• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal


We are inching along, but not as quickly as we (or you) would like. If you have already donated, thank you so much. If you haven’t had a chance, consider skipping the coffee this week and drop CounterPunch $5 or more. We provide our content for free, but it costs us a lot to do so. Every dollar counts.

Cubanness and Cuban Identity: the Importance of Fernando Ortiz

This past July 16, the work of Fernando Ortiz was declared a National Heritage. It was a moving moment, charged with a particular electric spirituality, one I shared with Barnet, Eusebio, Torres-Cuevas and others, and an act of justice regarding an essential component of the foundations of our culture and the nation itself.

In his 1949 essay “Los factores humanos de la cubanidad,” (The human factors of Cubanness), Ortiz asserted: “There are Cubans who do not want to be Cuban, and are even ashamed and deny what they are.” Among these people, “Cubanness lacks completion, it is castrated.” It is not enough, Ortiz insisted “to have in Cuba a birthplace, nation, life, and behavior.” Something more is needed: “the consciousness of being Cuban and the will to be so are necessary.” He makes s distinction between “Cubanness, the generic condition of being Cuban, and full Cuban identity, heartfelt, conscious, and desired.”

Others among our intellectuals, within the neo-colonial republic, identified different ways of seeing ourselves as Cubans.

Elías Entralgo differentiated “progressive Cuban identity” from a conservative “stationary” identity. The latter, he said, motivated “the volunteer corps under Spanish domination, facing the insurrections of 1868 and 1895.”

José Antonio Foncueva counterpoises “disinterested, comprehensive, visionary patriotism” to the “myopic,” “declarative” Cubans, accusing these of being “traitors to the most important and legitimate interests of the country, who claim to possess a great patriotic sensibility.”

Jorge Ibarra studied the “Roosevelt myth” promoted by certain influential sectors on the island before the death of the Yankee politician and military man in 1919. Considering him a supposed fighter for the freedom of Cuba, a loving “father” of Platt’s republic, there were those who came to compare Theodore Roosevelt with our greatest heroes. Nothing is further from Cubanness than this shameful idealization.

That same year, 1919, José Antonio Ramos asserted that colonial pseudo-folkloric visions were still alive in the Republic. For many people, he says, the only thing that is genuinely Cuban is what the colony allowed us: “the blackface comic, the mulatta, the hammock, tobacco, the guajira, rumba, the stylish cantúa, admiration and preference for everything foreign”.

There are very entertaining pro-annexation rumberos, who perform a clever repertory of “cubanismos,” enjoy rum, dominoes, a good cigar, strong coffee, and laugh at Pepito jokes, cry when they hear a bolero, and always wear a medal of Our Lady of Cobre around their necks. They are active practitioners of external Cubanness; but far removed from Cuban identity.

I know of one notable case: Guillermo Cabrera Infante, very Cuban in his narrative, his linguistic fireworks, and openly pro-annexation in thought and soul. His collection of articles, Mea Cuba (1992), is scandalously pro-U.S. He ferociously criticizes all anti-imperialist thinking that has developed in Cuba and our region. He considers the very concept of Latin America as a “one more cliché from the professional left.”

He discounts Martí as a fanatic who sought a “romantic death,” in Dos Ríos, with a “calculated suicide.” He interprets Marti’s reference to the “brutal and turbulent North” as the root of another left wing “cliché,” North-South duality. He reminds us that Cuba is “forever, 90 miles from the U.S. coast,” which defines our destiny and fatally condemns us to subordination. “Geopolitics are more decisive than politics,” Cabrera repeats over and over. He is someone who uses his talent and sense of humor to play with the external expressions of our culture, but belongs to the species of “castrated” Cubans.

I think that among those born in Cuba (living here or anywhere else in the world), very few are capable of disparaging Martí and promoting the annexation of our country by the United States. I know many emigrants who defend their identity on a daily basis, not with empty rituals, but as something meaningful, and consider their Cubanness precious.

Fernando Ortiz invited us to embrace our condition as Cubans with an ethical commitment to the collective efforts of our people, to work on a common project to develop “a full, heartfelt, conscious, and desired Cuban identity.” Let us listen to him and continue to nurture his work.

Abel Prieto writes for Granma, where this essay first appeared.

More articles by:
October 23, 2019
Kenneth Surin
Western China and the New Silk Road
W. T. Whitney
Stirrings of Basic Change Accompany Protests in Haiti
Louisa Willcox
Inviting the Chief of the Grizzlies to Our Feast
Jonathan Cook
The Democrats Helped Cultivate the Barbarism of ISIS
Dave Lindorff
Military Spending’s Out of Control While Slashing It Could Easily Fund Medicare for All
John Kendall Hawkins
With 2020 Hindsight, the Buffoonery Ahead
Jesse Hagopian
The Chicago Teachers Strike: “Until We Get What Our Students Deserve”
Saad Hafiz
America’s Mission to Remake Afghanistan Has Failed
Victor Grossman
Thoughts on the Impeachment of Donald Trump
Binoy Kampmark
Celebrity Protesters and Extinction Rebellion
John Horning
Spotted Owls and the National Christmas Tree
October 22, 2019
Gary Leupp
The Kurds as U.S. Sacrificial Lambs
Robert Fisk
Trump and the Retreat of the American Empire
John Feffer
Trump’s Endless Wars
Marshall Auerback
Will the GOP Become the Party of Blue-Collar Conservatism?
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
Trump’s Fake Withdrawal From Endless War
Dean Baker
Trump Declares Victory in China Trade War
Patrick Bond
Bretton Woods Institutions’ Neoliberal Over-Reach Leaves Global Governance in the Gutter
Robert Hunziker
XR Co-Founder Discusses Climate Emergency
John W. Whitehead
Terrorized, Traumatized and Killed: The Police State’s Deadly Toll on America’s Children
Evaggelos Vallianatos
A World Partnership for Ecopolitical Health and Security
Binoy Kampmark
The Decent Protester: a Down Under Creation
Frances Madeson
Pro-Democracy Movement in Haiti Swells Despite Police Violence
Mike Garrity
Alliance for the Wild Rockies Challenges Logging and Burning Project in Methow Valley
Chelli Stanley
Change the Nation You Live In
Elliot Sperber
Humane War 
October 21, 2019
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Wolf at the Door: Adventures in Fundraising With Cockburn
Rev. William Alberts
Myopic Morality: The Rehabilitation of George W. Bush
Sheldon Richman
Let’s Make Sure the Nazis Killed in Vain
Horace G. Campbell
Chinese Revolution at 70: Twists and Turns, to What?
Jim Kavanagh
The Empire Steps Back
Ralph Nader
Where are the Influentials Who Find Trump Despicable?
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Poll Projection: Left-Leaning Jagmeet Singh to Share Power with Trudeau in Canada
Thomas Knapp
Excuses, Excuses: Now Hillary Clinton’s Attacking Her Own Party’s Candidates
Brian Terrell
The United States Air Force at Incirlik, Our National “Black Eye”
Paul Bentley
A Plea for More Cynicism, Not Less: Election Day in Canada
Walter Clemens
No Limits to Evil?
Robert Koehler
The Collusion of Church and State
Kathy Kelly
Taking Next Steps Toward Nuclear Abolition
Charlie Simmons
How the Tax System Rewards Polluters
Chuck Collins
Who is Buying Seattle? The Perils of the Luxury Real Estate Boom
Weekend Edition
October 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Trump as the “Anti-War” President: on Misinformation in American Political Discourse
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Where’s the Beef With Billionaires?
Rob Urie
Capitalism and the Violence of Environmental Decline
Paul Street
Bernie in the Deep Shit: Dismal Dem Debate Reflections