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Isbel Diaz Torres: Pinar del Rio and Havana are my cities. I was born in one on March 1, 1976, and I’ve always lived in the other. I am a biologist and poet, though at times I’ve also been a musician, translator, teacher, computer geek, designer, photographer and editor. I’m very non-conformist and a defender of differences – perhaps due to always having been an ever-repressed “model child.” Nothing enthralls me more than the unknown, nature and art; these serve as my sources of mystery and development. A surprising activism has been born in me over the recent period. Though I’m not very sure how to channel it, I feel that it’s a worthy and legitimate energy. Let’s hope I have the discernment to manage it.

What is Cuba’s Critical Observatory?

March 22, 2011 | Print Print |

Isbel Diaz Torres

At the first Critical Observatory forum.

The date for the holding of the fifth Critical Observatory Social Forum is approaching, but does everyone know what it is, or its history or who its members are?

I have to admit that I wasn’t one of the founders, but since information doesn’t have an owner, I think I can share some data and a few photos on the organization’s previous events, as well as the perspective of its approach.

The initial idea came from a group of youth from the today “extinct” province of Havana.  They had formed what was called the Haydee Santamaria Collective, and in 2006 held a national conference on socio-cultural criticism and research.

They were interested in promoting settings among youth for the articulation of critical, revolutionary and informed thought.  A number of them were members of the Hermanos Saiz Association in that province, and the collective benefited from the help of that youth organization.

The members of the group had already established themselves as intellectuals noted for various achievements.  They had been published in important literary and research journals, had taught classes, organized their own community and artistic initiatives, had been members of awards juries and had tutored graduate class projects.

At the fourth Critical Observatory forum.

I imagine that the need to apply their knowledge and translate it into action is what led them to propose something like the Critical Observatory.  Below is a summary of the objectives of the first conference that took place in San Jose de las Lajas:

- To promote criticism, research and community transformation initiatives led by youth.

- To endow emerging youth cultures with opportunities for self-expression, reflection, debate and critical dialogue.

- To create ties between young creators and community transformation initiatives.

- To promote the work of creative youth, research about emerging cultures, and civic leadership in community transformation.

- To create horizontal ties between varying initiatives and generate a national network of initiatives that can function with an ongoing, sustainable and productive character.

In this way they began to hold annual events, with the first, second and fourth taking place in San Jose de las Lajas.  The third was held at the public camping resort of Boca de Jaruco.  Starting with its third conference, the Critical Observatory began functioning as a network.  The initial purpose was for several initiatives to maintain a constant flow of communication after the annual event, which was realized.

Respect for the autonomy of each initiative has been the pillar of maintaining the network.  That respect has facilitated the embracing of dissimilar initiatives and has generated powerful solidarity.  Initiatives as beautiful and diverse as “Cofradía de la Negritud,” “Trencito,” “Guardabosques,” “Black Hat,” the “Haydee Santamaria Collective,” “SPD,” “Our America” and others are growing on their own and with the support of those efforts closest to them.

Thanks to collective work we have been able to undertake actions that have had considerable impact and we have positioned ourselves against the advance of capitalism on this planet.  We have looked at our reality lovingly, and — in the desire to transform it — we have criticized it sharply.

The fall of the wall (2009).

To plant trees, to inform ourselves, to play, to march in the May Day parade with other workers, to denounce a coup d’état in Honduras or obstructions to sociocultural projects on the island, to study and to sensitize ourselves with cultures of the East or the Americas, or to debate the “Guidelines” of the Party, we need no directives, only each other.  Knowing this has given us power and happiness.

In the face of suspicious looks from all denominations, colors and sides possible, the trailblazing Critical Observatory Network is organizing its fifth forum.  We want to socialize and analyze other creative and emancipatory experiences as well as to investigate our ecological and ideo-aesthetic environment.

Settings that promote community, local and horizontal organizational capacities, popular historical memory, social commitment and emancipatory knowledge should be mutually discovered and embraced.  This is what we are working towards.  Those are our aims.

Click on the tumbnails below to view all the photos in this gallery

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