In all of the overflowing liturgical calendar of the Cuban Revolution, for half a century the 26th of July has been the quintessential date. More important even than January 1 (the day of the triumph of Castro’s rebels and the establishment of a revolution doomed to failure), the commemoration of the assault on the Moncada barracks, despite the numerous deaths it caused in 1952, became a national holiday that at the stroke of a pen subordinated the importance of any of the Island’s other historical events, one attempted coup d’état within another: violence against violence, the force of arms, the civil war. With the passage of time, the central commemorative event of the date also became a “political prize,” with the site of the largest celebration awarded to the provincial capital deemed to be the “winner” of “socialist emulation” based on what exactly no one knows, or remembers, but nor is anyone interested because — as is well-known — it is a designation that in reality responds to the short-term interests of a government and not the supposed merits or achievements of this ill-fated system.
This July 26, 2010, however, came with a marked difference, because this time it converged with a succession of events that altered the habitual monotony of the ritual. Santa Clara, the host city in which, as in the rest of the country, nothing is produced, was the scene, this time won not by the “sustained work and extraordinary economic and social achievements” of its population (as apathetic and hopeless as any other Cubans the length and breadth of the Island), but rather — paradoxically — by the prolonged hunger and thirst strike sustained by the dissident Guillermos Farina from his provincial hospital bed, to demand the release of the prisoners of the Black Spring. The formidable solidarity aroused by Farinas and the many comments circulating about the amazing accomplishment of this Cuban capable of sacrificing himself and putting his life at risk for the freedom of others, were sufficient grounds to bring an injection of official ideology to the city: The Central Event of the 26th was, therefore, a smokescreen to show that Santa Clara was not practically a kind of moral plaza besieged by the dissidence, but a bastion of faithful revolutionaries in the spirit of Moncada.
This 26th was marked by the beginning of the release of the political prisoners of conscience; by the sensationalist public reappearance of Mr. F., that jealous starlet coming to steal the scene and trying, with exaggerated blush, to make up for a lack of freshness; by the publication of a series of predictions about an imminent nuclear holocaust; by the stubborn silence of General Raul Castro, broken only recently by his brief closing remarks on August 1 to the latest session of the National Assembly; by the replacement of another minister, this time in public health. All this could signify the same incapacity to remain in the position of “throwing in the towel” in the middle of the ring in which he sees himself battling the fighting the major competition of the moment: the top leadership.
To make this anniversary even more different from others, the Cuban president remained enigmatically (or conveniently) silent at the event in Santa Clara: not only did he omit the usual speech in which he commonly makes statements and promises that are never fulfilled — perhaps avoiding having to comment on the release of the “despicable mercenaries in the service of the Empire,” or about the sudden emergence of a character who is officially no longer on the stage, or on a possible governmental contingency plan to deal with the consequences of the “nuclear war” that we’re facing — but he passed the ball to no less than Machado Ventura, celebrated for his attachment to the stagnation of the so-called hard-line communists and for his markedly dogmatic positions bearing the Stalinist stamp. It was, for many, like a bucket of cold water. Everyone was commenting: “That’s it?” “Who’s the winner here?” Or, as they said in the years of my youth, “We’ve been left at the altar.”
In short, this July 26 transpired as if there were two Cubas, or rather two governments in a single Cuba: one, phantasmagorical and hallucinatory, where an ancient specter announces the end of the world while placing offerings to the dead — who died at his own hand — and designating who will be saved from the coming holocaust (as happens, for example, with Pastors for Peace president Lucius Walker and his caravan); meanwhile another government, perhaps more mundane or closer to reality, negotiates secretly with Cuban and foreign institutions to free the prisoners, ignoring the ghostly apparitions of F and his supporting staff. In any event, this duality has only managed up to now to emphasize the impression of chaos. The presence of F interfering in the affairs of State which — if we stick to the letter of the law — should be the sole responsibility of the government and its institutions, is incoherent and harmful, now more than ever; it is, in fact, a complete aberration. Cuba urgently needs realistic definitions, not delusions, to address the most difficult situation in the last 50 years. The future of everyone depends on the intelligence and skill to address today’s issues, because we can clearly see that our real Holocaust is within us.
August 3, 2010