Today’s post is written by a fellow comrade I met in Cuba when we filmed East of Havana. What can I say about Pablo Herrera except he’s ALL CUBAN to the core… an ex-linguisistic professor at the University of Havana, Pablo was one of those local Cubans with a perfect English accent. He was also a Rap Producer… the biggest one on the island. For a little while, Pablo was the only guy in the ‘hood with an MPC player, thus making his home the coveted hangout spot in the 90’s and first half of 2000’s for all hungry rappers looking to lay down some tracks. Pablo’s vinyl collection contains all the original DNA of Cuba’s early era of hip hop albums.
Outsiders like Fab Five Freddy, Dead Prez, and other Hip Hop conduits from the US were usually tour-guided through the island via Pablo who offered a refreshing, eye-opening, intellectual, yet hip view of the country. When visiting Cuba, Pablo is the man you want to hang with, walk to the malecon, buy a bottle of Havana Rum, sit on the wall, and pontificate for hours — expanding each others perceptions of life.
Pablo eventually secured himself a Visa to leave Cuba in the late 2000’s, although he returns often to visit his family. Unlike most Cuban’s who haven’t mastered their traveling rituals with the government, Pablo (by the grace of God) enters and exits the island for his University studies. His viewpoint has always been important to me, mostly because he understands the balance of opinion from Cubans on both the “inside” and “outside”. He’s a litmus test of what Popular Cuban opinion feels worldwide yet grounded enough to share with me what the true “word on the street” of the underground is.
The last time I enjoyed Pablo’s company and broke bread with the man, he attended our East of Havana premiere at the Edinburgh Film Festival in Scotland in 2006 where he resided due to college studies at the moment. I can’t express how good it felt to see an Alamarian Cuban on the other side of the world. It was a grand evening, and we all toasted sharing this story with the public together.
Today Pablo lives in the UK. He sends me a note about the curious riots in London this week in which Cuban flags were waved around due to a matter unrelated to Cuba… we suspect as a statement of free education?
Here’s Pablo’s own words describing the incident….
What’s the Cuban Flag Doing Here?
By Pablo Herrera
Yesterday, Tuesday, December 9, 2010, a Cuban flag was waved during yesterday’s events in Parliament Square, Westminster, London. Confronting riot police, some of the hundreds of protesters vandalized part of the facade of the Treasury building in Westminster, London, after learning that the House of Commons’ vote approved the raise of University tuition fees in England. Watch the video in segments – 0:07-13, 0:55-57, 01:02-03
The way in which BBC News dealt with yesterday’s incident in Parliament Square reminded me a bit of what I have heard and read about what happened during May of ’68, in Paris, a year after I was born. But there is something that I find really interesting, and it’s that amidst the “attack” on the Treasury building someone would carry a Cuban flag, as can be seen in the background of the shot of the demonstrators over the square, whilst the reporter’s account of the events in this small segment ends when the same reporter labels ‘missile’ what Cubans would call ‘Cambolo.’ I wonder what would be the reporter’s comment on what we call ‘the Cuban flag,’ had he referred to it.
I am not clear about the gravity of my observation, but it isn’t less interesting in the wave of controversy over the fate and current situation of Cuba. The London sighting of the Cuban flag happened three days after Fariñas and fellow dissidents publicly released a document demanding change and rejecting the ‘modernization’ of the Cuban economic model as outlined in the basic document issued by the Cuban Communist Party before its upcoming 6th Congress to be held next April 2011.
I am wondering if those images of the Cuban flag in London adjust to the ideals proposed by the Cuban opposition or to those proposed today by the Revolution.
In this case, it may seem obvious that the Cuban flag represents those who are against the raise of tuition fees for higher education in the UK. But what does it represent then for the Cubans who like me are here in the UK? What else does it signify in this context? Is the Cuban flag as global as the face of Che on a can of soda? Or like the American flag that has burned so many times? Or like the A of anarchy? This is one of the most arbitrary presentations of the Cuban flag that I’ve ever seen. I would think that within one of these extremes that I mentioned lays its symbolic matter.
Since I cannot grasp its full significance I ask myself again: What’s the Cuban flag doing there?
You can read more of Pablo’s own words at his blog, Dgitalbapappan.blogspot
Photos: Portrait & Albums by Angela Boatwright. Polaroid of Home Studio by Jauretsi. Images for East of Havana