Café Batavia

por Julio Aramberri

Uno de los pocos edificios coloniales que se conservan en buen estado en Batavia, al norte de la inmensamente más grande Yakarta de hoy, es un café con el mismo nombre de la antigua capital colonial holandesa. El café se presenta como un resto venerable de aquellos tiempos, pero eso es verdad sólo en parte. El edificio que lo alberga data, efectivamente, de comienzos del siglo XIX, pero en la era colonial cobijaba un almacén de abarrotes, destinados a salir hacia la metrópoli desde el puerto cercano. El café actual es una creación reciente en busca de nueva identidad en la nostalgia. Nostalgia no de la colonia en sí misma, porque esto sería anatema para los clientes que hoy lo frecuentan, en su mayoría turistas extranjeros. Por el aspecto de los que yo he podido ver, muchos de ellos se abstendrían de pisarlo si fuera ésa la razón de su existencia. La nostalgia que efluye del Café Batavia es otra. Su gran salón del segundo piso, según me cuentan, recrea la atmósfera de una Belle Époque que no conoció, en tanto que abajo, en el bar, se agolpan muebles art déco y, en los baños, las paredes se adornan con fotografías de famosos de los años treinta y cuarenta, y otras más outrées, también de aquellos tiempos, de parejas, lésbicas en algún caso, haciendo el amor, o mostrando, orgullosos y orgullosas, una desnudez desconcertante como en tantas imágenes de Man Ray. Por las noches suena jazz: cool mayormente.

En realidad, el Café Batavia es una mezcla ecléctica de tiempos, estilos y cócteles. Pero el nombre del bar (Churchill), que no tiene nada de bátavo, es una declaración de principios. El Café Batavia propone una vuelta, irónica por imposible, a un tiempo considerado estética y hasta moralmente superior a éstos que nos ha tocado vivir, tan poco artísticos y tan faltos de heroísmo. Es la misma inspiración de la cadena hotelera Raffles desde su buque insignia de Singapur y la que está detrás de muchos locales de ocio en el revival de la antigua Concesión Francesa de Shanghái.

Por supuesto, los nacionalistas y el público indonesio en general no pisan el Café Batavia. No tienen nada que hacer allí. A las mujeres musulmanas podría darles un pálpito nada más entrar en los baños. Los nacionalistas no quieren saber nada de la colonia, dándola por un mal sueño del que, norabuena, han despertado. Ya se encargan sus colegas universitarios poscoloniales por el ancho mundo de dar grandes lanzadas a ese moro muerto, así que en casa no hay que inquietarse por ello.

Muy pocos se atreven a juzgar a la colonia tras un análisis de costes y beneficios, como dicen en su jerga los economistas. O, en castellano recto, de sus lados malos y buenos. Los primeros saltan a la vista. No es grato tener que soportar que en la casa propia sean otros los que se encarguen de mandar y, sobre todo, de sacar partido a los productos que los nativos han creado con su trabajo. Pero sólo el nombre de Niall Ferguson me viene a la memoria cuando trato de recordar si hay alguien que se niegue a ir más allá de los pliegos de cargos sin atenuantes. Ferguson recuerda con acierto que los capitalistas de la metrópoli hicieron inversiones en infraestructuras, muchas de las cuales aún están ahí; o que iniciaron la industrialización de las colonias; o que pusieron los cimientos de un sistema escolar que todavía respira; o que ofrecieron a algunas elites coloniales un acceso a la educación con el que, antes, ni siquiera podían soñar los de más alta cuna. Precisamente de esas escuelas iban a salir los líderes del movimiento anticolonial. Cosas todas ellas ciertas, aunque escuezan en la sensible piel del nacionalismo local.

Pero hay algo de lo que nadie habla. Lo que nacionalistas y poscoloniales callan de consuno es que, además de beneficiarse de esos aspectos positivos, ellos aprendieron también el abecedario de la gobernación de sus países en la falsilla colonial. En sus ensoñaciones prefieren pensar en una patria eterna que estaba ahí desde la noche de los tiempos y recuperó su esplendor tan pronto como los nacionalistas quebraron el yugo de la colonia y se hicieron con el poder.

Lamentablemente, nada en el mundo real avala esa fantasía. En casos como los de India e Indonesia, la pretendida unidad nacional nunca existió hasta la época colonial. En India, al país lo unificó el Raj británico. El propio nombre de Indonesia es una creación reciente, utilizado ocasionalmente en el siglo XIX y sólo popularizado desde 1900 por la obra del académico alemán Adolf Bastian. Antes de la colonia, lo que hoy es Indonesia sólo se conocía como un accidente geográfico y lo llamaban archipiélago malayo o archipiélago índico. Para los holandeses eran sólo las Indias Orientales, por supuesto neerlandesas (Nederlands Oost-Indië).

Pero fueron precisamente los holandeses quienes convirtieron en una entidad política a ese enorme archipiélago de más de diecisiete mil islas, y sólo se emplearon en ello mucho después de que empezasen a ocupar algunos puertos desperdigados por la zona. Al comienzo de la era colonial, a ellos, como a la mayoría de los europeos, sólo les interesaba establecerse en algunos centros (entrepôts) para comerciar con la población local. Iba a ser más tarde cuando, al tiempo que avanzaba el Estado nacional en sus propios países, se diesen cuenta de que podían ampliar sus beneficios utilizando las mismas técnicas que en casa, es decir, levantando todo un edificio burocrático de nueva planta para recaudar impuestos y, por supuesto, para imponer un monopolio sobre la violencia con el que asegurarse de que se pagaban. La lógica colonial imponía adoptar funciones estatales a escala local, coordinadas con los intereses y las necesidades de la metrópoli. Cuando los nacionalistas llegaron al poder tras la oleada descolonizadora que siguió a la Segunda Guerra Mundial, tenían ya hecho ese traje a su medida y sólo tuvieron que ocupar los escalones superiores de la burocracia a los que hasta entonces y por regla general tenían vedado el acceso.

Pero el gusano estaba dentro de la manzana. Las burocracias de las naciones occidentales lograron convivir, con desigual éxito, con la democracia representativa. En Oriente, Japón marcó otro camino, adoptando las técnicas del poder centralizado, pero sin ceder un ápice a la soberanía popular. No le fue mal hasta los años treinta, como puede verse en el apasionante trabajo de Edward Seidensticker sobre el Tokio de la época. Y, así, el modelo Meiji hizo furor entre los nacionalistas del sudeste asiático. En Indonesia, Sukarno y Hatta, los futuros padres de la patria, lo deseaban para sí con tal ímpetu que no sintieron el menor empacho de colaborar en la imposición del trabajo forzado sobre la población de las islas ocupadas, en las requisas de alimentos y en el esfuerzo de guerra de los japoneses. Dejando a un lado a China y a la Indochina francesa, que se inclinaron por adoptar el modelo soviético, la independencia de las colonias británicas y holandesas del sudeste asiático dio paso a nuevos Estados nacionales de muy baja calidad democrática. A las nuevas elites dirigentes les interesaba, sobre todo, la nación como aparato y, por si había que adaptarse a las exigencias de las entonces occidentalizadas Naciones Unidas, el aguar los escasos procesos democráticos con mecanismos burocráticos sobre los que la democracia carecía de control. Quien primero puso a punto el mecanismo fue el patriarca de Singapur, Lee Kuan Yew, y su legado lo mantienen hoy con veneración en Indonesia, en Malasia, en Tailandia y en Filipinas.

De vuelta al Café Batavia. Los extranjeros que lo frecuentan se sumergen durante un rato en un espacio distinto y en un tiempo que muchos tienen por mejor que el que dejaron atrás al partir de casa. Es el mismo recinto tranquilo del Rick’s Café Américain de Bogie, donde puede disfrutarse sin dejar que pasen de la puerta las turbulencias de fuera. A los nacionalistas, por su parte, les resulta enormemente útil abandonarlo a una nostalgia que evita plantear preguntas. Especialmente si son incómodas.

No dejen de visitarlo.

14/05/2013

 
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