Tuesday, July 5

The black thread of Rocío Monasterio

He did not have a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills, but his family owned sugar mills at a time when great fortunes in Cuba were made with slaves, exploitation or favors from a dictator. A colonial past that those of his line yearn for and that provided them with uncountable revenues until Fidel Castro arrived in 1959 and ordered to stop. The class resentment still lasts for Rocío Monasterio. That spacious and luxurious penthouse in Havana in Calzada y 13 in which pomp parties were given on a street that led to the Malecón and where he dreamed of emulating his grandfather as a landowner is no longer in his family. He could never enjoy it. They expropriated it after the triumph of the Bearded Revolution after so many years of enrichment, believing that they could also enrich themselves with the new rulers as they did with the previous ones. Poor Rocío, their privileges were taken away and she still hasn’t digested it. That colonial thought has not yet been removed from his head and weaves his black web of prejudices against minorities anchored in that class hatred that he aspires to once again become hegemony and power.

The saga of the Monasterio and the Gutiérrez Falla were landowners from Cienfuegos who owned the Manuelita power station achieved, forged and consolidated during the dictatorships of Gerardo Machado and Fulgencio Batista. They took away their colonies and human strength for enrichment and that is not forgiven by those accustomed to weaving that dense network of interests and exploitation. That is why they recognize each other and end up joining forces wherever they nest, expelled by those who dared to try to hit them back. From the Monastery to the Tertsch brooding anger at having tasted the honeys of defeat for once in history, a sensation that their kind are not used to and will not forgive anyone.

The Tertsch also know what it is like to have colonialist thinking anchored in family makeup and in the legacy of reactionary thinking that considers immigrants little more than legatees of slave labor. The Valle de Lersundi, maternal family of the Vox MEP, had working ties with the Monastery and the Falla in Cuba that exploited those brought in chains from Africa. The Marquise de Guaimaro, mother of Hermann Tertstch, was the custodian of a title from the Del Valle Lersundi and Iznaga family, a rich Creole family from the central region of Cuba in the 18th and 19th centuries, owners of an important sugar industry. On the Slave Route in the Valle de los Ingenios you can still visit the Guaimaro Mill, which was owned by Tertsch’s ancestors, and which in 1830 had at its disposal about 300 slaves for which a town of Bohios was built. On the same route for tourists, you can visit the Manaca-Iznaga Tower, 43 m high, which was used to call the slaves to work and as a lookout point for their correct procedure.

The black thread that weaves the trap for those who consider immigrants to be only the workforce and second-class citizens is not only built with relationships of interest, but also with words, speeches, stories, hatred and actions. A skein that is unraveling through resentment and hatred of the different and that ends up taking shape in actions beyond their direct responsibilities, but to which they contribute by establishing a climate of opinion conducive to the legitimization of violent actions. A visit to a center for unaccompanied minors to point them out, a poster criminalizing them, a grenade that flies over the fence that surrounds the center … these are different responsibilities but the same problem. The ex-military man who murders Youssef shouting “we don’t want Moors here” and the Voxian walk through Ceuta are linked by that black thread that was woven in Cuba with slave labor. They are part of the same loom, a fabric sewn with the same intolerant and supremacist thought pattern that considers Serigne Mbaye to be just a black man who would have to serve without raising his voice.

Rocío Monasterio hates Serigne Mbaye precisely for that. Because it reminds him of the lost privilege and makes him remember the moment when his families gave up. The sugar lady cannot stand the loss of the racist natural order in which blacks collected cane to forge bundles with which to build their attics on the Malecón. His presence in the Assembly is a praise of the resistance that grinds the teeth of the heirs of the sweet Caribbean elixir. Because his raised Senegalese fist is a symbol of all that the sugar landowners lost when they yearned for justice and equality. Serigne Mbaye is the present memory of the plundered Africa, the resilient soul of the blacks who came to Cuba to be enslaved and who with his blood built the fortunes of the heirs who now rage when they see his brown, leathery and brave complexion shouting at them with his presence to tell them that the fun will end here too and they will stop.