The Stain of the Torches

Official government march yesterday, for the birth of José Martí. (MiguelDiazCanelB)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Henry Constantin, Camagüey, 29 January 2019 — I did not believe it, I could not believe that they were capable of such selfishness. Our unelected government began its annual torch march in Havana, one day after the tornado had passed.

It is not a march to pick up debris, nor to bring help to people who lost their belongings in the tornado (although they tried to apologize by promising that they will do it, not today, but the next day); it is not a march of solidarity and compassion with the Cubans who today are sleeping in anguish: it is a march of insensitive politicking. And it is not for José Martí, don’t try to deceive us, he would never have prioritized his birthday nor the cult to himself or any deceased caudillo (Fidel Castro) over the tribulations of his people.

The march serves to remind us that in Cuba politicking is still the priority of the higher-up officials, to the point that they prefer to maintain an expensive parade (how many official vehicles are currently burning the people’s fuel? how many security agents needed to protect the well-known, how much electricity used so there is light and sound for the choreography?, how many press teams are active to cover a ritual that, in the end, doesn’t even touch the edge of the heart of almost anyone in Cuba?).

A few kilometers from the march there are dozens, hundreds of families having a terrible time, without electricity, with injured relatives or destroyed property, surrounded by debris and shortages, and half of those with torches and the wasted resources would have helped them quite a bit. If not to recover their lost belongings, at least to have faith yes, which is the essential thing that people need to make it to the next day.

I admit that yesterday I had to keep quiet. Diaz-Canel immediately appeared in the affected areas, I do not know if it was heartfelt or because it is stipulated by his job responsibilities, God knows. But the image of a leader in pain seeing the suffering of his people did not last long.

Now he is posing among the scenes of the march, by obedience or insensibility, or maybe both; the unelected president with his also unelected boss, and the two freshly-bathed, recently having dined, with their unaffected homes, their happy families and their quiet smiles, because they lost nothing. It is true that, in the end, they do not owe anything to those people the tornado affected: none voted for them for president or anything else.

Let’s see if the people who are suffering find out about it, that Cubans are not worth much to those who are on top — and if they are worth it, it is not when they are in trouble, but when they march obediently — and hopefully they will make it clear in the circus-like referendum of February 24, with anything but the false Yes vote that many plan to mark on the ballot with the same inertia with which they marched today [on Monday] for Martí and the other one (Fidel), then go marching the following day for a visa or to cross a frontier.

If the tornado does not make those still in charge prioritize Cubans in their agenda, at least it will help us to give back to them the lack of importance they give us. Because at the end of a day of pain in so many Cuban homes, what the authorities have done in Havana is not a march. It’s a stain, and one that is not easy to erase.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria


Note from 14ymedio: This text was originally published in La Hora de Cuba. We reproduce it here with the permission of the author.

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