I was on the bus when the carefree expression of a nine-year-old boy old caught the attention of those of us near him and his mother. Immediately laughter broke out as if everyone were celebrating the wit of this child, who was wearing his Pioneer uniform.
He said in recitative tone:
Che died in Bolivia / with a lightbulb on his forehead / lighting the continent / of Latin America.
What also caught my attention was that his mother didn’t do anything to correct the boy (“lightbulb” should be “star”) for making fun of an eminent person, a hero, a figure who is worshipped all around the world, and for those of us from here should mean more than anyone.
In addition, the motto of the Cuban Young Pioneers is:
“Pioneers for communism / We will be like Che”
This made me recall another incident.
Every July 26 in Santiago de Cuba, at dawn there’s a symbolic assault on the old Moncada Barracks. It is a patriotic cultural act in remembrance of the youths who were killed there in that revolutionary gesture in 1953.
Ever since I was a little girl I attended those activities year after year, either with my family or with other kids from my school. As an adult I’ve stopped going and it was precisely because of something that occurred eight years ago.
I became livid when at the moment they were reading off the list of the martyrs, and when each person in attendance shouts “Present!” after each name, a group of young kids were laughing and playing, ignoring what was going on around them.
No one else seemed to notice it, but I was really upset. I considered it an act of absolute disrespect for the memory of those who died in heroic actions against the Batista dictatorship in the 1950s.
Then too I’ve seen other things, like people (mostly kids) climbing up on statues of great figures on horseback and other monuments so that they can dance on them or compete to see who can get the highest. In doing so, this demonstrates total disrespect for what these figures symbolize.
Very recently a friend also commented to me that a 12-year-old girl had drawn a picture of a tattooed Che wearing a tutu.
“The level of irreverence that the young generation shows for everything that signifies or is associated with political ideas is alarming,” my friend remarked.
“But the nation’s history and national sentiments have nothing to do with politics,” I responded.
“True, but here in Cuba history has been politicized. These figures have served as icons for messages, for slogans, in an excessive fashion. It’s like the over-saturation of images,” said my friend.
“Do you remember Eastern Europe, when the socialist camp fell? People attacked images, statues, those things that represented the ideas that they rejected, and the youngest are always the most rebellious in that sense,” he concluded.
When I heard that school kid on the bus, all of this suddenly rushed to my mind and I thought: How terrible, the future is becoming iconoclast!