For a few days I have been busy with activities which have prevented me from caring for my poor blog. I have missed these furtive encounters with the readers, although I have always tried to keep myself informed about what’s happening, and, of course, I have continued to participate in our dear Blogger Journey. The excess work has not prevented me from leafing through (or eyeing) Granma either, trying, as always, to pluck some news item from its cryptic and lean articles. It was thus, that on February 7, a large headline on page 4 slapped me in the face. The headline, in red letters, read: “With regards to the declaration of Birán as a National Monument”.
Foreign and some young Cuban readers may not know what that native noun, “Birán” means, but—independent of its Arowak etymology—it is clear to Island natives that it is about the name of the place where the almighty F. Castro was born. And, although nobody should miss that, in a country where the personality cult of the Leader emulates what is practiced in North Korea with the sad “Kim” celebrities, the truth is that the text has a many details that border in cynicism. It is clearly written that Mr. Angel Castro—an illiterate and poor Galician, genetically responsible for the Insular Brahman cast—created in Birán a “real feudal state” consisting of a sugar mill town with 27 dwellings (complete with billiards and cockpit) and 10 thousand hectares of land producing sugar cane, wood, oranges and other minor fruits. The astute Galician, “generous and in solidarity with his subordinates”, was able to become a great rancher and landlord in less than 30 years, and he was able to “not only survive, but to prosper” in spite of the implacable earth-eating North-American companies, United Fruit and the Cuban American Sugar Companies” (a real successful fighter against the first North-American embargo), in addition to “founding one of the most extraordinary and singular rural communities in all the territory of the neocolonial Republic”.
But what is a truly notorious fact is that the original home of the Castros, with its 513 square meters, which accidentally burned down in 1954, was again erected in the 70’s as it stands today, following the original blueprints, a Celia Sanchez initiative, on 76 stakes from caguairán* wood, with its exquisite tongue and groove walls, its intact roof tiles, basement and attic. In the mill town, the “inviting home” of the maternal grandmother has also been kept up, as has the eldest Castro Ruz sister’s two-storey house, among other structures.
In a country where one of the most dire needs is housing, where the number of families not owning their own homes is in the hundreds of thousands, the arrogance of the ruling class to adopt the luxury (which is not the right) to sustain a museum-village with state funds, “tended to and managed by an efficient work team subordinated to the Offices of History of State Council,” with specialists and other employees who draw their salaries only for keeping clean and safe the family relics and the conceit of the power mongers and, with them, the myth of the genesis of the revolution. Beyond arrogance, it is real nerve. I can only recall, in contrast, the modest little house on Paula Street in Old Havana where, in 1853, the best of all Cubans was born, which was restored and maintained through subscriptions and public collections during the period which today’s demagogues pejoratively call the “pseudorepublic.” Looking at the birth place of the Apostle*, its simple carriage, and its tight space, we understand also by contrast that the greatness of the soul doesn’t flow from personal vanity, and even less from the astuteness or ambition of our progenitors.
Illustration: “El camino del pasado,” by the Cuban painter Arturo Montoto.
Caguairán: A Cuban tree, producing one of most precious, durable and resistant woods.
Apostle: A reference to Jose Martí.
Read Full Post »