"Five Stories in History: His/Stories". By Kevin Power. In: Revenge, Perceval Press, 2006. Frag.
[...] All history even one that claims objectivity is an ideological telling: a narrative told from a particular perspective. It is never a scientific telling and usually twists and obscures to guarantee the clarity of its own telling. It finishes with what one might call an emblematic contradiction. Result of the disaster that so frequently accompanies triumph. It ends in the year when one of the stories that structures his narrative comes to its own tragic ending: as direct, abrupt, and pointless as the ending of any of our lives. It is the year when the young woman soldier, Conchita Mas Mederos, whose name had been given to a Circulo Infantil as a recognition of what must have been considered her unquestionable merit, the culmination of her unshakeable loyalty and service to the Revolution, to the same woman who eleven months later was to commit suicide.
Conchita Mas Mederos is indisputably a noble product of the Revolution, driven by a passion for its ideals, an indefatigable worker. She worked herself literally into the ground, took part in the alphabetization process, one of the immense triumphs of the Revolution (that out of a population of almost 7 million left only 3.9% unable to read or write), took part in the recruitment of young women from the country to teach them sewing in the city (did she suspect that this program might not have been as altruistic as it appears, that it might have been a means of controlling peasant families that were potentially anti-revolutionaries? We cannot know. All things are possible and often co-inhabit the motivations) and made sure that the children attended school regularly, volunteered of any service that the State might need. She did too much and paid the piece. The doctors advised of her health dangers, of signs of serious physical exhaustion, and she returned to her mother’s home in Cienfuegos. The causes of such acts are often difficult to assess but the State as an institution, wherever its zone of action and whatever its ideology, has a long and dark record of pushing people to extremes. All of us have breaking points. When they are known we break, when unknown we break even faster, and finally!
Here the discrete details of history enter first the larger less clear, informing pattern of myth, and finally the narrow gauge of ideology. Henry explores the mapping of the complementary, contradictory, and overlapping contours of history and culture, of place and people, what we might call the stratified traces of our living. Cuba has been built up on these different layers of human history or human geography since place booths forms and informs those who live there -the indigenous (eliminated), the slave and the colonizer in that dark incestual relationship that characterizes all colonial system sustained by black slaves. We can all recognize the centrality of that economy to the cultural and political formation of modernity that are being signalled in subaltern histories narrated from elsewhere. The strange paradoxes that come to the fore in, for example, Paul Gilroy’s Black Atlantic where he recalls Jaures insistence that the fortunes created at Bordeaux, at Nantes, by the slave trade gave to the bourgeoisie that pride which they needed to contribute to human emancipation! In other words, history depends on the perspective from which you tell it. It is abundantly clear that the Caribbean, despite the operation upon it of the European system, inspite of, indeed, because of - the peculiar circumstances of its history, contains within itself a culture different from, through not exclusive of Europe. Yet so often in contemporary discussions of the Enlightenment the relation between New World plantation slavery and the “unfinished project” of modernity has almost systematically been passed over. As a result the whole problem of race and modern power has not been adequately formulated, much less adequately elaborated and addressed.
Eric works as archaeologist who seeks to discover details of patterns that comprehend and order other, he settles on fragments or shards that are indisputable evidences of a story, that are as specific as they can humanly be but still charged with ambiguity of the endless reverberations of their relations within the larger social and cultural complexity: they way things were understood, what they were supposed to mean, how they represented themselves, and finally they meant according to who narrated them.
His methodology is one of juxtaposition, a weaving of a web, a tapestry of small human passions, a collage of history and his own creative activity, of images gleaned from archival material and photos of his own excavations and exhumations. He builds out of contrasts, keeping close to the components of history -anecdotal, statistical, and contrastive- that tangentially lie at ease with his five axial stories. The text moves forward chronologically but in a certain sense Eric is moving back from the particular, from the pebble thrown into the pool of time back into its widening circles. Meaning proper for those who seek it is, I suspect, deeply encrusted, embedded, and often hedged in with its own contradictions.
Henry Eric seeks to introduce or to fold in five unknown stories into the official history. These are the stories that emerge from his interventions, and they literally belong to history although they have never been narrated by it or in it. The Revolution (1959) is, of course, the frame of all these stories. It is a corrective frame that casts all in an unremitting dialectical light. It constructs without fractures in terms only of its own indisputable successes. It is a monolithic vision from which the small glories of human shipwreck, the necessary failures, have been eliminated. Henry is not seeking to drive in wedges, that would in all probability carry the blindness of such presumption, but to slice in the brilliance of fragments and to give to these small particulars the attention they deserve. His five stories - the archaeological excavation, the exhumations in the Colon cemetery, the reconstruction of the bathrooms in the day centre, the reconstruction of the tomb in the Jewish cemetery, the party in the house of a rich family from the fifties as a celebration for the day centre (kinder garden) - are nodal points both for the photos and his particular historic narrative. These spaces where he carried out his various interventions have inevitably been transformed physically and culturally across time, and have acquired new meanings, new silences, and new incompletions. They have been changed, politically, economically and socially but they have never been rehabilitated by the official history. Henry has rehabilitated them as metaphor and as act. They are small stories but they are not without their incommodating ripples and they lead us to those uncomfortable spaces where archaeology unearths some of the ethically negative consequences, large or small, that were caused by the major transformation of revolution itself in 1959. [...].