Silvia Corbelle Batista

By Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo in Translating Cuba:

Silvia Corbelle Batista

I don’t call Silvia Silvia, rather Salvi.

She taught me the secrets of the solar system, which is not made up of planets, of course, but of imaginary trees. Trees and cadavers, catreevers.

She loaned me a camera for years. I never returned it to her. Or I returned it destroyed. Better that way. Salvi didn’t need a camera. Which is precisely why she is the photographer and not me. Because she invented a way of looking, which in one case is a way of moving, which in her case is a way not to die. A small miracle. Meow.

Salvi taught me there were cats and that they were the only truly human species in the universe. Or divine, whether or not one believes in the Absolute Meow of the Cativerse.

We were both children of Gia, which is Earth and Love, and she came to us in an odd-numbered year, with her Gothic lips and her fine lady mustaches, and already with her three sad kittens in her virgin womb, which is now buried under the earth in a yard in Lawton, in a little wooden box that I will never see again, because I no longer want to see anything of Cuba, because I no longer want to see anyone or anything that still uninhabits Cuba.

That exasperating disease

It was Salvi who struck me or perhaps reminded me of that exasperating disease: not believing in the materiality of Castro’s Cuba (only the spirit is material, only the pixels are solid). Salvi taught me that Castroism wasn’t true, because Castroism was us. Such that the only solution would be avoid ourselves. Don’t try to understand me. I’m not trying to explain.

Salvi is still 19, as in November 2003 when I met her under the dim light of G Street: a girl on edge because she no longer wanted to get older. And she continued on edge. And she continued without aging. Like one of Martí´s evil characters, probably taken from The Age of Horror.

Putting a camera between herself and Cuba is her way of traveling, of not being over there. Cuba is so ugly. Cubans are so sad. If the camera were a machine gun, we wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to shoot and shoot. Salvi and I are two serial assassins and this benevolent hatred was what united us. The horror. The futility of virtue.

Salvi’s photos are alephs. They never stop looking. Labyrinths that make you dizzy. Turning on you. How she manages to capture all this imaginary life in a country as unimaginable as Cuba is a mystery unknown to me, and not knowing fascinates me. I suspect Salvi is an extreme exile, unlike me; I’ve had to come from my United States of Havana to be able to find myself at peace with Cuba from Alaska, or Miami (that other terminal Alaska).

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