Editorial No. 58 Year X, No. 4, JULY-AUGUST 2017
THE CITY AND ITS CITIZENS ON 125 YEARS OF THE CITY CHARTER OF PINAR DEL RÍO
On the occasion of the celebration on September 10, 2017 of 150 years since Queen Isabella II of Spain granted the city charter to Pinar del Río, we would like to express our general considerations, not parochial ones, regarding the city and its citizens. We know that this type of celebrations are being rescued throughout the country, and that numerous historical or folkloric articles have been or will be written trying to highlight achievements and challenges, local anecdotes and legends. We will focus on one of the angles not covered well in these anniversaries: the concept of city and of the public spirit of its citizens.
It is also proper to clear up, for the n-th time, that we are not talking about 150 years since the founding of Pinar del Río,, which is in fact a much older settlement dating its founding to Sunday, August 2, 1699, when the first baptism took place in the then Shrine of San Rosendo of Pinal del Río, whose documentary evidence figures as Number 1 of the First Book of Barajas in the archives of the current Cathedral Church of San Rosendo de Pinar del Río. Therefore we are reaching the 318th anniversary of the founding of the town in Vuelta Abajo when the first and few settlers, almost all of Galician descent, gathered, as was the religious custom of the day, to select the patron saint for the nascent settlement, at the shade of a pine tree grove along what is today known as the Guamá River, devotedly deposited inside a hat the ballots with the name of the saint of their devotion under whose protection they wished to place this incipient community. After invoking the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the eldest one took out one of the pieces of paper reading the name of San Rosendo, who had been mayor, viceroy, bishop and abbot of Celanova, Galicia, Spain, being born on November 26, 907, and dying on March 1 of the year 977 A.D. Therefore, this year we are celebrating the 1110th anniversary of the birth of our patron saint San Rosendo, whose image and relic are venerated in our Cathedral; its procession and festival were milestones of our most pure traditions. November 26 is the Day of Pinareño Dignity, the day of the founding of the Committee “All for Pinar del Río” and that date was chosen precisely by its founders as it was the birthdate of our patron saint.
It is also interesting, at least, to note that despite the colonial overtone of the origin of these foundations, they are being rescued as part of our historical patrimony, not allowing the foreign shadows and interventions of its origin harm the cultural essence at its bowels, And this is fine with us. Precisely this is why we ask ourselves why not celebrate the birth of our Republic on May 20 1902, despite the limitations of amendments, and so we can celebrate, without hang ups of subordination, the anniversary of a city charter granted by a queen of a colonial empire which dominated us for centuries. Celebrating the birth of a city, or a republic or of a person, will never be perfect always exhibiting lights and shadows which we lament, but, it is also true that these hegemonic shadows need not darken the light of life, of talent and the road traveled by the city, the nation or the person which in the historical journey has given evidence of its sovereignty and independence.
And it is precisely in this civic dimension that we wish to reflect on the eve of the 150th anniversary of our humble and green city of Pinar.
What has truly been the origin, cause and motivation for our towns, cities and nation are roughly two capabilities, rights and duties, assumed and exercised by the people that make up these towns, namely: the quality of being-feeling, thinking and living as citizens, and secondly and simultaneously, the quality of being-feeling, thinking and living as a civic community.
In fact, for these celebrations and for all the others to make sense, continuity and transcendence, we need to ask ourselves first of all if we the people from Pinar, Trinidad, Camagüey or Havana are only passive and indolent inhabitants or if we cultivate the quality of being-feeling, thinking and living as aware and free citizens, responsible for our civic duties and rights. It is proper, given the limited civic education we suffer from, to recall that being a citizen is not a penal term or a police treatment, it is a dignity, a right and a duty for every human being.
There is no city if there are no citizens to compose it. To the extent that our condition and quality of citizenship is deficient, this anthropological damage will be reflected in the neglect, indiscipline and mistreatment of the city and the lack of civil participation of its inhabitants. To be aware and participating citizens demands higher degrees of freedom, of the exercise of civil, political, economic, social, cultural and ecological rights. Lacking freedom there is no responsibility. Missing equal rights for all there is no citizen sovereignty, the root and sap of every civility.
The second capability, right and duty that guarantees that historical celebrations retain their profound sense, their daily continuity and their transcendence towards a future progress, is the quality to be-feel, think and live as a civic community. This quality needs to be cultivated within the family, the school, religious communities, and groups of the civil society as well as in cultural, civil and political institutions. We complain about the lack of “feelings of belonging” but frequently we do not seek or fix the causes that cause it. Some of these deep causes can be: nobody can “feel” a part if he or she is not really a part, with all rights and duties.
If the State or its institutions are only a part, then the other parts, be they minorities or majorities are kept out, and they don’t belong inside the community blocked by only one part. They become pariahs in their own communities, strangers in their cities, foreigners in their institutions and even “enemies” suspected of being harmful to their community or being disqualified as “part” of a foreign community in a world which is today already a global village claiming universal citizenship in its constitutions and the equality of all human beings without distinction of race, creed, sex or sexual orientation, political ideas or philosophical outlook.
There is no healthy city without the inclusion of everyone. Without inclusion there is no sense of belonging. Whoever creates sides divides the city. And to be-feel-think and act as a community is to share a common unity in the essential aspects and to respect and include all peaceful and civilized diversity. We all feel and know when we are part and when we are classified as “strangers”. We have all felt a time when “we are counted on” and when we are dismissed as “the other ones”. How can we demand a feeling of belonging when what we get are orders, slogans, plans preconceived by others and tiresome convocations to “join in”? The cities, the nation, are not the “sum” of its inhabitants but they are and should be the community of belonging, the inclusive and gathering civic family of everyone and all. To exclude is to destroy the city. To exclude is to wound the feeling of belonging. To exclude is to cultivate passivity, neglect, indolence and the exodus towards other cities, or what is worse, toward other nations, even when we are not conscious of it.
Without an authentic responsible citizenry and without complete participative belonging there is no city, nor a community, or a celebration that will endure and cultivate the best ethical and civic values. No matter how much we say it, write about it, stress it in the media, the stubborn reality denies it every day upon going out into the city.
But let us not remain in the arid complain. To propose is to construct community. And we feel that one of the remedies is systematic and non-manipulative ethical and civic education from cradle to grave: to educate for freedom, to educate for responsibility, to educate for inclusion, to educate for the respect of what is diverse, and for all types of diversity. Banish the language of war, of confrontation, the disqualification of our fellow citizens who think differently, or believe differently or hold different political or cultural options. Let us educate ourselves as citizens of a republic where we may all fit in.
We will only make mention of a civic project which was able to combine constructive material work with civic and spiritual education, which united the citizenry without exclusions, and which is paradigmatic of our present and future: the Committee “All for Pinar del Río”, founded November 26, 1941 under the free and responsible initiative of a group of citizens and sustained by the financing and generous participation of locals from Pinar in a voluntary and independent way. Many other civic works throughout the more than three centuries of existence of our city constitute incontrovertible evidence that these proposals retain their relevance and urgency. Let us learn the lessons of history and let us not turn the birthdays into noise, stone and cement.
Then the celebrations of anniversaries of foundings or of granting charters to cities, will not be a frenzy of paint and repairs –much needed– nor the holiday of a particular date, but rather the continual cultivation of civic virtues, of the sense of community without exclusions and of love for the small homeland, the greater Fatherland, and Humanity as a whole, as at the end of the day: “Patria es humanidad”.
Pinar del Río, August 2, 2017
At the 318th Anniversary of the Founding of Pinar del Río and Eve of the 150 years of the grant of a charter to the city by Queen Isabella of Spain.