While preparing extensive reports on the fiftieth anniversary of the Cuban Revolution, few ask themselves if the celebration is the birthday of a living creature, or simply the anniversary of something that happened. Revolutions don’t last half a century I advise those who ask me. They end up devouring and excreting themselves in authoritarianism, control and immobility. They always expire, trying to make themselves eternal. They die because they want to remain unchanged.
What began on that first of January has been, according to many, under the earth for many years. The debate seems to be around the date of the funeral. For Reinaldo, it died that August of 1968 when our bearded leader hailed the entry of tanks into Prague. My mother saw the death throes of the Revolution when they imposed the death sentence on General Arnoldo Ochoa. And the Black Spring of March of 2003, with its arrests and summary trials, was the final death rattle heard by some stubborn believers who had believed it was still alive.
I’m telling you, I met its corpse. In 1975, the year I was born, Sovietization had erased all spontaneity and nothing remained of the rebellion that the older people remembered. We had neither long hair nor euphoria, but rather purges, double standards and denunciations. The devotional artifacts to those who had fallen in the mountains were already banned and those soldiers of the Sierra Maestra had become addicted to power.
The rest has been a protracted wake to what could have been, the lit candles of an illusion that dragged so many down. This January the deceased has a new anniversary; there will be flowers, ‘Vivas!” and songs, but nothing will manage to raise it from the tomb and bring it back to life. Let it rest in peace and we will soon begin a new cycle: shorter, less pretentious, more free.
General Arnold Ochoa: In 1980 Fidel Castro awarded Ochoa the title “Hero of the Revolution” for his long and popular service; in 1989 he, along with others, was convicted of treason for drug trafficking and executed. The trial and execution were videotaped and the trial shown on Cuban television.
March 2003, Black Spring: While the world’s attention was turned to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, approximately 75 Cuban journalists and others were arrested and sentenced to long prison terms; most remain in prison today.