Culture: the Nation's Shield and Soul

Culture: the Nations Shield and Soul

1868 – October 20 – 2008


The 21st century will have to be the century of culture, the same way the 19th century was that of inventions. Culture enriches the possessions of spirit; it creates an indestructible patrimony in the face of all kinds of contingencies, and gives us the confidence to live in a state of harmony and satisfaction.

How else to explain that when faced with natural disasters men and women find in the arts the expansion of their feelings and the confirmation of optimism in life? Culture is a door that opens to never close again. Its not a luxury or a decoration, but energy, said writer, researcher and ethnologist Fernando Ortiz. And that energy is, in turn, a generator of awareness and a reason for the development of collective determination, a driving force for creation that allows imagination to spread its wings.

Only a scientific conception of culture will produce genuine art, and will save human beings amid a century of continuous wars and automation. To preserve the historic memory as a starting point and to create a new culture will be the only solution to save the human species. Culture as imagination, as a builder of new forms, ethical and moral values, of an aesthetics that conciliates the most refined art with the message of peace that will make mans life on Earth more bearable. That will be the alternative against the feeling of total apathy, the eclipse of reason and the purest creative instincts.

On October 20, 1868, when the troops of Carlos Manuel de Cespedes seized the heroic city of Bayamo, our national anthem was sung for the first time. It was an anthem with the music by Perucho Figueredo that called upon the country to combat submission and an oppressive colonial government. National culture linked with the highest ideals of independence

That day, national culture and its highest ideals of independence reached its peak on foundations that had been laid by scholars and writers in the struggles against colonialism and slavery. Today, anchored in an identity that draws spiritual sustenance mainly from the diversity of European, African and Asian currents, we proclaim, with pride, our absolute sovereignty, forged in the popular roots and philosophical thinking of men like Felix Varela, Jose de la Luz y Caballero and Jose Marti. The historical responsibility of the generation heir to this philosophy will finally mark the nations destiny, against the selfishness, banality and intellectual inertia proposed by neoliberal capitalism.

Culture is the greatest treasure of mankind and the road leading to the realm of justice. The social horizon would be seriously impoverished without the presence of artistic and cultural expressions. One of the greatest developments of the human species is to have acknowledged diversity as an inalienable right. Dialogue and coexistence would be impossible without that recognition. Culture, therefore, gives meaning to life and to the capacity of existing in communities and of participating in collective creation. In socialism, artists and writers have acquired an important role: the right to express themselves and of existing in the fullest sense of the word. Alejo Carpentier, who had obtained the highest international recognition as a writer before 1959, said so with deep conviction. During a public activity, he expressed that for the first time, with the advent of the Cuban Revolution, he felt useful, and that his social role was fulfilled: he had passed from solitude to the solidarity that accompanied him until his death.

Today, when we mark the 400th anniversary of the birth of Cuban literature, we corroborate how right the author of The Kingdom of this World was, and how much of daily life and of the desires and spiritual aspirations of society Cuban literature has reflected and particularly poetry, which has encompassed an endless gamut of universal themes.

Coexistence in a revolutionary society contributes to collective creation and to the practice of true cultural democracy. A democracy that in these difficult times has shown that culture, as it has been often said, is both the shield and the soul of a nation, because we all participate in it and we all nourish from it. The echo of that cultural democracy has become evident in the artistic caravans of solidarity that have toured the most hurricane devastated areas of the island. There hasnt been a city, town, or remote corner of this country in which this army of voluntary artists and writers has not been present with a message of optimism. Any theory on the role of culture is subordinated to this emotional dialogue between creators and the victims of the hurricanes. Theres nothing like seeing the happy faces of children with the arrival of La Colmenita theater group to places as devastated as Manuel Sanguily, La Palma or the Isla de la Juventud, just to mention a few. Theres nothing like watching the performances of our best comedians, musicians, narrators and other artists for a receptive audience that in many cases has been left in absolute grief.

Theres nothing like bearing witness to the spiritual courage of the people, which has overcome the fury of hurricanes and that remains unscathed even in the most dramatic of all situations. And that courage serves only to demonstrate that culture is nothing but the nations soul and shield.