Havana Under Water

Harold Vázquez Ley, Avistamiento #7, 2010, “Tutorial” series. Oil on canvas.

Published in 2015, Rachel Price's Planet/Cuba: Art, Culture, and the Future of the Island looks at the ways that Cuban art and culture have responded to the massive transformations — political, economic, ecological, social — of the preceding decade. "It focuses," Price writes, "on an emerging body of work that reflects on a series of planetary crises: climate change, accelerating capitalism, pervasive surveillance. The works of art and literature that I examine in these pages are both typical of global trends, and singular. They warn of, or work against, a dark future, like much contemporary cultural production. But they do so in the context of a history marked by the fading and contested memories of collective constructions of society, art, and life itself — however fleeting, compromised and usurped, if they were ever a reality."

In the excerpt below, Price considers works of Cuban art and literature that respond to struggles over water and which figure the sea as "the last frontier in contemporary battles over the global commons."

For the 2012 Havana Biennial, Roberto Fabelo Hung erected a translucent screen alongside Havana’s Malecón seawall, superimposing ghostly, digital reproductions of icebergs in a polar ocean onto the gauzy view of the sea behind it (Aire Fresco/Fresh Air, 2011). Through the semitransparent screen the real Caribbean ocean could be seen: contemporary Cuba as merged with the globe’s polar regions, or perhaps better, the former polar regions being eaten away by tropical waters in a period of frighteningly rapid climate change.

A half year later, Rafael Villares exhibited a “sound photograph” entitled La imagen que descansa (The Image at Rest, 2013). The viewer stares at a large photograph of a calm sea, while sounds of a storm recorded in the same spot play through headphones. The sense of a tempest lurking behind apparently tranquil waters opens up in the disjuncture between the visual and the aural. The dissonance is accentuated by the singular nature of the viewing experience, rather than the collective unease and action necessary to combat climate change. This tension between the singular and collective encounter with a changing nature is indicated by the work’s original title, since scrapped: Your Serenity Bothers Me. Shortly thereafter, in a series of watercolors exhibited in November 2013, painter Luis Enrique Camejo rendered images of Havana as if after an extreme flood, with cars and buildings half-submerged in surprisingly still waters.

The sea has long been a defining feature, indeed an inevitability in Cuban art, literature, and life. Now it turns ominous. The placating distance of the Kantian sublime has telescoped. The ocean, that most given of givens on an island, has become an unknown entity at the heart of climate change. As environmental scientist James Hansen has underscored, “the most important climate feedbacks all involve water, in either its solid, liquid, or gas form.” 1 Only two decades after Chile transported an iceberg to the Universal Exposition in Seville (1992), a gesture that art critic Nelly Richard critiqued for its patent aspirations towards whiteness (versus indigeneity), purity (versus the recent, dirty past of the Pinochet dictatorship), and a neoliberal sheen that seemed to recapitulate the globalism of the 1492 celebrated at the Exposition, Fabelo Hung’s icebergs in 2012 suggest quite other referents. 2

Aire Fresco exceeds the simple pleasures afforded by art’s ability to summon the impossible (icebergs in the Caribbean) since the floating chunks of ice seem increasingly implausible anywhere, reminding us of the rapid disintegration of polar caps in warming oceans. Whiteness is here less a symbol of naturalized hierarchies than a secretly essential color for the survival of the planet. For, as it happens, one of the most basic elements of art — color, or its absence — turns out also to be a basic element determining the science of our endangered future. A warming earth melts ice and snow, both of which possess reflectivity, or “albedo” (whiteness), allowing them to reflect “back to space most of the sunlight that hits them. Land and ocean, on the other hand, are dark, absorbing most of the sunlight that strikes them. If ice and snow melt, Earth absorbs more sunlight, which is a ‘positive’ (amplifying) feedback.” 3 Vanishing whiteness from the polar caps means warmer waters, which, as they melt ice shelves, release currents of water that sunder still more ice. 4 Scientists have predicted “ice-free” summers in the Arctic by 2018, or even as early as 2016. 5

These changes, catastrophic as they will surely be for nonhuman “nature,” will reconfigure human life too. Hansen speculates that “global chaos” will be difficult to avoid as ice melt continues, and wonders where people from low-lying areas such as Bangladesh will move on to, as their lands disappear. 6 But Bangladesh at least enjoys the relative advantage of contiguous land. Cuba, on the other hand, is part of the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS), a group of some fifty small islands rapidly imperiled by climate change. As a recent study suggests, “climate departure” — the moment when temperatures in a given region will always be warmer, the coldest years hotter than the hottest years during the mid-to-late twentieth century — is likely to hit the Caribbean as early as 2023 (and the rest of the planet by 2047). 7 Some reports are predicting a global climate that will be several degrees warmer as soon as the next two years. 8

In light of such news, another work exhibited in the 2012 biennial, Liudmila y Nelson’s Absolute Revolución: La isla (Absolute Revolution: The Island, 2003–9), takes on a different cast. Absolute Revolution is a video that transposes the Martí monument from Havana’s Plaza de la Revolución onto a background of waves, as if the obelisk were an Atlantis emerging from, or descending into, the open sea. Complementing the two artists’ vision of islands disappearing into the ocean is author Nuria Ordas’s science-fiction novella Entremundos (Betweenworlds, 2010), which imagines a Caribbean future under ozoneless skies:

Many cities had been lost forever. Of the small islands, once dispersed throughout the oceans, not half remained, and in those that did it became almost impossible to live, because the tsunamis, floods and storms made them uninhabitable. The sun had grown lethal; it caused serious and painful burns. The long-frozen icecaps had, moreover, melted in only a few years. Many territories took precautions. Building the Frontón [a stronger version of Havana’s seaside Malecón wall] was one of them. 9

Of course, the omnipresence of water in Cuba’s cultural imagination is nothing new. The best-known Cuban poem of the twentieth century, Virgilio Piñera’s 1943 “La isla en peso” (The Whole Island), famously begins: “The curse of being completely surrounded by water/ condemns me to this café table.” 10 The obsession with the sea and with insularity persists in Cuban art.

But like the shifting connotations of icebergs, the import of these old themes is changing. A certain aesthetic crudeness or literalness seems to accompany the urgency of communicating climate change (and, on a more minor scale, to accompany the rapid proliferation of biennials): the photographic series by Rogelio López Marín (Gory) Es sólo agua en la lágrima de un extraño (It is Just Water in the Tear of a Stranger, 1986) also pictured the ever-present ocean and pools of the wealthy neighborhoods fusing with parks, roads, buildings, in a more subtle, uncanny, and effective way than some of the more recent works.

In 2013 the Cuban state removed the longstanding “permiso de salida” or permission needed to leave the island. Now insularity has less to do with actually being trapped on the island, or even with the Piñeraean sense of New World parochialism. It has instead increasingly to do with the fragility of coastal life in an era of rising sea levels, endangered watersheds, and development clustered around Cuba’s extensive coasts: “sea and sand” tourism, with its development of formerly pristine keys, and, hovering on the horizon, deepwater petroleum exploration and processing.

Of course, many of these challenges are neither new, nor unique to Cuba. Indeed, the island has a strong history of conservation legislation, the best-conserved environment in the Caribbean and, as the region’s largest island, its most important ecosystems, including the healthiest coral reefs in the Caribbean. 11 But water has been a concern, at least since the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment, CITMA, outlined a national environmental strategy in 1997 and identified the principal problems affecting the environment, both inherited and emerging. 12 The report listed soil erosion, deforestation, and polluted inland and coastal waters as the major concerns. 13 Waters run with agricultural effluents, oil, the byproducts of mining activities, and sewage. The report adds to these more minor concerns the more worrisome “loss of coastal and marine biodiversity . . . from habitat destruction, poor fishing practices, mangrove destruction, minerals extraction.” 14 Benítez-Rojo, in an article on Cuban environmental ills, painted the findings of the CITMA report darkly:

watersheds were deforested, and their waters — contaminated by human, animal, and industrial waste — were spilling out into the bays and the coastal areas; the soils had been compressed, desertified, and salinated; garbage dumps proliferated, septic tanks overflowed permanently for lack of cleanup teams . . . water treatment plants were lacking or ill-functioning, and the industrial use of beach sand and deforestation of the coastal mangrove swamps were eroding the littoral. 15

Benítez-Rojo sets a grim tone, though these are not catastrophic problems. More pressing now may be the effects of remodeling the Port of Mariel. Mariel promises a new era of development with petroleum processing, a free-trade zone, and closer linking to China and Brazil’s giant economies, but also potential problems for the littoral. Petrobras is rumored to be planning a refinery and connections out past Cuban waters, allowing arriving tankers and ships to avoid US embargo complications (the embargo itself may well finally be thrown over for new business opportunities). On paper, anyway, the state appears determined to curb the severe ecological problems posed by the port. It demands Environmental Impact Assessments for all development projects, and mandates adoption of the most environmentally “benign” alternatives. 16 But it remains to be seen how stringent such oversight will be.

Afterimages of Nature

Contemporary art has been less concerned with these local challenges and more preoccupied with urgent and spectacular problems, both far-flung and regional. Humberto Díaz, for instance, who works in multiple media, made the striking piece Tsunami (2009), a giant sculpture built of terracotta roof tiles that appear at once Japanese and Mediterranean. The tiles heave and dip, emulating giant waves, after Katsushika Hokusai’s famous print The Great Wave Off Kanugawa (c. 1830). The rippled and uneven tiles also suggest the debris of roofs carried away by a tsunami, like the devastating wave that hit Indonesia in 2008, or anticipating the disaster of Hokushima in 2012. Díaz has said that he sought to render in art the “cause-effect” relation between humans and the environment, in order to suggest an “apocalyptic” vision of the world resulting from industry’s effects on the environment. 17

Tsunami’s variegated and undulating surface is created by the structures supporting the waves: cardboard boxes and shapes of varying heights, designed to reproduce the miniature gullies and rises within the larger wave. The imperfect composition of terracotta roof tiles suggests an artisanal craftiness, rather than a computer-generated simulation. It also suggests that the tiles are like the epiphenomenon of the underlying structures, invisible to the human eye except in their effects: rising temperatures, rising sea levels. The overlapping or disjunctive tiles figure overwhelming, imminent or arrived change like a wave crashing unevenly over us. Human-wrought “seachange” takes on local, specific versions: the piece was assembled differently in Havana and Saint Petersburg, for instance. In a nice, although probably accidental symmetry, scholars believe that the wave Hokusai rendered was not actually a tsunami but an “extreme wave” built of many small crests of waves, like Díaz’s own piece. 18

This apocalyptic vision has been echoed in the work of the more blithely commercial painter Camejo, whose series of watercolors La isla del día después (The Island the Day After) was exhibited in December 2013. While Cuban kitsch, done right, once signaled an embrace of popular culture and rejection of grand narratives, a tourist-oriented version has become one option available for artists forced to turn to markets, minor and elite. (Other options include the kind of “global contemporary” aesthetic of which Díaz is perhaps an example, overtly “political” art, and a recent boom in painting. 19)

Camejo’s work, with its images of old cars and vistas of the city’s waterfront, flirts unironically with the aesthetic of the kind of paintings sold in tourist souvenir shops or outdoor fairs. But it also appeals to many Cubans interested in a legible and cinematic painting. Camejo is best known for dichromatic oil paintings of cosmopolitan cities (Havana, Panama City, Amsterdam), where he lingers on surfaces and reflections: bus windows, shop vitrines, revolving doors, railroad tracks, rainy sidewalks. In La isla del día después #4 he widens these reflective surfaces into an ever-present watery medium swallowing up the city.

La isla del día después #4 offers a view into the heart of the city, looking upwards from Havana’s majestic Prado pedestrian walk. The foreground is flooded by what must be a swollen sea and torrential rain. Yet the scene is serene, not particularly disaster-stricken: reflections on the water’s surface from the buildings and streetlight poles are smooth and unbroken by any current or wind. Indeed, the scaffolding around a building in ruins — a faithful rendering of a currently existing structure — suggests the precariousness of current infrastructure before any natural disaster has struck. Rather than constituting evidence of a churning force of nature, the pooled water seems only one more stultifying element in a rather uneventful Caribbean capital. Still, no people are visible: only an empty car suggests human traffic. The image suggests the sinking of the city into a watery future.

The most interesting detail of La isla del día después #4 is the spectator’s implied position, either in the ocean or just beside it at the Malecón (which would presumably be submerged as well). Yet even this curious positioning seems less the painting’s point than a casualty of the need to render the cinematic image that Camejo wants to push: the city’s most beautiful promenade; the distant, august Capitol in the background; a colonial building opening onto the ornate warren of streets of Centro Habana; the requisite old car. The vantage is thus less about an uncanny positioning or even a sublime contemplation of nature’s power than it is a filmic gaze upon post-crisis cities as we have seen them before, in countless movies (which the painting series’ title also invokes), reminding us that “apocalypse” originally meant a visual revelation.

Working in this same vein, Harold Vázquez Ley’s Avistamiento #7 (Sighting #7, 2010), an oil painting from the series Tutorial, in the palette and style of Dirk Skreber’s 2001 Untitled series of post-flood paintings, exploits positioning to a more canny degree. Vázquez Ley’s series’ title alludes to the paintings’ source in an internet tutorial on how to create digital evidence of UFO “sightings.” Vázquez Ley grafts images of such imaginary crafts onto other scenes that he downloads from the internet.

Avistamiento #7 locates its UFO amidst what, thanks to innumerable television reports from post-flood disaster areas from around the world, is today a familiar scene of submerged cars and trees seen from above. The paintings introduce an absurd, “extraterrestrial” element into a scene whose disaster, we suspect, owes to all-too-earthly causes. Doctoring the images with the ships of fantastical beings suggests the disavowal, and externalization, of the root causes of environmental crisis — here attributed to forces outside even our universe.

Tutorial is an example of Vázquez Ley’s sustained interest in the relation between art and putative referentiality. He is particularly interested in how painting and photography have responded to the internet, and in the lifespan of images caught up in its accelerated rhythms of accumulation, dispossession and circulation. Images multiply and referents disappear.

Dèmodé, for instance, is a series of oil paintings that explore obsolescence in aging icons of commercial design: clocks and furniture, rollerblades and coffee pots. To the collection of small, quotidian durables Váquez Ley suddenly adds the image of a military airplane or drone. The untitled painting, reminiscent of the work of the American artist David Deutsch, suggests how many of our most fetishized technologies were born of military innovations or fashions. In the end, however, Váquez Ley is interested less in cycles of consumer excess and forced disappearance than in the dematerialized, representational abundance of digital images that follows material scarcity or disappearance.

Váquez Ley focuses on the changes suffered by photography, a medium whose documentary quality supplants any need for a real referent. Digital images are consumed and multiplied on a scale not previously possible. In the series Límites de salinación (Salination’s Limits, 2010) he has thus staged geographies that do not exist, in photographs that are not photographs: Nordic landscapes of snowy pine trees; textured, aging colonial stones; hand-pixilated, newspaper-like images of baseball plays, all made of salt crystals on a black background. The collection of salt “photographs” entitled Entropomorfía (Entropomorphy, 2010) further explores the resonance between photography’s questionable indexicality and its newly dubious fidelity to a world in which familiar landscape scenes no longer exist.

Photography has always captured temporal “nows” that have passed. It has often staged worlds that do not exist. Vázquez Ley’s salt “photographs,” however, do something different. They present a real world that no longer exists. 20

Entropomorfía is based on older photographs that still circulate on the internet, of glaciers that have melted away. Again Vázquez Ley creates the images by arranging salt crystals. He works with salt because it approximates pixels, and because its properties connect it to entropy’s principle of equilibrium. Here, however, the equilibrium he wishes to invoke is not that of some organic process of elements balancing each other out. Rather, he is interested in the balance between information and disinformation, reality and irreality, that is created by the “relative death” enabled by the persistence of aging images on the internet. 21

Entropomorfía is important because it suggests one of the ways that aesthetics can — quite uniquely — help us comprehend a changing relation to both the material world and its digital renderings. Ecological aesthetics need not merely provide content about environmental crisis. Form and aesthetics themselves have something to teach us about our relation to “the outside world,” to the “ecology without nature” that Timothy Morton has called for. Vázquez Ley suggests that how we think about history and the present, material reality and images, and information and disinformation, informs how we interact with “ecology” and how we construe nature as one element of another antagonic pair, against culture. Before examining Entropomorfía more closely, I want to turn to some recent theories from literary studies that help us grasp the import of Vazquez Ley’s series. Recently, the critic Jacques Khalip has attempted to grapple with how poetry can help us think about environmental crisis. His work in part responds to the implicit question of why one should even worry about poetics or art when faced with species-wide extinctions, including our own. Khalip proposes that the very concepts that seem most concrete and irrefutable, most beyond language and aesthetics — concepts such as extinction — can be productively opened up through art. He finds, for instance, that the seemingly catastrophic charge of extinction still harbors within it a secret hope for redemption. The idea of extinction thus exists in part, Khalip argues, to warn us about how we may yet avert it.

But what would happen if extinction were a concept that resisted being marshaled for intervention into crisis? Can we consider ideas about time, nature, and change that would be beyond humanism altogether? In an era of radical breaks such as climate “departure” — which, according to contemporary science at least, is irreversible — we need, Khalip writes somewhat perversely, to “stop thinking of extinction itself as answerable to a before/after logic — to question how we distribute, apportion, and designate what counts as brimming with ‘life.’” 22 Our most basic notions of life themselves are tied to a romantic humanism. Aesthetics that reflect on the anthropocene ought not reinstall humans at their center, Khalip argues, even if we have created the current geological epoch. Hard as it is to conceive of, our concepts of change and time must address the nonhuman environment.

Vázquez Ley’s saline images of the eroded glaciers Quilka, Cook, and Del Ruiz assume a related stance about what extinction might mean today. They offer a commentary on how representation and “ecology” (or “nature”) today both increasingly refer to missing referents. The series is concerned with vanishing or death, both informational and material. It makes human and nonhuman death in some ways equivalent. This is a singular insight: while photography has perhaps more than with any other medium been associated with subjectivity and human death, its affinity with other kinds of disappearances has typically received less attention. Vázquez Ley translates natural extinction of both species and their habitats into the vocabulary of photography. He uses aesthetics to process climatological events.

Subhankar Banerjee, one of the preeminent photographers of climate change today, has pointed out that while we have vast archives of human portrait photography, there have been virtually no exhibitions of portraits of animals. 23 Vanishing landscapes have fared better, but even they have not pressed photography’s urgent relation to death to the degree that human portraiture has. 24

Vázquez Ley uses photography’s intimate relation to death to tie referential loss in the natural world to replication in the digital. In his work, photography not only registers something that is no longer with us, but registers the fact that absence itself produces immaterial excess. The loss of the real glacier spurs the circulation of digital records of its former state.

In the nineteenth century the deathbed photograph was meant to counteract a person’s slipping away. Today the loss of species, places, and ways of life produces a retrospective archive of the recently departed. For Vázquez Ley, the temporality according to which things and beings are used up and pass into extinction extends from the rapid, artifi cially cycling of industrial fashion (“Dèmodé”) into glacial time. The production of the former may even occasion the demise of the latter. 25

Manuel Castells borrowed the term “glacial time” from Scott Lash and John Urry to describe an enduring time that links humans and nature, and stretches several generations into the future (the relation between a person and her great-grandchildren, for instance). Castells placed glacial time in distinction to clock time (that of the state, industrialism) and “atemporal time” (that of the information society, of “instant wars” and financial transactions). 26 Now the term seems poignantly dated to a recent past of less spectacular global warming, in which “glacial” connoted permanence beyond observable change.

Habana Underguater

A recent novel brings together, in synthetic fashion, visual art’s images of melting icebergs, floods, tsunamis, and post-apocalyptic scenes, viewed from the depths of a rising ocean or from the vantage of extra-terrestrial aircraft . Erick Mota’s Habana underguater (Havana Underwater) confirms the importance of science fiction for understanding the present and near future. It meditates on the new temporality of the anthropocene, on the enduring legacy of the Cold War in Cuban imaginaries, and on the critical importance of both water and petroleum today. These ecological concerns are, moreover, processed by the strangely parallel logics of digital gaming and the Afro-diasporic religions sometimes referred to as Santería, and which, like computers, are dependent on binary decisions.

Habana underguater takes place in a futuristic, post-apocalyptic Havana. Half of it is now under water (underguater) in the wake of a massive hurricane. A group of hackers and internauts of the “Red Global,” or Global Net, are on the hunt for a missing peer and traitor whose avatar is Rama, known in real life as Juan. Rama has stolen an ebbó, an ofrenda or offering, from the virtual altars of the Orishas, incarnations of the ancient West African gods still worshipped in the Caribbean and Brazil. In Mota’s novel the Orishas dwell within and govern the netherspace of the Global Web.

Like contemporary video games that trace their roots back to post-war role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons (in turn influenced by J. R. R. Tolkien), Habana underguater’s plot derives from a simple quest structure. A clan of santeros, or Santería priests, has hired the novel’s protagonist, a hitman named Pablo, to kill the thief. 27 To recover the offering, Pablo teams up with Pedro, a soldier for an Abakuá society, the secret society founded in Cuba in the 1830s as an heir to the Ekpé or Leopard secret societies from Nigeria’s Cross River region. 28 They are joined by Miguel, a magician (“el Mago”) and his three daughters, as well as Ravana (online avatar of a character named Carlos), onetime friend and now a rival of Juan/Rama.

The object of the book’s quest is in some ways what Alfred Hitchcock called a “McGuffin” — a stolen jewel or some other such relatively dispensable excuse for a plot. McGuffins can also serve as objects knitting together histories. Similarly, Fredric Jameson has argued that capturing historicity in narrative requires a trick for rendering a time frame beyond the biological limits of any individual human — a kind of species-time, perhaps even an inhuman time. 29 Such a longue durée forces narrative to invent means to translate vast spans into smaller human scales. This, Jameson argues, is why stories use “lost objects” as Lacanian “quilting points” for History: “A birthmark, a tell-tale word,” and other convenient signs become palpable evidence of the invisible time that exceeds the briefer, individual, human story. 30

Eventually the protagonist of Habana underguater finds the ebbó. Rama — in Hindu tradition the perfect human, making Rama both an ancient but also future New Man — examines the offering and concludes that it is “just a map of a route, a hidden destination in the Net.” 31 The “stolen object” becomes a map of the networks, a single object quilting together a web of relations. The stolen ebbó serves as a lost object that holds together the trans-temporal, fantastical narrative, and restores the realism of a terrifying future that may await Cuba and the planet.

Like many science-fiction novels, Habana underguater must flesh out its locale. After a period of “anarchy” following a massive hurricane that sunk the capital and spawned a “15 Day War,” Havana has been divided. To the north lie autonomous neighborhoods where private armed forces settle matters of state. To the south lie peripheral zones where “the true Autonomous Havana” has been established, ruled by its own urban codes. 32 These halves, in turn, have been divided into five semi-autonomous, warring zones, several of which are under water and referred to as puebloshundidos, “sunkentowns.”

Mota’s city both is and is not contemporary Havana. Like the real Havana it is in post-Soviet ruins, although in the novel some neighborhoods have fully sunk into the ocean. Existing neighborhoods such as Centro Habana are complemented by invented ones such as Ciudad Reggae. A “Corporate Miramar Zone” mirrors the actual 2014 opening of the Zona Económica Especial in Mariel, while also nodding to Miramar’s status as the center of Cuban and foreign-own businesses. 33 (In the novel Mariel is the site of a nuclear-energy reactor.) Apartments are holdovers from the Soviet style, their doors and windows eroded by saline air. Many of the inhabitants of this Havana choose to live far above the waterline in the shells of abandoned buildings, while gangs maraud through empty halls, looting and sacking abandoned furniture and consumer goods.

Sovereignty is distributed across a number of wealthy churches that control petroleum platforms in the Caribbean; a recent set of Holy Wars has seen Spanish marines attack Protestant Corporations. In an inversion of balsero or rafter crises, a character escapes Miami on a raft headed to Havana, evading sharks until she is saved by a patrol that protects the Jehovah Witnesses’ petroleum platforms. The “Malayocoreano-japonesa” (Malaykorean-Japanese) platform, meanwhile, supports a pan-Asian and Brazilian manufacturer of military paraphernalia. Mota’s vision extrapolates forward Brazil’s growing economic importance, and builds on speculations that its remodeling of Mariel was designed to facilitate trade with the Pacific rim. 34

The “ex-capitalist” United States has, meanwhile, disintegrated into warring militias sprinkled across places such as “Old Texas” and “Mexicocalifornia,” and, in a comic compounding of prefixes, “Little Old Washington”; its lands are now radioactive. 35 The tattered remnants of the United States evince its ugly self-destruction through violence. And since climate change is the direct result of industry-led economic growth — both state and market-driven — changing weather becomes a natural history of developmentalism: indeed, “North America is extinct.” 36

The novel probes the nature of sovereignty. Mota’s Havana amalgamates several contemporary authoritarian institutions: hierarchical and strictly masculine secret societies, as well as market, state, and carceral regimes. It creates a pastiche of all four forms, borrowing from US, Soviet, and Cuban versions. Viejo Alamar (presumably on the site of the existing housing complex Alamar) enjoys a peace otherwise associated with the “Russian” times (the KGB are still — or again — operative). Now, however, the peace is assured by the protection offered by the Abakuá Foundation, with its own laws of “zero tolerance” established by the ñáñigos, out of sight of the mercenary FULHA, or Fuerza Unida de la Habana Autónoma (United Forces of Autonomous Havana), and hidden too from the private police of the Marianao ghetto. (FULHA is a homonym of “fula,” Cuban slang for dollars. The term fula allegedly dates back to slavery, when traders gave problematic slaves this name — perhaps a reference to the Fula or Fulani people. The word came to mean something illegal, and was attached to cash in the early 1990s when the US dollar was criminalized.) The novel’s air of pananoia is comic, and rather than allegorize contemporary forms of repression, it paints a dystopic future as pulp fiction.

Habana underguater riffs on an isomorphism between religious regimes and the control of resources, property, and money. Th e Catholics have their own private army and constitute a “Corporación Unión Católica,” the Catholic Union Corporation, or CUC — also the acronym for one of Cuba’s two forms of currency, equivalent to the dollar, in distinction to the Cuban peso (the two are currently being melded into a single currency). There exists, naturally enough, an “Archbishop of the CUC” — the Vatican, too, has been privatized. 37

These sketches of alternative forms of sovereignty are for laughs. But they also suggest serious and subtler forms of rule. For instance, the digital logic of the now virtual Regla de Palo (which, along with Regla de Ocha, is one of two dominant forms of Afro-Cuban religion), is a different kind of “rule” (regla) from that which organizes corporations in a post-state landscape. The Orishas comment at one point: “The problems of the corporations are not the problems of the Regla de Ocha.” 38

Beyond these speculative political economies, Habana underguater takes pains to provide the reader with the more quotidian details of the future city. It imagines precarious and ad hoc information networks that seem still more futuristic in contrast with contemporary Havana’s minimal digital infrastructure. Instead of only seeing these as futuristic fantasies spun from “underdevelopment” or simply the lack of internet connectivity, though, we might read the novel’s descriptions of technological resourcefulness as prescient. The imagined inventions anticipate a shared future that will rely on simultaneously technological and rudimentary means in a climatically and politically chaotic reality. A character named Santiago who “had to invent to survive” adapts Japanese connectors to Russian circuits, sets crowns for teeth, recovers information from burned disk drives, carries out organ transplants, and so on, at one point agreeing to forensically identify a corpse for a promise that he can repossess its fillings for future dentistry. 39 Like Mota’s characters, we may all, in the future, have to attend to broken bodies and technologies alike, wetware as much as hardware or software. While parodying difficulties of the Cuban present, the novel’s fusing of the futuristic and the archaic in the novel also predicts a future that only exaggerates a present that, as Bruno Latour claimed, has never been as modern as it imagines itself to be. 40

Habana underguater does not always aspire to diagnostic verisimilitude, however. The fact that much of the action takes place in an internet designed as if it were a video game yields an aesthetic in which buildings thrust skywards “like a drawing by Frank Miller,” the well-known, politically reactionary comic-book illustrator now infamous for impugning the Occupy Wall Street movement. Clouds appear as if painted by the French academic artist William Bouguereau, and a simulated sky recalls the Sargent-like Spanish painter Joaquín Sorolla Bastida. 41 Describing a Global Web run by Orishas, Mota notes that “the rest of the cubo-web had been programmed with the intention of reproducing a fragment of the Hamel Alley in the Havana of the late twentieth century.” 42 A traditionally Afro-Cuban neighborhood (Callejón de Hamel, in Cayo Hueso, Centro Habana), which is often marketed as “folklore” to tourists, has been accurately understood as a staging, here captured and reproduced as a setting for a game.

Picturing Havana as the post-apocalyptic setting for a video game is not entirely new. In 2007 the artists Rewell Altunaga and Yusnier Mentado modified the video game Counter Strike for a performance they named Havana Strike, basing their intervention on one of the original game’s settings in Havana. The performance consisted in creating an impromptu trailer for the imaginary film Havana Strike out of a Counter Strike game between the two artists/players. The art game/trailer unfolded in real time and was projected onto the screen of a provincial cinema. These pieces return the animation of live players and unpredictable outcomes to a setting that threatens to ossify as a mere curio for players elsewhere.

An Afro-Cuban Futurism?

As his treatment of Hamel Alley glancingly suggests, Mota's novel reintroduces African and African-descended histories into a largely white genre. The novel also adapts current Abakuá practices to a virtual environment, but eschews turning the Orishas into some emancipatory pantheon. Abakuá deities, from their home in the Net, protect those humans that do their bidding on earth. As in existing African-derived Caribbean religions, these spirits sometimes “mount” the minds of humans to realize actions in everyday life.

Mota’s Orishas are shadowy figures that occasionally descend from the Net into material life, donning “mimetic suits” to impersonate humans. 43 The notion of immaterial gods impersonating humans is part and parcel of science fiction’s staple musings on a future in which humanity’s robotic creations eventually control us. Rejecting servitude to a god, or anyone, one character announces “I won’t be the ‘horse’ for anyone here or outside [the Net]. What do you think, that for so little I would let myself be possessed through the wireless network like an automaton?” 44

The specter of a new enslavement in Habana underguater takes the still more specific form of a mutinous branch of AI (Artificial Intelligence). These rebelling AIs are the second-generation progeny not of humans but of a now-extinct Artificial Intelligence. Its descendents seek an independence that “almost ends in revolution.” Another character reflects that robots “programmed by the KGB” seem to serve a kind of slavery. 45 The quotation suggests continuity between the island’s past of racialized slavery and a post-human future of robotics. We’ve already been there, Mota suggests: we’ve already seen humans turned into servile robots under racialized, neofeudal regimes. The past of Atlantic bondage threatens to return in a networked, information-age enslavement.

Mota’s novel also brings back the longstanding association between colonialism and fantasy and science fiction. If science fiction has been read as a genre with roots in colonial exploration narratives, Habana underguater reminds us that Cuba is a place indelibly marked by a colonial past. 46 Although Mota’s protagonists are African-descended Cubans from Centro Habana, the author abstains from folkloric caricatures of black urban culture of the kind that is regularly pitched to tourists. The novel does not explicitly name the ongoing economic inequality that unduly affects black Cubans. Yet it alludes to a biopolitical control of populations and creation of “undesirable” groups: entrance into the autonomous neighborhoods, for instance, requires that retinas be scanned, a security measure that is applied to all those who come from Centro Habana. 47

The novel’s soldering of Afro-Cuban religions to a digital future — an Afro-Cuban futurism of sorts — passes through the binary logic of Santería. 48 In palo religions, priests produce information by adding up the results of a series of binary choices, recorded as 0s and 1s. These procedures facilitate Mota’s depiction of the Orishas as digital coders, in lines such as “Every Orisha codifies his offerings following differently encrypted algorithms. And no one decodes an Orisha.” 49 Here West African religions update “ancient” knowledge in a near future, again suggesting how cultural forms considered ancient or archaic might well be the keys to surviving an increasingly apocalyptic future (or present). Elegbara, historic deity of the crossroads, becomes “he who opens and closes the paths in the Net.” 50

Private armies like the FULHA contend with guerrillas, “babalawos, hackers o abakuás,” making computer hackers equivalent to the high-ranking members of Ekpé or Abakuá-derived codes (Abakuá or Santería priests). In Habana underguater, “if you infringe on an Abakuá code, you’ll be killed.” 51 The openly political theology (or openly theological politics) of this near future, in which warring religious sects are simultaneously giant, petroleum-supported corporations, furthermore reminds us that religion, too, is a form of coding information.

After the Ciclón

The backstory to Habana underguater emerges only in fractured pieces. A giant hurricane (el Ciclón) has spawned massive migration and overcrowded neighborhoods. Hurricanes are a resonant figure in Caribbean history and literature, where powerful storms have long shaped cities and landscapes. 52 One of the most visible and experiential effects of global warming is indeed the increasing strength and frequency of hurricanes. 53 In this, too, the region’s past becomes oddly fresh again: Cuban science fiction began in 1920 with a novel about manmade climate change produced by redirecting the Gulf Stream; today a weakened Gulf Stream has been detected. 54

It is, then, entirely significant that the minor apocalypse preceding the novel’s present was “the Hurricane of ‘16.” The figure of the cyclone taps into both atavistic, biblical flood narratives and intensifying, contemporary weather disasters. After the Cyclone the Russians departed for the moon, leaving the Cubans to “eat the cyclone” (“jamarnos el Ciclón”): an allegory for the evaporation of Soviet economic support. If Habana underguater takes place in a post-Soviet period, it is also a post-industrial present. The Ciclón was named “Florinda,” vaguely suggesting some massive invasion from Florida — like the novel’s reverse wave of balseros seeking refuge from Miami. The wealthy neighborhood of Miramar, currently home to many businesses, sports “industrial ruins” that surge up like “the old bones of a giant.” 55

The Ciclón has brought about a new everyday. The sound of waves is a permanent soundtrack in the narrative, again as if the novel were a multi-media game. In the first few pages “waves beat against the half-submerged buildings. An infinity of algae, urchins and crabs occupied the interior floors awaiting high tide.” 56 As the story proceeds, the sea assumes the myriad and opposing connotations variously ascribed it: freedom and fence, life source and grave, horizon and depth, site of electrifying hurricanes and of numbing boredom. But it now takes on the “law of the jungle” mentality that accompanies the wildcatting of the earth’s last nationless space. The waters are both overfished and overregulated: “when Underguater belonged to Centro-Habana, and the Regla de Ocha was in control, things were better. The santeros didn’t care about our fishing.” 57

Today, rising ocean temperatures threaten Cuba’s fishing industry. In the novel, the sea is privatized and fought over. 58 Mota paints a sea studded with embattled fishermen:

Small polymer and rubber rafts floated in the blue of the deep waters. The fishermen drifted beyond the security limits. Almost at the horizon, the extractive platforms flew the logos of the Catholic Union Corporation and the Jehova Witnesses. Some FULHA helicopters criss-crossed the sky, like great black birds, in the direction of the cosmoport of Old Havana. 59

In the context of battles for the sea’s riches, the sound of lapping waves passes from connoting a peaceful if elegiac swallowing of industrial ruins, to the insistent tune of new battles over possession and extraction:

The sound of the waves breaking against the coast arrived from the north. The waves flowed between the buildings of the sunkentown to die at the Camilo Cienfuegos pedestrian jetty . . . The fishermen’s boats blinked their Chinese lanterns in Morse code, in the eternal exchange with the Jehova Witness platforms about the price of fish in Underguater. 60

Underguater is ground zero for the embattled private armies, a “war zone” to which santeros have blocked all access.

The question of what “possession” may look like in the future — real, virtual, or somewhere in between, as in the case of the ebbó — is suggested by Mota’s figuring of the seas as the terrain for such disputes. The battles in the background of Habana underguater between fishermen and those regulating fishing rights and prices are located off shore in disputed waters, as they were in the early modern age of expanding European empires. Hugo Grotius’s seminal Mare Liberum (Freedom of the Seas, 1609) argued, in its self-interested quibbling with the Portuguese Empire over “discoveries” in Asia, that to discover meant more than merely seeing something. The latter might be a theoretical possession, perhaps, inasmuch as "theory" comes from the Greek θεωρία, looking at or beholding. Instead, Grotius believed that discovery meant “to take real possession thereof . . . [F]or that reason the Grammarians give the same signification to the expressions ‘to find’ and ‘to occupy’” in situations otherwise deemed res nullius, to belong to no one. 61 Mota anticipates the reactivation of these debates as overfishing and petroleum extraction exhaust existing resources.

The ocean thus becomes, at the novel’s end, more than the mere site of resource squabbles. It becomes a cipher inscribed with the ontological changes facing the planet. It is also the key to unlocking the inner truths of the Orishas, the open sesame to a sphinx-like query from a god to a young female combatant intent on surviving her encounter with the spirit. The question asked the young warrior is precisely what the sea is like. For the sea, apparently, is a medium that the Orishas cannot experience or describe accurately. It is a figure for the earthly real beyond the reach of the Orishas, who are “not of this world. Neither the real nor virtual one.” 62 If the girl cannot answer correctly, the Orisha posing the question will be able to possess her like a zombie, mounting her at will for the rest of her life as a conduit to the human world.

But the disquieting truth behind this narrative climax, which otherwise feels somewhat contrived, is that what we once took to be fixed truths about the climate and the ocean no longer hold. What the sea is like is no longer just a fairy-tale interrogation, but an actual unknown. The girl’s answer is a lyrical description of the lapping waves in Underguater. It might also be a realistic description of “normal” hurricane season in present-day Havana, when the water often flows many blocks into the city, and well up to Fifth Avenue in the Vedado neighborhood:

When the horizon is black and the rain’s mist falls in the distance, the waves reach up to the remains of houses and slap at the facades like a clutch of crumbling saltpeter. The waves course through the streets, overspill the old sewer system and make waterspouts in the middle of avenues. You who have travelled through the net, tell me whether, from consoles everywhere, one can hear the roar of the sea like a hungry animal, feel its warmth as a lover in heat . . . You are a prisoner in your ocean of binary pulses, just as are we, outside it. 63

In this nostalgia for the real against the digital, an “oceanic feeling” — which Romain Rolland, in a letter to Freud, said described religion’s sense of the eternal — is both a test of humanity and, sadly, circumscribed. 64 The ocean threatens to spill over banks, to swallow cities, to devour like a hungry animal. But it is also overfished, privatized, and inaccessible to those cordoned off in a virtual existence. In Civilization and its Discontents Freud borrowed Rolland’s oceanic feeling but likened it to a line from a play, “we cannot fall out of this world”: in other words, we are all a part of this world, for good. 65 In Mota’s novel, an oceanic feeling is grasped at as the last tie to this world, even as global warming changes it.


1 James Hansen, Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity, New York: Bloomsbury, 2009, 42.

2. Nelly Richard, “The Graphic Model of an Advertising Identity,” in Cultural Residues: Chile in Transition, trans. Alan West-Durán and Theodore Quester, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004, 116–17.

3. Hansen, Storms of My Grandchildren, 42.

4. Ibid., 83.

5. Dahr Jamail, “The Coming ‘Instant Planetary Emergency,” The Nation, December 17, 2013, at www.thenation.com.

6. Hansen writes that “Ice sheet growth is a slow process, inherently limited by the snowfall rate, but disintegration is a wet process, spurred by feedbacks, and once well under way it can be explosively rapid.” Hansen, Storms of My Grandchildren, 85–6.

7. “Hot Spots: Global Temperature Rise,” Washington Post. 

8. Jamail, “The Coming ‘Instant Planetary Emergency.’”

9. Varias ciudades se habían perdido sin remedio. De las pequeñas islas, antiguamente dispersas por los océanos, no quedaba ni mitad, y en las restantes se hizo casi imposible vivir, porque los maremotos, las inundaciones y los temporales has hacían inhabitables. El sol se tornó letal; causaba graves y dolorosas quemaduras. Además, derritió la zona congelada de hielos perpetuos en solo unos años. Muchos territorios tomaron medidas. Construir el Frontón fue una de ellas. Nuria Dolores Ordaz Matos, Entremundos, Havana: Editorial Gente Nueva, 2010, 15.

10. Virgilio Piñera, La isla en peso, Havana: Ediciones Unión, 1998, 33.

11. Dan Whittle, personal communication, email, September 2014; Nature Conservancy, at www.nature.org.

12. Whittle and Rey Santos, “Protecting Cuba’s Environment,” 74.

13. Ibid., 75.

14. Ibid., 86.

15. Benítez-Rojo, “Sugar and the Environment in Cuba,” 47. The Centro de Gestión e Inspección Ambiental oversees “5 research agencies on atmos-phere and climate change, coastal areas, biodiversity, physical planning and soil and water resources.” Whittle and Rey Santos, “Protecting Cuba’s Environment,” 76–7.

16. The Gaceta Oficial de la Republica de Cuba 26 from September 2013 claims that the renovation will “oversee the implementation of the results of the Strategic Environmental Evaluation realized by the Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment for projects approved for the zone” (207). Héctor Fernándo Maseda Gutiérrez, “El proyecto Brasil-Cuba en el puerto de Mariel,” Miscelaneas de Cuba, at www.miscelaneasdecuba.net; Whittle and Rey Santos, “Protecting Cuba’s Environment,” 89.

17. Humberto Díaz, personal communication, May 2012; artist’s statement.

18. “Hokusai the Wave,” Private Life of a Masterpiece, season 3, produced by Jeremy Bugler, London: BBC, 2004.

19. Weiss, To and From Utopia, 6.

20. See Jacques Khalip’s chapter “Now No More” from his unpublished manuscript, Dwelling in Disaster (in progress) and Colebrook, Extinction.

21. Artist’s statement.

22. Khalip, “Now No More,” n.p.

23. Subhankar Banerjee, “Ought We Not to Establish ‘Access to Food’ as a Species Right?,” Third Text 27, no. 1 (2013), 33–43 (34).

24. See, for instance, Sebastião Salgado, Genesis, ed. Lélia Wanick Salgado, Cologne: Taschen, 2013.

25. Vázquez Ley states he is interested in “death by cultural and informational obscolescence and physical death; accumulation as a symptom of death on a systemic level, death as reason for generating a multiplicity of links in a network referring to any event . . . Photography operates as a document of that reconstruction, a splintered allusion whose origin can be found buried in the informational referent.” Artist’s statement.

26. Castells, “El reverdecimiento,” 23. Registering a changing environment in a more organic fashion, the young artist Liesther Amador has made works such as Línea (2007), a chalk line traced just above the waterline of a body of water. The line inscribed art in the landscape, capturing the shifting transition between water and earth in the single moment in which the line was traced on the cliff walls. Waves across the surface of the water and rainfall eventually rubbed away the chalk. The line suggested the water’s retreat, as if the processes responsible for changing water tables, however invisible, were human-made too. Amador, surprisingly, was unaware of similar works by earlier Cuban artists such as Gustavo Pérez Monzón, who, in the 1970s and in collaboration with children, drew with pigment in streams, then watched the colors swirl away (Weiss, To and From Utopia, 24). Liesther Amador, personal communication, July 2012 and September 2014.

27. Mota, Habana underguater, 33.

28. See Enrique Rodríguez Sosa, Los ñánigos, Havana: Casa de las Américas, 1982; Ivor Miller, Voice of the Leopard: African Secret Societies and Cuba, Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2009.

29. Jameson, Antinomies of Realism, 301.

30. Ibid., 302.

31. solo un mapa de ruta, un destino oculto en la Red. Mota, Habana underguater, 87.

32. la verdadera Habana Autónoma. Ibid., 75.

33. Zona corporada Miramar.

34. Ibid., 29; 5.

35. Ibid., 21–2.

36. Ibid., 84.

37. Ibid., 61.

38. Los problemas de las corporaciones no son los problemas de la Regla de Ocha. Ibid, 35.

39. tuvo que inventar para sobrevivir. Ibid., 27.

40. Bruno Latour, We Have Never Been Modern, trans. Catherine Porter, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003.

41, Mota, Habana underguater, 84.

42, El resto del cubo-web había sido programado intentando reproducir un fragmento del callejón de Hamel en la Habana de fi nales del XX. Ibid., 34.

43 Ibid., 73. The mimetic suits seem to allude to a longstanding interest in Cuban culture — from mid-twentieth- century theorist and author Severo Sarduy back to nineteenth-century Abakuá practices — with theories of mimesis. See Severo Sarduy, La simulación, Caracas: Monte Avila Editores, 1982.

44. No seré caballo de nadie ni aquí ni allá fuera. ¿Qué te crees, que por tan poco me dejaré poseer como un autómata por medio de una red inalámbrica? Mota, Habana underguater, 73.

45. Mota, Habana underguater, 41–2; 48.

46. See John Reider, Colonialism and the Emergence of Science Fiction, Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2008.

47. Mota, Habana underguater, 49.

48. Ibid., 102. Lisa Yaszek charts branching currents in what has, in the Anglophone world, come to be called “afro-futurism.” Yaszek echoes Kodwo Eshun’s critique of a certain conflation of “blackness and catastrophe,” whereby places “populated by descendents of the African diaspora — such as the Caribbean islands and the inner cities of North America” — receive a leveling treatment in futurist scenarios: “sites of absolute dystopia; imaginary spaces where the persistence of black identity signifies a disastrous failure in the ongoing progress of global capital itself.” In contrast, Mota does not construct a wholly dystopian world, and African-descended Cubans are not an obstacle to global capital so much as an integral part of the new logic of the Net-driven society. Lisa Yaszek, “Afrofuturism, Science Fiction and the History of the Future,” Socialism and Democracy Online, April 7, 2011, at http://sdonline.org. Kodwo Eshun, “Further Considerations on Afrofuturism,” CR: The New Centennial Review 3, no. 2 (Summer 2003), 287–302.

49. Cada Orisha codifica sus ofrendas siguiendo un algoritmo de cifrado diferente. Y nadie decodifica a un Orisha. Mota, Habana underguater, 73.

50. el que abre y cierra todos los caminos en la Red. Ibid.

51. Ibid., 67; 31.

52. See Louis A. Pérez Jr., Winds of Change: Hurricanes and the Transformation of Nineteenth-Century Cuba, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001, and Fernando Ortiz, El huracán: Su mitología y sus símbolos, Mexico: Fondo de cultura económica, 1957.

53. Henry Fountain and Justin Gillis write that “As the planet warms because of carbon dioxide and other heat - trapping gases, the difference between sea and air temperatures increases . . . [fueling] these kinds of cyclonic storms. ‘As you warm the climate, you basically raise the speed limit on hurricanes.’” Henry Fountain and Justin Gillis, “Typhoon in Philippines Casts Long Shadow Over U.N. Talks on Climate Treaty,” New York Times, November 11, 2013, at www.nytimes.com. See also Jakob Kronik and Dorte Verner, Indigenous Peoples and Climate Change in Latin America and the Caribbean, Washington, DC: The World Bank, 2010.

54. In Juan Plana y Sainz’s 1920 novel La corriente del golfo, considered the first Cuban science-fiction novel, Mambises (independent fighters in the 1895 war against Spain) collude with US capitalists to use dirt moved from the building of the Panama Canal to divert the Gulf Stream, thus causing massive climate change. Spain dries out, populations starve and begin a mass migration through other parts of Europe; eventually the metropole grants the island its independence. This fantastical past is now a possibility, since it is possible that the Gulf Stream may actually disappear, or weaken substantially. See “Satellites Record Weakening North Atlantic Current,” NASA.gov, April 15, 2004, at www.nasa.gov.

55. Mota, Habana underguater, 94–100.

56. Las olas del mar batían contra los edifi cios a medio hundir. Infinidad de algas, erizos y cangrejos ocupaban los pisos interiores en espera de la marea alta. Ibid., 10.

57. Cuando Underguater pertenecía a Centro-Habana, y la Regla de Ocha tenía la batuta, las cosas iban mejor. A los santeros no les importaba lo que hiciéramos con la pesca. Cobraban una mensualidad y ya. Ibid., 50.

58. Justin Corfield, “Cuba,” The Encyclopedia of Global Warming and Climate Change, ed. S. George Philander, Los Angeles: Sage Publications, 2008.

59. Pequeñas balsas de caucho y polímero flotaban en el azul de las aguas profundas. Los pescadores flotaban a la deriva más allá del límite de seguridad. Casi en el horizonte, las plataformas extractoras enarbolaban logos de Corporación Unión Católica y Testigos de Jehová. Algunos helicópteros de la FULHA surcaban el cielo, como grandes pájaros negros, en dirección al cosmopuerto de La Habana Vieja. Mota, Habana underguater, 10.

60. El sonido de las olas chocando contra la costa llegaba desde el norte. Las olas corrían entre los edifi cios del pueblohundido para morir en le muelle de peatones del Camilo Cienfuegos . . . Los botes de los pescadores hacían parpadear sus faroles chinos al ritmo del morse, en eterno regateo con los trabajadores de las plataformas de los Testigos de Jehová, sobre los precios del pescado en Underguater. Ibid., 37–9.

61. Hugo Grotius, Mare Liberum (The Freedom of the Seas, 1609), trans. Ralph Van Deman Magoffin, New York: Oxford University Press, 1916, digital edition Kitchener: Batoche Books Limited, 2000, 15.

62. No son de este mundo. Ni del virtual ni del real. Mota, Habana underguater, 43.

63. Mientras el horizonte está negro y la niebla de la lluvia cae a lo lejos, las olas llegan hasta los restos de las casas y golpean las fachadas como un puño de salitre que se destroza. Las olas corren por las calles, desbordan el viejo alcantarillado y crean surtidores de agua en medio de las avenidas. Tú que has viajado por la red, dime si desde las consolas de todo el mundo puede escucharse el rugido del mar como un animal hambriento, sentir su calor de amante en celo . . . Estás preso en tu océano de pulsos binarios, como nosotros lo estamos allá afuera. Ibid., 111.

64 Sigmund Freud, Civilization and its Discontents, trans. James Strachey, New York: Norton, 1961, 11.

65. Ibid., 12.