Hegel in La Güinera: Dialectics of 7-11

To Boris Muñoz

Whenever an American leftist tells me that he is a Marxist, my reply is the same: “No, you are a phony… I am the Marxist!”, a statement that invariably provokes displeasure in my interlocutors.

This is the moment when the person with whom I am conversing gets up and storms out, leaving without giving me a chance to open my mouth, “I am the Marxist!” shouted at the top of my lungs in a trendy Los Angeles bistro.

I have never had the chance to explain myself. Why am I the Marxist, and not them, the Ivy League professors, the Badiou and Horkheimer scholars? For the record, I am not joking, I am being completely serious, if only they would allow me to elaborate!

As a boy of ten I came into contact, by pure chance, with Marxist dialectics. My father was a shoemaker who had participated in the urban struggle against Fulgencio Batista. A decade after the triumph of the revolution, my dad was immersed in reading a Party pamphlet that explained the mysteries of dialectics. I vividly remember those didactic pamphlets, and I remember that they illustrated the subject by means of an ice cube: the water was the thesis, the ice was the antithesis and the melted ice puddle was the synthesis.

My father moved his lips as he read, while my mother prepared dinner in the kitchen. “Thesis, antithesis and synthesis,” my old man would repeat, with the pamphlet in one hand and a glass of rum in the other. After dinner, he would sit in an armchair and collapsed from exhaustion. I would pick up the pamphlet from the floor and go to my room to study it.

In 1972, as a student at the San Alejandro Art Academy, I attended an exhibition of Picasso prints at the Palace of Fine Arts. In the courtyard of the museum I met a classmate who was called Rosadito. Rosadito was holding a thick volume with a huge title: Phenomenology of Spirit. I became obsessed with that book and did not stop until I got it.

The poet Pedro Jesús Campos and I drank together the words of the Phenomenology in the Cuban edition of the Social Sciences publishing house. We were comrades in San Alejandro, and we soon acquired the habit of showing up everywhere with our Hegel under our arms and the title very visible. The words of the German sage intoxicated us and for a few months we suffered from epistemological hot flashes, debating the most arduous points until late at night, between mugs of beer and cigarette smoke.

Pedro had also stumbled in his childhood with the ice cube. His mother was a black woman from Contramaestre who had emigrated to Havana in the early fifties. She had been a domestic in a wealthy household and had participated in the underground struggle. In 1964, she received Marxist education in her grassroots committee.

In barely a decade, we dialectically surpassed our parents. We knew the dictatorship of the proletariat from the inside, while receiving political orientation in schools founded on strict Bolshevik principles. We were the melted ice cubes.

Marxism was, from the cradle, part of our bloodstream, of our lymphatic system, even of our gonads, hammered into our heads and pounded into our bodies hardened by agricultural labor and relentless propaganda. Whoever does not share these experiences with me is not a Marxist, but a buffoon. To be a dialectical Marxist is something I do not wish on anyone.


7-11 is the great dialectical event, and we Cubans have never seen dialectics in action. 7-11 is the synthesis of a series of apparently unconnected events: the butterfly that flapped its wings in Ariza prison in 1974 provokes a hurricane in San Antonio de los Baños 47 years later.

Because the Revolution denied the dialectic and chaotic relationship of distant events. Although it preached the opposite, historical events lacked consequences for Castroism. A poet who suffocates, choking on her own poems, remains suspended in the continuum, without establishing contact with the future. Last July 11, the poet in suspense recovered her breath, and all the asphyxiating situations of the past times rushed to their logical conclusion. This is what dialecticians call the “indeterminacy of the past.”

We now know that between the insignificant actions of the San Isidro artists and the social outburst of 7-11 there was a dialectical relationship. “We are connected,” Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara’s slogan, should be interpreted in a dialectical sense. Castroism has been the denial of any connection: Mariel, the Maleconazo and the Escambray civil war, to give an example of a classic triad, were historically delimited, although in reality they were super-connected. 7-11 is the super-connecting event.

Likewise, the presence of the Spanish in Cuba and their inability to reform is connected to the inveterate resistance to change of Castroism. Historical facts can also be conjugated in a retrograde manner. On July 11, 2021, the Hispanic obstinacy reached the critical point of dialectic contradiction. Cuba lives today the atmosphere of sanitary emergency of 120 years ago, suffers from the same Weylerian reconcentration methods of 1896 and faces the updated version of the ideological obscurantism that led Spain to catastrophe.

The situation of late Castroism is the paradigm of dialectic synthesis: the revolutionary clock has melted. On 7-11 in La Güinera we witnessed the spectacle of the Marxist dialectic put on its feet. After 62 years of metaphysics, we had the confirmation that praxis really exists. That confirmation of the functioning of the spirit in History entails a moral regeneration: it is the quasi-religious resurgence of the Cuban and the return of nationalism in an era of post-national suspicion. It is Hegel unbridled on the streets of Arroyo Naranjo, with his book against his chest and the huge title as a slogan that allows itself to be interpreted.

Néstor Díaz de Villegas (Cumanayagua, Cuba, 1956) Poet, editor and essayist. He was an art student, spent time in prison in Cuba, and emigrated to the United States in 1979. He has published several volumes of poetry, all collected in Buscar la lengua (2015). He was the founder of Cubista Magazine (2004-2006). His most recent book, De donde son los gusanos: Crónica de un regreso a Cuba después de 37 años de exilio (2019), has been published by Vintage Español. He lives in Los Angeles, California.


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