No, you’re not mistaken, the title refers specifically to the birthday of a slogan, a saying for which they want to light another candle. On this island the mania to commemorate has reached the extreme of celebrating the first time somebody said something. Although we were already drowning in anniversaries, they have now added to the list of commemorations those related to the birth of a phrase. They interview those present at the moment certain verbs and nouns were combined, as if every day doesn’t see the birth of thousands of expressions that could be considered. Today, for example, my neighbor – greatly inspired – said, “It never ends, in this house it never ends,” which could become the motto of all the housewives in the country.
In the inventory of expressions they only remember the positive, because it would never occur to anyone that the news might dust off the losses, the lies, the missteps. These do not come down through the years, they are erased from history, period, while others are remembered. So the official press only dedicates space these days to praise the appearance of the coda, “Venceremos!” – We Shall Overcome! – in a motto that was already quite horrific. For over fifty years the national impasse was contained in the schematic, “Fatherland or Death.” Five decades in which we have become accustomed to the stark reality of having to opt for the Grim Reaper, while on the other end of the phrase the word “fatherland” could be exchanged for “socialism,” which could also be substituted by the term “Party” or by the name of a certain leader.
So it goes here: passing to the plane of the noun, of what is said but not done. Making a cult of the verb, although reality denies it every day. That it’s worth blowing up balloons for slogans, and reminding us they’ve gone grey, though their age has made them no more venerable nor more true. Even dressed up for a party, the slogan, “Fatherland or Death: We Shall Overcome!” still fills me more with anxiety than with peace. Today, with half a century shared among those four words, they sound like the echo of times long past, when a whole people came to believe that choice. After so many repetitions, seeing it painted on billboards, hearing it from the podium, I’ve come to wonder if perhaps we have overcome, if what we have today could be called “victory.”