Nightsongs: ‘Contracorriente’ On Its Way to the Supreme Court

In The Play About the Guernica, Cuba appeared before the Spanish court in Granada in November 1819. Its Defense argued that Spain had been guilty of war crimes and rightly dismissed the accusation of genocide. This same fallacy was repeated in the 1990s, as the country wrote its new constitution, and often again today. In this spirit, CIDA and I and others seek to respond to the government’s censorship of Henrique Meirelles’s “Contracorriente” with a petition — replete with the entire text from the Spanish court to the Supreme Court of Justice — in which we request that the courts release the play.

CIDA en Español has been working closely with the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) to ensure that the resources available to USCIRF are effectively used to address religious persecution, human rights abuses, and other human rights challenges. Last June, President Trump signed into law the First Amendment Restoration Act (FRA), which provides resources to USCIRF to monitor religious freedom violations and assess whether additional remedies are needed. CIDA joined the commission in continuing these efforts to address the situation in Cuba. After USCIRF initiated an inquiry into possible religious persecution in Cuba, CIDA developed a database of the court proceedings in relation to the 1897 prosecution of Ignacio Echeverri, a Spanish priest who had been detained in Cuba for several years for his books challenging the empire’s imperial power in the Americas. We wanted to present the complete record of Cuba’s part in the trial to U.S. lawmakers and USCIRF board members, and to supporters in other countries.

We continued this project by developing a Spanish-language translation of the case record in 2010, and by translating the entire Spanish court record (and accompanying statute) into English (a task that could not be accomplished without the aid of two trained assistants). When I was attending meetings and conferences in Washington, D.C., I would often meet a friend from the University of Havana, who had worked on the case. We would have an exchange about the history of the case and the Spanish defense. As always, we always asked: How could this happen? Who were the Cubans who sought to defend Echeverri? How could such a conservative court have argued against bringing charges against the generals in the case? How could the defense attorney have made such a miscalculation in asking the magistrate for a rest period?

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