The “Heavenly Father” / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 15 May 2018 — In spite of a complete loss of credibility after years of mass demonstrations and marches of “revolutionary reaffirmation” that Cubans “spontaneously” attended on certain dates, authorities have been given the task of presenting the deceased “historic leader” as a kind of heavenly father who, from “eternal space and time,” guides, corrects, protects, scolds and directs us lest we veer from the path he has set out. It amounts to turning his words and actions into a “socialist bible,” a parody that more closely resembles a comic book than the original tome.

This is nothing new.

The same thing happened with Lenin. Ultimately, the Soviets decided to let him rest in peace inside his historic burial chamber even after they had changed, having set forth on the road to capitalist development. This phenomenon was repeated with Dimitrov in Bulgaria, with Mao Zedong in China and with Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam — to name a few well-known examples — though each country did it in its own particular way.

Official media outlets do not know how to maintain this “virtual presence.” They resort to saccharine articles, inept news spots, propagandistic documentaries, posters, billboards, dogmatic rhetoric and ridiculous statements that intrude on citizens’ daily lives. Cubans have opted to turn on their televisions only to watch soap operas, foreign mini-series, and sporting events, avoiding newscasts and so-called “opinion programs” such as Mesa Redonda. They turn on the radio to listen to music. They buy newspapers to wrap the garbage in. It is a normal reaction to exhaustion, an attempt to keep from losing one’s mind.

This celestial chorus — it is said the purpose is “to not forget history” — has included certain personalities from other eras, with an emphasis on warrior heroes from the 19th century, duly stripped of facts or words that might call into question the present.

This submission to the past — envisioning an ever more remote and unfeasible future while ignoring the terrible present — has been the government tonic for the last sixty years. In spite of recent changes, it seems it will continue to be.

It is worth remembering the words of José Martí: “We can stop praising those who were once universally praised. The world is full of incense bearers and there is no one with the authority or wealth to compel the world to fall to its knees.”