Cuba is Creating a New Life Philosophy

Por Yusimi Rodriguez

Eurico Borges

HAVANA TIMES — Eurico Borges, 1950, painter and traveler (that’s how he’s described in an article), arrived in Cuba for the first time in 1999. Three days after his arrival, he knew that this was the place where he wanted to live. He settled in our country in 2000 and has lived here for 17 years.

HT: Why Cuba?

Eurico: My relationship with Cuba began in May 1968. People used to shout slogans in favor of Fidel and Che at the protests I took part in, naively. I was 17 years old. Since then, my political conscience began to awaken; I came from a Fascist country, at war since 1961, mainly with the African independence movements. We couldn’t leave Portugal. I escaped. I began to get involved in politics. I learned that people’s good or bad luck is having the right person in the right place to lead the country.

HT: Do you believe that we Cubans had the right person?

Eurico: Absolutely. They were lucky enough to have key men in the history of humanity and Cuba’s own history. Marti, Maceo… even Fidel, the greatest politician in the 20th century and part of the 21st. You have a country which creates people like the Cuban Five, Eusebio Leal, Elian Gonzalez’s father.

HT: If we have been so lucky, why have so many Cubans left since 1959? People have risked their lives to leave the country, for decades.

Eurico: Like Ortega y Gasset has said, man is the interaction between himself and his circumstances. Cuba is an island and there is something which is called a phobia of islands. It’s a subject which I have studied and worked with in 2004, in an exhibition entitled “There’s sea and sea to go and turn around”. Anybody born on an island has a natural inclination and need to leave.

HT: Cuban emigration increased after 1959.

Eurico: Emigration has existed since the dawn of time. Just because a society gives its citizens all of its material needs, it doesn’t mean that they don’t have a natural inclination to leave; just less so. Cuba has taken on an almost unique system in the world today, which revolutionized all of our concepts of housing, social organization, etc. It’s only natural that there will be people who disagree, who want branded clothes, the best phone, etc. I don’t dare to give a percentage, but if I had to, I would say that it is 5% of the total population, although this would mean half a million people.

Cuba is creating a new life philosophy, where people have other concerns which go beyond just the material. I am currently working on a series called “Consumer society which consumes me”. It talks about the clumsy lie that is consumerism. We tell ourselves that we will only be happy with this cellphone, these clothes, that car, etc. When you get them, your happiness isn’t that anymore, but the phone with a stripe, a color… Consumer society creates our material needs. Where are the spiritual ones? Where is happiness?

HT: Do you feel that the Cuban system has been capable of satisfying the spiritual needs of its people?

Eurico: If there is a country in the whole wide world which let’s humans get a feel for paradise, it’s Cuba.

HT: As an artist, what do you think about the censorship of the El Rey muerto artpiece by Juan Carlos Cremata and the movie Santa y Andres, by Carlos Lechuga, excluded from the Film Festival last December, as well as other examples of censorship which artists have been suffering for decades?

Eurico: How many examples do you want of censorship in capitalist society?

HT: I’m interested in knowing what you think of this in Cuba, where you told me that our spiritual needs are being satisfied.

Eurico: I myself had a program called Babelia, with a large audience, in Portugal. It was censored, three months before the elections. I could continue after the elections had been held, but I didn’t accept these conditions. The Portuguese dictator Salazar used to say that the more uneducated the people, the easier they are to rule. Neoliberal societies today create uncritical, financially dependent people, so that they can be easily dominated.

I wouldn’t call what you have here “censorship”. In half a dozen years, how many phones are there here? Around 4 million. Did you think that you would have a cell phone 5 years ago? Cuba had to enter the inner workings called “progress” and maybe it isn’t ready for this. In my building, there are self-employed workers who don’t respect the laws of coexistence, because they began to have money. When in Cuba, reggaeton and its abominable lyrics are criticized, reggaeton isn’t banned. There’s a saying that goes that you have to educate people so that they don’t listen. This is an attitude. You can also ask artists to take responsibility. You can’t use the argument that capitalist societies use which is that “people like it”. People like what they are given; you have to give them quality things.

HT: Who determines the quality?

Eurico: God, but because he doesn’t exist, there are people who have to determine this. We have to accept that misunderstandings exist. Fidel, a marvellous man and politician (I am a follower of Marti and Fidel out of conviction and devotion) made some mistakes, which he recognized.

HT: Which ones?

Eurico: I would have to think about that… But why think about the mistakes? I prefer to think about the positive. The negatives are for pessimistic and defeatist people.

HT: What do you think about the changes which are taking place in Cuba?

Eurico: It’s inevitable that there will be changes, but I pray, even though I’m not a Catholic, that there aren’t many.

HT: In 1968, precisely when you began to admire the Cuban Revolution and gain political awareness, the Revolutionary Offensive took place here in Cuba. Small private businesses were wiped out. The government took away people’s carts with fried foods, their small stores, hair salons inside homes, etc. They were given financial compensation in return, which was determined by the government itself. This is one of the things that they had to change. In the ‘90s, they had to let private businesses open. In 2014, licences to open businesses were extended. What do you think about that?

Eurico: I am not a politician, I am a painter, a social being who interacts with the society which surrounds him. There are many things which I’m not prepared to give my opinion about. On the other hand, I must be very respectful of Cuba, the Cuban people, the Revolution. I’m in somebody else’s home. Cuba and the Cuban people’s idiosyncrasy aren’t my own. I am trying, in my old age, to acquire the Cuban people’s principles and philosophy, because I consider it one of the best ways to live.

You are exclusively talking to me about the economy; I couldn’t care less about the economy. I care about whether a country cares for its citizens like Cuba does. It has three essential things which reveal its respect for human rights: a right to education, to healthcare and food. In my country, at the beginning of the 20th century, there was poor man’s soup. There are photos of the queues which used to form back then. In photos today, there are a lot more people eating poor man’s soup. Don’t talk to me about the economy. There, all politicians are corrupt; nobody cares about society. Here, measures are taken to make progress in society.

HT: What principles would you like to acquire from the Cuban people?

Eurico: Philosophical ones. I am a fidelista. I accept the principles which Fidel and Marti defended: solidarity, respect, continuous progress, loving others. These are the principles that keep me here. If there is a safe country in the world, it’s Cuba. Here, people are respected. In my country, only people with money are respected.

  • Eden Wong

    Mr. Borges, you give me a headache.

    Great job at dodging every question though. You’re a great politician.

  • Moses Patterson

    Talk about drinking the kool-aid. Wow. This guy is nuts. He couldn’t name a mistake that Fidel made? Let’s start with being born. How about the UMAP camps? The Ten Million Ton Harvest? Destroying the sugar business? And, at the top of my list, asking the Soviets to start World War III. No censorship in Cuba? Wow.

    • CErmle

      Why are you so bitter? Cuba and the gains of the revolution are respected throughout the world.

      • Olgasintamales

        Yup, with 25%. If its population in exile, 15.000 sent to dead squad shooting, the people of cuban support so much the “Revolution” ( I don’t know if you can still call a revolution after almost 60 years) That the government doesn’t allow any political parties, opposition, demonstrations other that the one the government organize themselves. The day I see free elections with multiple parties and the Raul win then I believe what you trying to say.

      • Moses Patterson

        As I have commented several times before, in order to live decently, my in-laws must depend on a monthly “care” package from my wife. Her grandfather, a retired lawyer, mother and father, engineers, and her sister, a teacher with a master’s degree. If they were living anywhere else on the planet, given their education and talents, they would be able to at least afford shampoos, rice and meat twice a week on their own salaries. Well, except North Korea and probably Venezuela. As it is, owed to the failed Castro dictatorship, my otherwise wonderfully proud family must rely on my wife’s trip to DHL once a month just to live ….decent. So yes, if I come across as bitter, I have good reason.

        • CErmle

          Have you ever visited an Indian reservation in the USA? Start with Pine Ridge in the Dakotas. Cuba is a paradise in comparison. Maybe you should also venture into the ghettos every now and then. Open your eyes.

          • Moses Patterson

            Dumb comment. But, as it happens, I have been to several Native American reservations and lots of ghettos. In ALL cases, there was plenty of toilet paper and cooking oil. Crime and drug problems aside, living conditions in both places are far better than living conditions in the Cuatro Caminos or San Miguel de Padron barrios en Havana.

    • Rich Haney

      Moses, when this exile to Cuba said, “Marti, Maceo…even Fidel” I knew it would infuriate the vast, lucrative and usually unchallenged Castro Cottage Industry in the United States. No one, Moses, has to be “drinking kool-aid” to counter aspects of the Batistiano blight on the U. S. democracy. For example, 96-year-old Alicia Alonso is spending this week being honored and toasted by the nation of Costa Rica and the University of Costa Rica. Few Cubans knew as much about the world, including the United States where she was a superstar in the 1950s, as Ms. Alonso. In 1959, when the Cuban Revolution chased the Batistiano-Mafiosi leaders back to the U. S, she returned to her beloved, native Cuba…and has supported the revolution, and especially Fidel, ever since. I mention her because I believe the U. S. democracy is, or at least should be, expansive enough to include two-sides of two-sided conundrums, and not be shamed by having a narrative strictly dictated by Batistiano-fueled propaganda and intimidation. Therefore, I believe the 96-year-old Alicia Alonso will agree that the Cuban Revolution and Revolutionary Cuba both say a lot more about the United States than they say about Cuba. AND BY THE WAY, Moses, is it possible that you are the one “DRINKING THE KOOL-AID?” Just wondering.

      • Moses Patterson

        Your comment is incoherent and nearly unreadable. Albeit highly regarded, Alicia Alonso was never a “superstar” in the US. But what does she have to do with this thread? What does “expansive enough to include two-sides of two-sided conundrums” even mean? Sounds like your kool-aid is spiked.

  • CErmle

    What a refreshing article. He was so truthful. The Revolution has brought great change for the poor and the downtrodden. The People support their revolution.

  • N.J. Marti

    No amount of lipstick can cover the failure of the Fidel economic model. Medical and education gains in no way make up for the other extensive failures that crashed the agriculture sector and it’s living standards.

  • redrooster

    This fellow would make a great politician for sure. I hope his painting skills are as good.Just my opinion but I have to believe he has very few close friends that have read this dribble. I envisioned as I read this article someone had a gun to his head. Cheers all.

  • emagicmtman

    Couldn’t agree more with Eurico Borges, especially what he has to say about Reggaeton which, after hearing it blasted throughout the whole neighborhood at 900 decibels, I begin to think that restrictions specified by Socrates, in his Republic (about state control of the musicians and frenzied poets) might not be so bad after all.