Novelist Alice Walker, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Color Purple, was in Cuba this week (not for the first time) to receive one of the various medals used by Castro, Inc. to reward and flatter its foreign friends, especially those prominent enough to “validate” Cuba’s sclerotic totalitarian dictatorship. Walker is not as good a catch as Mandela was, but she’s more prestigious than, say, Danny Glover (who was in the film version of The Color Purple). The medal is named after “heroine of the revolution” Haydée Santamaría, who served the regime well till she committed suicide.
The writer appears in the photo with veteran “cultural” apparatchik Abel Prieto (center) and another such functionary. Walker, who’ll be 80 shortly, is attired in the height of current progressive/woke fashion, a keffiyeh, similar to one worn recently by Mariela Castro. As we know, the Cuban regime has taken an overtly pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel stance, with one of its figures (Che Guevara’s daughter Aleida) even offering to go to Gaza to shoot Jews. Walker herself has been openly anti-Israel for years and is generally considered to be antisemitic.
In what was apparently her acceptance speech for the medal (awarded by “presidential decree”), Walker referred to Cuba’s firmness against adversities–including, of course, the US embargo, I mean “blockade.” Needless to say, there was no mention of Cuba’s systemic oppression of dissent, routine violation of civil rights, and numerous political prisoners (such as artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, who is black like many other Cuban dissidents).
An official figure tapped to sing Walker’s praises was the black Cuban poet Nancy Morejón, which was entirely predictable. What Walker may or may not know is that Morejón was one of the signers of the infamous 2003 public letter supporting that year’s wave of heavy-handed political repression (the “Black Spring”), including the summary executions of three Cuban men of color for the “crime” of trying to escape from Massah Castro’s slave plantation.
This is all, of course, extremely familiar and perfectly normal, or rather normalized. The Castro regime has always assiduously courted renowned foreigners susceptible to its charms, for obvious propaganda reasons, and it has been remarkably successful at seducing them (whether that is due to its skills or their weakness is open to debate). This certainly applies to prominent black Americans like Walker, who could be seen as a literary version of Barbara Lee.
So, after 65 years of totalitarian dystopia and miserable quality of life in Cuba, which has precious little to do with the Potemkin version of the “revolution” sold to outsiders, there are still eager buyers like Walker. Lord have mercy.