Iván García, 4 December 2016 — There are three things in the spirituality of the island. Rumba, Santeria, and baseball, which for a decade has been replaced by the passion for football (soccer) among Cubans, especially the youngest generation.
But Fidel Castro is overwhelming. When the cedar casket reposed in Santa Ifigenia Cemetery in Santiago de Cuba, about 600 miles east of Havana, and the funeral is over with complete coverage by the media, perfect amanuensis of the Communist Part, is when people can find out what is happening in the world.
For nine days — something unprecedented in the cuntry — we Cubans have been disconnected from the events and sports overseas. A real media blackout.
Mourning, hymns and slogans rining in the ether. Also the mourners and exalted eulogy. In these nine days, Cuba smelled a little bit like North Korea, its ideological partner.
At this point, after 60 years of autocracy, the public applauds, fakes loyalty to the regime and signs whatever the government proposes [during the mourning period Cubans are being asked to sign a loyalty oath]. hallucinatory as it seems. But under the table Cubans continue to live in this stronghold of the real Cuba ignored by state media.
In that Cuba, people speak with fractured words, reinvent themselves every twenty-four hours, and clandestinely buy everything from cocaine to a yacht.
In the terrestrial island, not in the virtual or the delirious one that the Castro regime authorities sells us, after eliciting some tears on Via Blanca with the passing of the caravan with Fidel Castro’s remains, Oneida, on arriving at the shabby filthy room where he resides in the Luyano neighborhood, went to see the list-keeper who collects the money from the illegal lottery known as la bolita, and bet 200 pesos, around ten dollars US, on number 64, which stands for “big death,” according to the list that assigns a meaning to each number.
The funeral rites of the “big death” recalled that stage of the not so distant Soviet Cuba, full of prohibitions and a press worthy of Charlie Chaplin. It seems like a backward Middle East nation.
Now, from 26 November to 4 December, by state decree, there is zero alcohol. Zero films, zero soap operas, not even the news. The olve green mourning prevents Cubans from learning about Stefan Curry or LeBron Hames, paralyzes the insipid national baseball series and the fans missed the game of the year, between Real Madrid and CR7 and the Barcelona team of the flea Messi.
Spanish journalists who covered the funeral figured out where they could watch the game. “I hope in a hotel in Santiago de Cuba I can see the match,” commented a reporter from a Catalan newspaper.
In hotels and bars in Havana, where the fans usually gather with their scarves in the team colors — very hot in this climate — and wearing T-shirts with Leo Messi, Neymar, Luis Suárez, Cristiano Ronaldo or Sergio Ramos, were closed, complying with the official ukase of maximum mourning for the death of Castro I at the age of 90.
But in Cuba, there is always a Plan B. Those who have powerful shortwave radios try to get the signal from Spain’s Radio Exterior. Others, paid for an hour of internet connection, 50 pesos, the equivalent of two-and-a-half days pay, to follow the crucial game on line in the pages of El Pais or El Mundo.
At the end of the game, tied at one, Julian, who had connected in Cordoba Park, located on the border between the Sevillano and La Vibora neighborhoods, some crestfallen Barça were leaving: “33 games without losing, now we’re at eight points, goodbye league for you.” A friend asked him to speak softly: “Pal, keep it down with all this going on, the police are waiting to pounce.”
With the disappearance of Fidel Castro, the last guerrilla of the Third World, has deployed an dense ideological paraphernalia in Cuba, asphyxiating, that has brought back the animal fear among many Cubans.
Those who daily put their elbows on the bar do it in secret, so that the snitches and the intransigent followers of the regime don’t think they celebrating the death of the “great world leader.”
All the music has been shut off, and quinceñeras, weddings and anniversaries are postponed until further notice. Also cancelled were dances and religious festivals, like the night of 3 December, the eve of the day of Saint Barbara, who is also Changó in the Yoruba religion, one of the most venerated deities for Cubans.
“Fidel Castro owned the farm and the horses. There must be calm until his ashes are deposted in Santiago de Cuba,” said the peanut seller who was once a political prisoner.
The dissidents are also quiet. The Ladies in White didn’t go out into the street to protest on the last two Sundays, as a sign of respect and not to provoke the repressors.
On his way to paradise or hell, according to your viewpoint, Fidel Castro pounded the table with authority to demonstrate that even as dust, he generates absolute respect in the population.
Meanwhile, on the outskirts of Havana, in a big mansion about to fall down, but with an illegal satellite connection, the owner spent the whole game keeping a dozen young people quiet so they could see the match, each one paying 2 Cuban convertible pesos, a little more than two dollars.
“Gentlemen, don’t shout so much, we don’t want to go to jail,” he told the boys. But the joy could barely be controlled when Sergio Ramos, scored in the last minute of the game. Result: one to one.
And when it’s about Fidel Castro, even a football game can be an offense.
Translated by Jim