By Fabiana del Valle
HAVANA TIMES – A few weeks before October 28, a great Halloween-themed concert was announced at the Maxim Rock Cultural Center in the Cuban capital. Four rock bands, exhibitions, craft sales, costume contest and a raffle.
The day after the event, the name of the center appeared everywhere, accused of violating the anti-racist principles of the cultural policy of the Revolution and with a closure sentence issued on it.
In the costume contest, a young man appeared dressed as an officer of the German SS, Hitler’s military police, and won the competition by public vote. Does it mean that the young man in disguise, the Maxim, or the frikis (as rockers are called in Cuba) are fascists?
I grew up on an island where only patriotic and solemn dates were celebrated. These repeated the same scheme for years, they were imposed, and I did not identify with so much ideologization.
I did not get to know those dances that my grandfather attended, and I have only read books or heard stories about the traditional festivals from those who did live through that time.
In Cuba a long time ago we were left without the Star and Luceros competitions, the Flor de la Virama, the Ring Races, the Verbenas, the Carnivals with their parades, costume competitions, floats and troupes. Christmas was banned until a Pope visited us!
Even in the times of greatest USA influence, between 1902 and 1959, these traditions prevailed. But after January 1, 1959, everything changed and that change caused new generations to look for foreign patterns and incorporate symbols distant from their experience and knowledge.
These days social networks have been saturated by the arrival of Halloween. Messages of hate or acceptance of a celebration deeply rooted in Anglo-Saxon culture that has spread throughout almost the entire world. As a result, it has been especially welcomed in neighboring countries, including Cuba, where traditions are replicated.
More than 3,000 years ago when the harvest season came to an end and the “Celtic New Year” began, the Celts celebrated Samhain. It was believed that the souls of the deceased were going to visit their home that night and take the weaker souls along with them.
They were the ones who established the tradition of dressing up with motifs related to spirits, so they could confuse them and go unnoticed.
When the Roman Empire conquered the Celtic territory, this festival was mixed with others of Roman origin such as the Harvest Festival. However, Samhain was transformed when Christian authorities appropriated pagan festivities. For this reason, it began to be called “All Saints’ Eve”, in English “All Hallow’s Eve”, resulting in Halloween.
For most Cubans, this day at the end of October is just an occasion to dress up and have a good time. If the costume is something terrifying, even better. So, they could think of how terrifying an SS officer would be for the occasion.
I don’t justify the costume; it doesn’t seem like “a Halloween costume to scare and laugh” because of the meaning it entails. I only believe that what happened at Maxim Rock was not an act of acceptance or praise of Nazi ideology. Of course, a kind of insensitive and tasteless joke caused by ignorance.
The bottom line is that everything happened within the framework of a rock concert. People and institutions now have arguments to reduce the already little space that metal occupies in the Cuban cultural panorama.
At this time our institutional system of culture is dysfunctional, meetings, speeches and slogans cannot and will not be the solution. Cultural institutions and their programs must assume a critical role in these processes, not simply let them happen.
And honestly the US blockade is not our biggest problem, the biggest problem is ourselves, because we are negligent and irresponsible at all levels. Neither “San Remo” nor “Mister Cuba” nor Havana that dresses in white for a secret and elegant dinner are the solution.
It is true that in the cultural history of our country it has always been taken from here and there and that process does not stop. Some traditions fall by the wayside and others come. What should not be viewed favorably is acculturation, which is nothing more than replacing what we are with what others want us to be.