The Cult of Fidel Castro Grows to Drown the Echoes of the Protests in Cuba

Monument to Fidel Castro inaugurated in La Parra, Cienfuegos. (Granma)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Generation Y, Panama, 10 January 2022 — A sculpture in the shape of a hand that comes out of the ground, a full-body relief, a pilgrimage with his photo and the reissue of a book with interviews are part of the new wave of a cult of personality that has Fidel Castro at its center. As the regime feels itself up against the ropes more and more, it raises the ghost of a man that Cubans have been questioning and forgetting at rapid pace in the last five years.

“Who is that, mamá?” her five-year-old daughter asked a friend who barely turns on the official television but who, in a slip, tuned into the newscast when Castro’s bearded and aged face appeared during a speech at the opening of this century. Rejection, indifference and forgetfulness spread among the younger generations relative to those who aspired to fuse his figure with the concept of nation.

This distancing has been viewed with concern by the current leaders, who, in the absence of any results to show, only have left to elevate Castro to a mystical dimension. The man who promoted the destruction of religious altars, fueled the stigma against scapulars, and fueled the rejection of baptism is now treated by his sycophants as a prop saint who is taken out for a walk in political processions.

The Cuban system has no ideology left, and any vestige of social justice has long since evaporated. The current faces of power lack charisma and some are true examples of the opposite, such as the mediocre Miguel Díaz-Canel, the silent Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Calleja and the tedious Bruno Rodríguez. With that squad of gray people there is no way to ignite any spark in the hearts of the people.

So the official propagandists have launched a crusade: reverse popular discontent and drown out the echoes of the July 11 protests by inaugurating monuments in memory of Fidel Castro or centers where his shoes are exhibited, and repeating his name in every public discourse. They have even attributed to him the initial impetus for the creation of vaccines against covid-19.

They repeat the script that once worked for them.

However, times differ. Castro can no longer instill terror, a skill which many believed to be the underpinning of the primary ‘gift’ of his leadership. It was not his long hours in front of the microphone — in which he ended up speechifying and contradicting himself; nor was it his body shape — taller than the average Cuban; much less his supposed wisdom — a myth created from which he spoke boldly of everything and had groups of advisers who prepared extensive summaries. No, Castro’s influence over millions of people on this Island rested on fear.

People feared that one morning he would wake up and dictate a measure to eradicate a type of market, confiscate large tracts of land or launch an offensive that would destroy the last vestiges of private entrepreneurship. Inside their homes people trembled because a phrase said in the wrong place could lead a son or a mother to a prison cell, where the “revolutionary justice” that Castro bestowed without mercy would end up destroying their lives. The fear was so great that countless nicknames were invented so as not to say his name and even the pronoun “He” was reserved for him in conversations, to relieve the panic of pronouncing his eleven letters.

No, that fear does not suddenly return at banners and sculptures that recall it. That fear was left in the past and the current paroxysm that the cult of personality around Fidel Castro has reached is causing mockery and boredom. His political heirs are creating a network of monuments, which not only contradicts the last will of their late leader, but is already in the crosshairs of social anger.

The people love to bring down the altars to those who believed themselves worthy of being on them.


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