The God of Small Things

By Armando Chaguaceda

Cheburashka and his friend crocodile Guena
Cheburashka and his friend crocodile Guena

I’ve spent these last weeks in a kind of “intellectual maquiladora,” gripped by work, bureaucratic reports and projects that never seem to become of anything.  I sit here tired of sustaining a precarious balance between commitment and dreams; content with doing what I like, but sick of thinking about my people and my island.

A little while ago, in my few leisure moments I had in front of my PC, I “gave myself permission” to navigate the web in search of memories.

Today I discovered a webpage of salvation (http://munequitosrusos.blogspot.com), which has collected cartoons that we -Cuban children in 80s- used to enjoy and suffer through every day.

In the early 1980s, my friends and I barely knew some of the older TV comics (Pixie, Dixie and Jim the Cat) inherited from the pre-revolutionary days.  We began to be seduced by Japanese magic, with their mega-robots Voltus and Mazinger, their long-running stories of the lost “Little Polar Bears” and children searching for “El Dorado.”

But the main dish of every noontime (just before the news) and at 6:00 p.m. were the “Russian cartoons.”  That was the generic name we gave to animations produced in the former Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact nations.

Generously exported to their Caribbean siblings, some were unbearable for their slow rhythm, outmoded aesthetics and unpolished style – ones like “The Snow Puppets.”  Yet others evidenced genius, grace and stunning design – like “The Golden Antelope.”

More appealing to us were the Hungarian and Polish ones (“Aladar the Boy Cosmonaut,” “Bolek and Lolek,” “The Mischievous Friends”).  However, we enjoyed some of the Soviet ones, like where the wolf threatened the astute hare with “just let me catch you,” or “The Musicians from Bremen,” whose characters dressed in jeans while singing rock songs about friendship.

Despite their differences, all remain a part of the living memory of at least three generations of Cubans.

Today all those cartoons, almost without distinction, are worshipped for the impact they make in our personal stories, in jokes we tell, the expressions we use, and the admiration (or phobia) they arouse.

In the blog in question, you can read comments that overflow with nostalgia, humor and those small things that help one to live and that serve as guardian angels, as the trova musicians and writers say.

I’m flooded with questions.  Will we be become pathetically idealistic with the years and distance?  Will the generation of Nintendo, cable TV and cyber-culture be able to store the sensation of community that -thanks to state monopolies and blockades- is part of my generation?  Is the “pluralistic” selection offered by mass culture more liberating than the better part of Cuban public TV or the clandestine image market (illicit cable connections and private video rentals) that compete against each other?

I don’t believe I have the answer to this dilemma between the false “consumer choice” and the “administration (by the state) of virtue.”  But I know that I never cease to take to the air with those animated comic-strip characters in my blurred memory; and that on those trips I always receive an enormous dose of happiness, adorned with a furtive tear.  And for that, and for the http://mune team…, I’ll always be thankful.

Armando Chaguaceda

Armando Chaguaceda: My curriculum vitae presents me as a historian and political scientist. I'm from an unclassifiable generation who collected the achievements, frustrations and promises of the Cuban Revolution and now resists on the island or contributes through numerous websites, trying to remain human without dying in the attempt.



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Golden Twilight, Cayo Coco, Cuba.  By  Taz Arora (Canada).  Camera: Samsung SM-G965W

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