The Power of a Symbol

Fidel Castro could convert his name into a registered brand like Adidas, Nike, or Coca-Cola. After death, perhaps his image will have more appeal than the Argentinian soldier Che Guevara. The anti-globalization advocates will repeat his phrases with his image tattooed on their biceps, while they launch criticisms towards some capitalist bank.

Specialists in advertising and marketing are already rubbing their hands together just thinking up all of this. They calculate how many millions of books, shirts, posters, watches, and other pieces of merchandise they could sell with the image of the bearded face.

Castro is for Cuba what Mao was for China, or what Kim II Sung was in North Korea. Not even Robespierre and Danton, key figures of the French uprising in 1789, could overcome the mythical and fascinating depiction that the Cuban revolutionary will reach when he dies.

Forget about Lenin or Rosa Luxemburg. The One and Only Commander will go down in history for being the leader of a skirmish army in the mountains in the Eastern part of the island.

Born on August 13, 1926 in the village of Biran, current province of Holguin, he was a professional lawyer. Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz will become a legend. Whether we like it or not. For the simple reason that we humans have the tendency of wanting to point out people who are different.

They will ignore the coarse errors he committed as a statesman. As time passes, few will remember that in October of 1962, he wrote a letter to Nikita Khrushchev in which he told the politician to fire a nuclear missile towards the United States.

Perhaps collective memory will forget about the names of all the thousands of people who were executed by firing squad at the beginning of the revolution. Or maybe they will leave out the part about the more than 20 thousand political prisoners that have existed during 50 years of government. Or his failures in the area of economics.

The grandchildren of the political prisoners of the Black Spring of 2003, wherever it is they reside, Miami, Madrid, Malaga, or Havana, will let their beards grow after many years have passed and they will read his extensive and apocalyptic discourses.

Life is a handful of contradictions. That same old man who, on a hot July morning in 2010, warned us that the nuclear war between the US and Iran was just a few hours away, while writing ridiculous comments, will become a registered brand after he is deceased.

Perhaps a good psychologist could explain the reasons why we humans end up glorifying people who, in life, had a high dose of evil in them.

For some, their idols are Gods. For others, warriors like Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, or Napoleon. Or soldiers from small, less developed countries that challenged the big empires. There are those who prefer frivolous fetishes. Movie stars, musicians, athletes.

The human being needs heroes and mascots as if they were emotional gasoline. Certain dictators were forgotten after their death. I don’t know why I have the feeling that Fidel Castro will not be one of those. I hope I am wrong.

Ivan Garcia

Translated by Raul G.

August 5 2010