A Large Funeral / Regina Coyula

Since the end of the week we Cubans have met an old soldier whom very few of us would have recognized in the street, who was never in the limelight, whose voice is unremembered, even in a speech. The Minister of the Armed Forces, Julio Casas Regueiro, was never a public figure, perhaps a few remember him from the court that judged Arnaldo Ochoa, his chief in Cuba’s military mission to Ethiopia and the eighties. A General in the cabinet, for many years he was the quartermaster for an army whose functions have diversified into agricultural production, tourism, communications and construction, among other civil tasks, all successfully, it’s said, because of the efficient administration of General Casas.

It’s natural that his companions in arms and in the work of the Council of State will pay tribute to his memory, but I was stunned to see them organizing road closures and a parade of thousands of people mobilized from workplaces, schools and neighborhood organizations, to walk past a photograph surrounded by flowers in the lobby of the Armed Forces Ministry. Television broadcast the boring parade all day long, the speakers had to juggle to get through this spontaneous mobilization to say the same thing without repeating themselves. You could see many of those in the lines were more interested in scrutinizing the newly discovered lobby than in the photo that had brought them there.

A mobilization of a such a great size, with a second one in the eastern part of the country, inevitably leads me — me and many others — to look on this as a Dress Rehearsal.

September 7 2011