve. In such a way, hopefully as supportive as lonely, I accept and celebrate this award, with deep emotion and gratitude.


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