Since July 31, 2006, Fidel Castro has died several times and in different ways. Following his proclamation, in which he passed power to a “collegial” government comprised of some of his followers and headed by his younger brother, the people began to understand that the leader was, indeed, a mortal man like any other. The “new” government, for its part, in apparent conspiracy with the Ancient One, hatched a theatrical plot to keep the population believing that he would always be there to guide us, whenever his wisdom in governing us was invoked, leaving the sense that his successors are incapable of making decisions by themselves.
So, in these two and a half years the caudillo has existed only in the media and in the personal testimonies of foreigners who, on visiting the Island, have claimed to have met with him. Since his forced retirement, a few scarce photos and a video presentation shown on TV have been considered incontrovertible proof that Castro “lives” which, aside from the “Reflections,” is an almost childish approach to prolonging his presence as invisible effigy, far beyond the limits of any logical reasoning.
The consequence of these intermittent deaths and “appearances,” however, has been complete popular indifference with respect to the formerly unconquered and omnipresent comandante. The “news” of false death runs, but no one talks about it, for good or ill. The clearest conclusion people draw is that, ultimately, with or without him, everything is the same as before: the same poverty, the same lack of freedoms, the despair. The initial expectations raised by the Proclamation, the subsequent “election” of Raúl Castro as president, the false promises of changes, have given way to the most extreme apathy. A lack of faith and trust in the government is now a widespread pattern in Cuban society and there doesn’t seem to be anything that can change it… not even the alleged definitive death of the one who’s been resuscitated so many times.
This last time—we call it “the penultimate death”—has confirmed that F. Castro not only lives exclusively in the media, but that he also dies there. The foreign press, the Cubanologists, the analysts and the druids have been holding cabalas almost the entire month of January about the latest outbreak of death, until the princess of the story appeared, in the form of the wife of Néstor Kirchner, and resuscitated the zombie. Things of the press, already seen.
As far as I’m concerned, the eventual death of the caudillo will be no more than the end of one “thing” and the beginning of another. It’s unfortunate that for this beginning, Cubans must wait for the real death: another result of the half century of dictatorship and the more than two centuries of historical irresponsibility all around. Because, indeed, for there to be “another” fate for Cubans, we would have to commit, starting now, that we don’t want to wait fifty more years at the mercy of anyone’s whims. No one seems to understand that in the current Cuban context, in reality, the most important thing is not whether Fidel Castro is dead or not, but whether we ourselves are truly alive.
Illustration: “And night gathers,” by the Cuban painter A. Montoto