Cuban Olympic Medalist: From Glory to Misery / Ricardo Medina

In Cuba we have all very carefully followed, in one way or another, the 2011 Panamerican Games in Guadalajara, not so much for the love of sport, but because there are no other entertainment options. But it hasn’t gone unnoticed that Cuban commentators politicise them heavily, which is bordering on indecency.

The government and the broadcasters have glorified the standing of our athletes in the medal count and categorised this ‘as an achievement of the revolution’. Fidel Castro issued ‘thoughts’ which have been read to the nation several times in all the radio and TV media operating on the island. In it, he makes unbalanced comparisons in terms of population, size of the territory and the number of medals won.

That’s when I remember the case of the silver medalist from the Special Olympics that took place in Beijing, China, in 2007. I’m talking about Rauler Castellanos Moreno, a black youth from Pinar del Rio who, despite his victory in this competition, now lives in inhuman conditions.

His house, with dirt floors, has a rudimentary table with very few utensils and no food to cook whatsoever. He has a small hotplate for an “electric stove”, his closet is an egg crate. His mattress is made of jute sack stuffed with dried banana leaves. His windows are improvised from a badly constructed palisade as protection from wind and rain.

This is the reward for bringing the HOMELAND a silver jewel which was – like those of the Cuban team that travelled to Guadalajara on this occasion – loudly celebrated. Meanwhile, Rauler Castellanos and his life were forgotten by everyone.

Rauler Castellanos got to know other places, made ​​new friends, and upon his return was greeted with a certificate of recognition given by The Cuban Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation (INDER). Today, he shows in dismay the photos of that event to his friends, and shrouds himself with the country’s insignia recalling his efforts and success. However, he went, like so many others – from glory to misery.

Translated by: Branislava Vladisavljevic

2 November 2011