Killing the Castro We Carry Inside Us

“WE ARE FIDEL” – The greatest challenge that we Cubans face is not only to overthrow a despicable dictatorship, but to know how to build a democratic country tomorrow, truly free, without dogmas. (Cuban State TV Roundtable program)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yunior García Aguilera, Madrid, 2 May 2023 — The Cuban dictatorship has practiced for decades the exclusion and extermination of anyone who thinks differently. They shot and put thousands of adversaries behind bars, locked others in concentration camps, ostracized hundreds of artists and intellectuals, and pushed almost a quarter of the population into forced exile.

To raise the flags of intolerance, they always used the excuse of the besieged fortress. Anyone who dared to depart from the dogma was accused of being an “accomplice” of the historical enemy, a CIA agent or a mercenary in the service of the empire.

The worst thing that could happen to those of us who oppose fundamentalism would be to end up reproducing their methods. The playwright René Ariza closes the documentary Improper Conduct  by saying: “You have to watch out for the Castro that everyone has inside.” The greatest challenge that we Cubans face is not only to overthrow a despicable dictatorship, but to know how to build tomorrow a democratic country, truly free, without dogmas.

Every cause runs the risk of being absorbed by its most radical wing. And that radicalism is sometimes the result of legitimate pain, but at other times only a symptom of opportunism. Some need to be purer than the rest, more upright. In the time of Christ, the Pharisees were the Jewish sect that appeared to be more rigorous and attached to the law. Hitler counted on the fanaticism of the Brown Shirts. Mao mobilized an army of students, with his red book under his arm, to carry out his Cultural Revolution. Díaz-Canel embraces his Red Scarves, the young militia that shouts with devout pathos: “I am Fidel.”

However, in exile we did not escape the jihadist temptation either. Anger is a product that sells well, especially on social networks. And some have exploited the market of anger to the fullest. State Security uses thousands of whisperers to feed distractions. They push us to waste arrows against the periphery and even against ourselves.

In recent days, while the dictatorship was indoctrinating 300 Americans, part of the exile was entertained by putting Ana de Armas against the wall. And what was the capital sin of the actress who played Marilyn Monroe? Did she shout “Homeland or Death” or take a selfie with the dome of the Capitol? Did she defend the regime or applaud the repression? No, she just went to spend her birthday in the country where she was born, with her friends. The actress, after being nominated for the most important award in the film industry, decided to celebrate with her classmates from her first years as an acting student.

I am not saying, with this, that we should give up debating about the human and the divine. Debates are essential to build a critical society. But the line that separates the expression of opinion from an act of repudiation is usually very thin. Cabrera Infante said that, in those convulsive first years, Fidel Castro called Nicolás Guillén a “slacker” at a university rally. “The bearded one” used his charisma and power to throw a mob of students against the poet’s house, shouting slogans against laziness. Whether the anecdote is true or not, Guillén would not be the only victim of the sinister influencer.

Sometimes one goes on social media wondering, who are they stoning now? Just a few weeks ago we witnessed attacks against the documentary The Padilla Case, by filmmaker Pavel Giroud. But there was not only debate about how he had access to the original files or whether he should have published them in their entirety. It went further. Some even started boycott campaigns to prevent the film from reaching certain festivals. Time showed that his work knew how to reach circuits and spaces where the original material had been Olympicly ignored. Life proved the artist right. Seeing him receive the Platinum Prize and listening to his words in front of millions of people around the world was an unquestionable victory for the cause of Cuba’s freedom.

To achieve the long-awaited democracy, it is not enough to assume the opposite discourse. It is also necessary to move away from authoritarian and totalitarian methods. To win the empathy of millions of undecided Cubans and the international community trapped in doubt, we must never look like that rabid caricature that Castroism tries to sell about us. We must put aside the temptation to pretend that everyone thinks and acts like us. We have to kill the Castro we carry inside us.

Translated by Regina Anavy


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.