In His Own Way / Yoani Sánchez

And now, the end is near
and so I face 
the final curtain...

To say goodbye can be accomplished with just a brief note left on the table, or by a telephone call where we say our final farewells. In the preparations to leave the country, at the end of a relationship, or of life itself, there are people who try to control the smallest details, draw up those limits that oblige the ones they leave behind to follow their path. Some leave slamming the door behind them, and others demand before taking off the great tribute they think they deserve. There are those who equitably distribute all their worldly goods, and also beings with so much power they change the constitution of a country so that no one can undo their work when they’re gone.

The preparations for the Sixth Congress of the Cuban Communist Party and its sessions in the Palace of Conventions have been like a great public requiem for Fidel Castro. The scene of his farewell, the meticulous ceremonial demanded by him and realized — sparing no expense — by his younger brother. In the organizational excesses of the military parade, held on April 16, was seen the intention to “spare no expense” in a final tribute to someone who could not be there on the podium. It was clear that the announcement of the names of who would assume the highest positions in the Cuban Communist Party would not be read by the man who decided the course of this nation for almost fifty years. But he sat at the head table of the event to validate, with his presence, the transfer of power to Raul Castro. Being there was like coming — still alive — to the reading of his own will.

Then came the standing ovation, the tears of this or that delegate to the party conclave, and the phrases of eternal commitment to the old man with the almost white beard. Through the television screen some of us sensed the crackling of dried-up flowers or the sound of shovelfuls of dirt. It remains to be see if the General-cum-President can sustain the heavy legacy he has received, or if under the watchful supervision of his Big Brother he would prefer not to contradict him with fundamental reforms. It’s just left to check the authenticity of Fidel Castro’s departure from public life, and whether his substitute will choose to continue disappointing us, or to reject him.

April 19, 2011