Three Kings Day in Revolutionary Cuba / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Three Kings

Photo: Waitingfortheword via Flickr.

Ask any Cuban child the question: “What are the names of the Three Kings?”

I still don’t even know them myself. I always forget one of them. Or pronounce their names badly.

Of course, ignorance is far preferable to insanity. Or rather, to the audacity with which I’ve heard more than one young kid (and even some that aren’t so young) say: “The Three Kings are Fidel, Camilo, and Che.”

Even our Catholic traditions seem to begin at that chapter of Genesis 1:1959, marked by the triumphant January of the Cuban Revolution. However, religious persecution on the island wasn’t satisfied with its history of expropriations, prisons, concentration camps, lifelong exile, shootings, and other barbarities. Right from the start, God fought a losing battle against Castroism, which is now in decline. But yet another defining phase is rearing its head: The phase of forgetting.

In a country without religious teaching in schools, where not a single clergy member has appeared in the media for more than half a century, there’s no point in waiting for a miracle.

In fact, it’s pointed out from time to time that on January 6, 1959 it was Fidel Castro himself who flew in a small plane over the Sierra Maestra, throwing down toys to the poor peasant children like manna from heaven.

“Without magic and without legends, but with struggle and with love, the Revolution will come without star-covered saints,” sang Pablo Milanés in one of the most beautiful ballads of the revolutionary epic.

How long has it been since anyone in Cuba reprinted or imported the Bible, even for profit?

Let’s not ask the Cuban children any of these questions. They are the future, and it’s not their fault that their predecessors have robbed them of so much.

Perhaps Pablo Milanés was right in his forgotten theme song “Día de Reyes” (Three Kings’ Day) when he sang: “Save your laughter for tomorrow and dry your tears, while freedom comes.”

Translated by Alex Higson

From Sampsonia Way Magazine | 6 January 2014