Antonio José Ponte: more than a temporary controversy

MIAMI, United States. — In recent days, social networks have been activated by an interesting controversy between two Cuban intellectuals. One of them is Antonio Jose Ponte, little known, perhaps, for the newest generations of Cuban “oppositionists”; but whose name has figured, for decades, among the most prestigious of critical thinking towards the communist regime in Havana.

The references that are made by Castroism barely point to Ponte as a prestigious essayist and writer. Stop counting. The truth is that this son of Cuba, born in Matanzas, is a hydraulic engineer by profession, and a storyteller, poet, essayist and film scriptwriter by vocation.

Both inside and outside the island, Ponte has defended plurality and the presence of a broader Cuban culture than that imposed by Fidelista ideology. He earned close surveillance by the political police for his insistence on using professional exchanges to connect Cuban authors living inside the island with those in exile. His frequent publications abroad, and his relationship with cultural personalities who harshly criticized the Castro regime, led to his exclusion from contemporary Cuban literature on the shelves of the ruling party.

It was the year 2003 when Antonio José Ponte was expelled from the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC). The sanction was produced, specifically, because the author had accepted, from Cuba and as a member of said institution, to be part of the editorial board of the magazine Meeting of Cuban Culture, one of the most important created in exile, in which political, literary and social issues were addressed. Because of his work in that publication, he was persecuted and accused of receiving funds from the CIA. After a time when he was prohibited from leaving Cuba, Ponte emigrated to Madrid in 2007, where he has lived and worked ever since.

His writing, refined and biting, has reaped notable success within the Essay genre, the most significant being the air coat, a vindication of Marti’s thought against the manipulations by the Cuban totalitarian power. His opinion on what José Martí meant and the repercussion that his political thought has had from the Republic to the present is one of the most lucid that exists.

His exile did not begin by boarding a plane and disembarking in other lands. For Ponte, the farewell process began while on the island. Like other opponents, who experienced a much more terrible harassment than the one that weighs today on the latest Cuban dissidence, Ponte went through the circles of paranoia, alienation and self-censorship, before saying the final goodbye. He himself admits that he has been able to sublimate those experiences thanks to poetry and literature.

Fifteen years have passed since he decided to go into exile, but Antonio José Ponte is still on the black lists of those who are not welcome. He could not return if he wanted to, but the author acknowledges that at least he does not have the pressure of other emigrants on him, because his family lives in Miami.

Since 2009 he has co-directed the independent media Cuban newspaper. His works also include: A Montaigne follower looks at Havana, The lost book of originists, The guarded party and the storybook An art of making ruins.

In 2020 he published a delightful book titled loose tonguea compilation of satirical texts on the Cuban cultural panorama in the first decade of the 21st century, signed by his heteronym, Fermín Gabor, and expanded with a loose language dictionary. The title itself suggests that there will not be a puppet with a head there, but it is one of the most informed and entertaining readings in recent years.

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