We Were So Young… / Jeovany J. Vega

Helping hands sent me these words that made me think. Is this speech still valid. Will its author be accused of being a counterrevolutionary? For having demanded exactly those rights thousands of Cubans were treated as such, we were punished and stigmatized, over the 50 years that followed. Let’s see:

*Fragments of a speech delivered by Comandante Fidel Castro Ruz, in the Plaza of the City of Camagüey, January 4, 1959.

“… There is freedom of the press now, because everyone in the world knows what as long as there is one revolutionary standing there will be freedom of the press in Cuba (Applause). Whomever says freedom of the press, says freedom of assembly; whomever says freedom of assembly, says freedom to freely choose their own leaders (Applause). When we speak of the right to freely choose, we are referring not only to the president and other officials, but also to the directors; the right of workers to choose their own directors (Applause). When we speak of a right after the triumph of the Revolution, we are talking about all rights; rights are rights because they cannot be taken away, because the people have secured them in advance.

When a leader acts honestly, when a leader is inspired by good intentions, he does not have to fear any freedom…” (Applause)

“… I am sure that Cubans are not content simply to be free in their homeland. I am sure that Cubans also want to enjoy their homeland. I am sure they want to partake of bread and also of the wealth produced in their homeland.

How are we going to say, “this is our homeland” if, of that homeland, we have nothing, “my homeland,” but my homeland gives me nothing, in my homeland I am dying of hunger. This is not a homeland! It will be a homeland for a few, but it will not be a homeland for the people (Applause.) Homeland cannot mean only a place where one can shout, talk, and walk without being killed; homeland is a place where one can live, homeland is a place where one can work and earn an honest living, and what’s more, make what is a fair wage for their word (Applause). Homeland is a place where citizens are not exploited, because to exploit the citizenry, to take what belongs to them, to rob them of what they have, that is not homeland.

It is precisely the tragedy of our people that we have not had a homeland. And the best proof, the best evidence we have that we do not have a homeland is that tens of thousands of the children of this country leave for other country, to be able to live, because they don’t have a homeland. And they are not all those who want to leave, they are all those who can leave. And that’s the truth and you know it. (Shouts)

Thus, we have to fix the Republic. There is something wrong here or everything is wrong (Shouts of “Everything!”) but we need to fix the Republic, you and us (Shouts), and we have to start somewhere…”

End of quotation.

Could the Comandante have been mistaken to give this speech? At what point did he deny giving that speech during the advance of the Rebel Army on the capital? When and why did he abandon that path? Then everything seemed possible. These words were directed to a people who only aspired to be assured to honest work to feed their children, to be allowed to live decently, to leave behind the material and spiritual poverty with the fruit of their labor; who wished to be represented by political leaders and not to betray their authentic working class interests; to have a home, however humble, to ensure a minimum level of comfort and security to their family; to enjoy the wealth generated by them without petty prohibitions humiliating them at the doors of hotels denied to them; to count on an ethical press, uncensored, that didn’t remain silent before any ignominy by divine decree of any party; to stop living in fear and lies; to conquer a Rule of Law that guaranteed that there was no power above the Law that could trample ordinary citizens with impunity, and to be able to live in dignity in their homeland without being forced to beg for their prosperity in other countries in the world.

January 4 2012