Manuel Augusto Lemus Martínez is another of the millions of Cubans who opted to leave Cuba in search of better horizons.
Together with Germán Guerra, Rebeca Ulloa, Ena Ruíz Columbié, Julio Benítez, Octavio Armand and many other Guantanamo poets and writers whom I do not remember now, they left for exile with no more luggage than the hope and the memory of what they lived in the land, indelible trace that they have modeled according to their experiences. Since that absence of their homeland, which has bled our culture, they have managed to continue taking Cuba deep inside.
Shortly after arriving in Guantánamo, in the mid-1980s, I met Lemus, who at that time stood out in the city’s cultural environment for his research and poetic work. On more than one occasion I noticed his eagerness to preserve magazines, documents, photographs and any source that would help him to enrich his archive.
Now, from exile, Lemus surprises us with his book Archivos Guantanameros, published by Ediciones Exodus in 2018 with the collaboration of the Cuban Institute of Cultural Sciences of the Diaspora and with the publication of Ángel Velázquez Callejas. We are surprised because the work, in two volumes, shows the magnitude of their work, which reflects the patience and time used to carry out what to date is the most complete, serious and complete research on Guantanamo writers, their publications and much more.
What I affirm is not only my opinion, but that of all those who so far have had the opportunity to review the book that Lemus graciously sent to the local poet Alex Ruiz. And it is that the work is not limited to record aspects of the life and work of literary creators of the terroir, but also goes into the investigation of the footprint that relevant Cuban intellectuals, such as Don Fernando Ortíz, and foreigners like Max Henríquez Ureña, Pedro Mir and archaeologist Mark Raymond Harrington have planted in the region of Guaso. That imprint, together with the work of those who have been born and written here, and also that which has been left by the flattened ones, constitutes ̶ I believe ̶ what Lemus has called “la guantanameritud”.
There is also updated information on the poet Octavio Armand, unknown here due to his prolonged stay in exile for ideological reasons, but considered by many who have read his work the most important poet guantanamero of the second half of the twentieth century.
In the Introduction, Lemus states with incisive sincerity: “Without distinction, along with the consecrated ones, there are occasional writers, minor writers, spoiled writers and even forgettable writers. The born, the flattened and the passing ones, those who left the imprint or the detritus of their work in some bend of the way of the Guantanameritude. Even at the risk of seeming chauvinist I have appropriated of all, without old-fashioned suspicions, calling for a new cultural paradigm of our environment. We already know that there are no unpunished innocences, we will pay the price”.
It’s too early to make a definitive judgment on this book. I very much doubt that, for now, despite its values, it will be published in Guantánamo, because it is already known, as Lemus states, that “there are no unpunished innocences”, but, I add, much less courageous acts that do not receive discriminatory silence as a response from intolerant people. What is unquestionable is that his book constitutes a resounding lie to those who affirm that Cuban culture only takes place within our insularity.
I am also sure that the only consequence of Lemus’ efforts here so far is gratitude. Gratitude for his sincerity, for not excluding anyone ̶ or even, as he himself states, the forgettable ̶ and for having provided us with so much valuable information so far published half-heartedly or silenced. Gratitude for remembering those of us who, still alive, breathe in the burning chapel that the dictatorship wants to impose on us as the only social and cultural space, unfortunately with the conspiracy of many of those mentioned in that work, and who always have a sentence to the surface to justify their cowardice in exchange for the repeated tributes paid to them by the authorities and other crumbs, quotas of power and privileges, for keeping silent in the face of abuses and tacitly defending the dictatorship, not inconsiderable dividends given the circumstances, especially when it requires dignity and courage to live these times with decorum and is not an intellectual of national resonance.
But there will already be someone who will one day make that story, someone like Lemus, who will also delve into the intricacies of these times and reveal the names of the protagonists of that vileness, today aupados, tomorrow presented in all the magnitude of their servitude.
And although in the end everything is vanity, as is affirmed in Ecclesiastes, and one day the Earth will disappear into the infinity of the universe, and the names of the greatest authors, nor of the geniuses, nor of the forgotten ̶ will not be saved, the phrase was said some time ago by José Saramago, when he was asked if it bothered him to be nominated year after year for the Nobel Prize and not to obtain it ̶ is worth imagining, much more firmly believe that in the midst of that unknown and indescribable catastrophe, will be the trace of hope that has to save the noblest of our little human soul ̶ Boti verse ̶ as undoubtedly is this invaluable contribution of Lemus to the culture guantanamera, which will also one day be dust, but as the great Spanish poet said, dust in love.
And as everything that comes from love illuminates, so long as we do not reach the end of the world ̶ which thank God is far away ̶ Guantanamero Archives will continue to shine.