Saturday, September 18

From Fidel to Miguel, from Rubén to Daniel or from Hugo to Nicolás

Argentina recognizes in these days a bewilderment unanimous that, however, he has known almost always, that of fallen idols of all kinds. “Learn flowers from me / how much it goes from yesterday to today / that yesterday I was a wonder / and my shadow is not yet”, sings the lyric of the Cordovan Don Luis de Góngora y Argote. How many Albertos does it take for a single Cristina? The price, always on the rise, these days suffers the increase of one of those ascending slopes to which the pandemic accustomed us to add the epic epithet of routine. Not only the price of commodities It seems to have fallen, since the last decade and a half, in Latin American countries governed by the left and center-left. Also the intrinsic quality as well as the market value of their leadership.

Even in nations without commodities to sell, only local color (in situ: tourism) or services (for export: medical), such as the Caribbean island of Cuba. When the guerrilla caravans of the first revolutionary army of America stormed the streets of Havana at the end of the year 1958, the image of Fidel Castro had already become the icon that it is now, and that it continues to be. It already was Fidel, a first name and a figure that is too easily caricatured by its attributes. His cap, his beard, his cigar, his flowery verba. Or the unchangeable sportswear of the final years. Despite his death now in his ninth year, he remains omnipresent. With an integer of New York Times dedicated entirely to him at his death in 2016, with the television networks showing him with popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI and finally, almost a personal triumph, with Francisco, the Jesuit and Peronist pope, professionally humble and professionally Argentine as Che.

Cuba without Fidel and with Miguel seems like a contradiction in terms, a riddle on the eve of dissolution. Like the Nicaragua of the immortal Rubén, the poet died a hundred specific years than Fidel, with a shadow Daniel in 2021 of Daniel in 1979. Although with a poet and politician wife, Rosario Murillo, who is called as Darío’s girlfriend was called. Like the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela without the vociferous commander Hugo but with the gesticulating and cetacean dolphin Nicolás.

In Havana, in Managua, in Caracas, the dream of the revolution come true was exemplary. Today it is very difficult to dream for the insomniac and disillusioned Cuban exile in Miami, for the dissidents of the island, for the North American elected government. And even, or above all, for the heirs in Cuban communism, who know that there are not too many years that separate the dead Castro from Raúl, the Castro still alive.

In 1959, Fidel was the leader of the guerrilla that stormed triumphantly into Havana from the virginity of the Sierra Maestra. Fifty-seven years later, in 2016, he was going to die in the same Cuban capital. At 90 years of age, although retired from the government since 2008, he was the undisputed Top Leader of the nation. When he died in 2016, his funeral was announced for December 4 by his own Raúl Castro, his brother and successor in the presidency of Cuba, the first communist country in the hemisphere. In his obituary for the British channel BBC, the famous North American journalist Jon Lee Anderson synthesized the figure of the Cuban guerrilla and revolutionary with the formula “the most astute politician of the 20th century”. The then president-elect of the United States was more restrictive, more irrefutable, and more triumphalist. Republican Donald Trump tweeted: Fidel Castro is dead! Today his 46th successor in the White House, Democrat Joe Biden, on the contrary, would live as a defeat, or as one more problem of the kind that bothers him the most -because he knows himself as unsuitable as he is powerless against them-, before that with gurgling glee, the deaths of Miguel, Daniel, or Nicolás. And not to mention those of Cristina, Alberto, Evo, or Lula.

The jungle solitudes of the guerrillas had forever removed Fidel from the professionalism of the old Cuban and American political class, and, finally, from everything professionalism. Also, from his past as a young bourgeois and privileged man. Together with the Argentine Ernesto Guevara Lynch (the Che), gave evidence of an unexpected faith in alchemical transmutations: the guerrillas, although middle class in origin, had been proletarianized by the privations in the jungle. When alliances with city politicians arrived –as they always do–, Fidel and Che explained that they were purely tactical, and that they would cease to exist as soon as they became a brake on the Revolution. Fidel Castro would be Fidel when it was the unfading myth, and Castro when he was the ruler forced to compromise.

The endemic venality that had characterized Cuban politics prior to the Revolution explained –at least to a large extent– the ideas of the triumphant Castro guerrilla. They wanted a return to the state of Nature for the island. Or a state of Grace with utopian radicality. Political sovereignty or social and economic reform remained pale ambitions for a fund against which the great revolutionary creation, the New Man, would stand out. A man free from personal ambition and material greed, who would lead a just life in a just community on free soil.

The triumphant Cuban Revolution in 1958 brought truly radical changes to the island. Although they were not always the ones the insurgents expected in their fight. The first revolutionary president, Manuel Urrutia, had to resign; Commander Huber Matos, a guerrilla hero, was imprisoned for treason when he felt betrayed.

Those suspected of having supported the previous dictator, the unpresentable Fulgencio Batista, were summarily tried and more quickly executed by the town courts than would be suspicious to a picky jurist. Elections were not called: from the revolutionary triumph until 2016, the multiparty system was Fidel Castro’s black beast.

Trade unionism began to strengthen its ties with the state and the government. From the beginning, the Revolution, without qualms, did not deprive itself of resorting to measures with which Latin American governments of all stripes had seduced the workers: general wage increases and price controls.

The result of the sum of these policies leads to the Cuba of today. Revolutionary enthusiasm clashed with the economy. The agrarian reform became law and large estates on an island that could not escape the sugar monoculture became cooperatives; companies, banks and industries were nationalized.

February 1960 was a key month for the future of the island and for the stigmas that last until the present. Soviet charge d’affaires Anastas Mikoyan traveled to Cuba and offered on behalf of Kremlin leader Nikita Khrushchev the purchase of five million tons of sugar in five years. And in addition, a loan of one hundred million dollars for the acquisition of technology in the Soviet Union.

That official visit sponsored by Castro marked that nothing would be as it had been until then in Latin America. Cuba had adopted communism as the declared model of the state and of the economy.

Such millenarianisms usually bring everything resolved. The prototype of the New Man was the guerrilla. He would have his martyr figure in Che. Instead, Fidel was, and continues to be until today, already dead, a risen Christ without crucifixion, a myth without martyrdom and without Calvary.

Such high goals in themselves conferred its legitimacy on the government that emerged from the Revolution. “The man of the 21st century is ourselves,” Che said with that candor that would earn him the respect of so many adolescents throughout the western and eastern world, a fervor that over the years would become less ideological and more temperamental. As a photographic icon, Che began to resemble the handsome man with something fatal and gloomy from a longed-for but irretrievable past, the beatnik Jack Kerouac, a James Dean from the Boulevard of eternally broken dreams. Castro arrived at the age of television: as in Cuba today, it is in color and not in black and white. Although the color of Migueles, Danieles bis, Nicolases and Albertos seems to be that of mediocrity, gray and whispering.

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