‘We do have 2 parties in Cuba, one is called Fidel and the other Raúl,’ Alberto, a guide in his thirties, answered my, somewhat, naive question and both of us burst laughing. We were chatting about his homeland, the only country he’s ever seen, and I wanted to know if there were any potential political movements, any chances whatsoever that at least one other party would come on the Cuban political scene in the near future.
A month after that conversation happened, only Raúl is still alive. He has just buried his older brother, announcing to the world that according to Fidel’s wishes, the government will ban naming streets or public monuments after him. Allegedly, Fidel wanted to avoid creating the cult of personality. A nice one – the propaganda and showing off the Party’s power in one move. The leftie-media jumped on this bombastic news and proved once more that good journalism on our side of the world is fading away. I, on the other hand, didn’t know whether to cry or laugh, when I heard about it, since I’ve just seen it all with my eyes in Cuba.
Yes, Fidel may have kept his name off the public sites, as the Guardian reports, but the Party led by him and his brother did make sure that jumbo posters with Fidel’s photos stare at passers-by along Cuban roads. The jumbo boards are used for the political propaganda and these are not the only places, where the brainwashing punches you in the eye. The worst was to see the choice, or better to say, no choice of literature in bookstores and I went into every single one I’ve seen. It’s literally pathetic. Fidel, Che, Martí & Co., some books about Cuban history and so. Hemingway, Coelho and García Márquez seem acceptable, as well. After seeing 2 of the shops, I knew all the titles I’d see in the others. This could lead me towards questioning the benefits of their free education, which turns not to be really free when you hear all the details. However, it is a whole topic for another post.
Cuban history is complex, as well as their relationship with the US, but none of it justifies their authoritarian political system. I could even believe that Fidel did have good intentions at the very beginning of his political career, but he and his comrades were obviously not capable to stay in power in a different way than this one. In such circumstances, they must have understood very well that names on streets were less important and would dissolve into the oblivion if not supported by constant political education and repression. They knew that removing access to diverse opinions, bombing generations of Cubans with one point of view and throwing into the nation’s head a big enemy, would help them to stay in power. And they excelled in all of these.
On the high level, these are the main means that boosted creation of the huge cult of Fidel’s personality and this is what makes ridiculous the articles that try to describe Fidel Castro as a humble person. Funny enough, the American embargo, in a way, helped the Communist Party of Cuba in generating this atmosphere, because, as one person told us, ‘The government always blamed the embargo for everything and it’ll be interesting to see what will be the excuse for problems once it gets lifted.’ Therefore, justifications for all the Party’s moves and failures, lied 90 miles north of this beautiful island. For 56 long years many have been believing in them, but many just bowed, holding their head down because of fear and I am wondering, when and how this will change.