On the “Physical Disappearance” of Cuba’s Historical Figures

Dmitri Prieto

Photo: Paola Nuñez Solorio

HAVANA TIMES — Ernesto “Che” Guevara was taken prisoner and assassinated on October 9, 1967 under orders from the CIA.

We know this thanks to testimonies offered by the person who executed him.

Every 8th of October, however, Cuba continues to commemorate Che Guevara’s “fall in combat” and even his “physical disappearance.”

Those phrases were also used in the course of this year.

Why falsify the historical record?

Today October 28th marks 55 years since the disappearance – here the term is apt – of Camilo Cienfuegos.

Less renowned than Che outside of Cuba, Camilo Cienfuegos – the “broad-smiling comandante”, as he was known back in his time – embodied people’s feelings towards youth, work and charisma.

Many urban legends about his disappearance have existed. The official version of events is that the Cessna plane he was travelling on fell into the ocean, never to be found.

A friend told me that, even at the close of the 60s, there were those who maintained Camilo was living incognito in Havana.

Today, 55 years since his disappearance, it would be worthwhile to pay closer attention to Camilo Cienfuegos’ political ideas. We don’t much see him on television, and I don’t recall ever having been shown any of his speeches, and he did deliver a number of these.

The year 1959 continues to embody a number of mysteries for those of us who live in Cuba.

What really pisses me off is that phrase, “physical disappearance.”

Used as a euphemism for the word “death”, it is a cold and false expression.

It is not even adequate as a euphemism: death is biological, not physical, even if we agree that life continues in some form of patriotically spiritual dimension.

It would be good to replace “disappearance” with a more accurate expression.

I hope our memory of recent history becomes less cold and increasingly more exact.

Dimitri Prieto-Samsonov

Dmitri Prieto-Samsonov: I define myself as being either Cuban-Russian or Russian-Cuban, indiscriminately. I was born in Moscow in 1972 of a Russian mother and a Cuban father. I lived in the USSR until I was 13, although I was already familiar with Cuba-- where we would take our vacation almost every year. I currently live on the fifth floor of an apartment building in Santa Cruz del Norte, near the sea. I’ve studied biochemistry and law in Havana and anthropology in London. I’ve written about molecular biology, philosophy and anarchism, although I enjoy reading more than writing. I am currently teaching in the Agrarian University of Havana. I believe in God and in the possibility of a free society. Together with other people, that’s what we’re into: breaking down walls and routines.


15 thoughts on “On the “Physical Disappearance” of Cuba’s Historical Figures

  • March 17, 2019 at 12:51 am
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    Worse than ironic. Macabre.

  • March 17, 2019 at 12:49 am
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    Do you have a reference to the story? How can I find it? Xana del LLano

  • March 13, 2019 at 8:04 pm
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    My long comment is directed to the questions that Dmitri poses at the beginning; I am sorry its bilingual but that defines me.

  • March 13, 2019 at 8:01 pm
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    Sadly, I lost my long comment, but in an effort at reconstruction let me say that you should look at the 10 second video of Camilo delivering a “message to Cubans” that Alina de los Angeles put up on a silly TV show, asserting that Camilo was alive, in CIA custody, and that he had asked for her to be brought to him so he could deliver his message to Cubans (See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WeP4t5qq8pg; also posted elsewhere search for “Camilo vivo”. Before she taped him, she reports he said that Cubans had to ask their comandantes to leave Cuba (Que le dijeran a sus comandantes que se vayan) He added: que quiere llevar su mensaje a los Cubanos; que quisera ver “ese pedazo de tierra [ie. Cuba] libre donde los cubanos sean felices con todos los derechos que les pertenecen” . Al inciarse la lucha armada todos los barbudos estaban a favor de 1) que se quitara de la silla Presidencial a Batista; 2) que se restaurara la Constitucion de 1851que Batista habia descartado; y que se les regresara a los campesinos su tierra. Camilo le critico a Fidel p.q. andaba llenando los puestos del gobierno con comunistas (los predilectos de Raul); tambien p.q. Fidel queria fusilar a todos los miles de soldados del ejercito Batistiano; y p.q. iba a traicionar a los campesionos, que fueron sus tropas, descartando sus deseos legitimos ; ellos no querian cooperativas agrarias estilo sovietico si no el regreso de sus tierras..
    La imagen de Camilo en 2019 le correponde o no al jdel Camilo de 1959? Yo compare friamente los 10 segundos de video de Camilo hoy con consus fotos de el 1959. Yo tengo el “ojo de artista”: mi percepcion de lo visual es mas aguda, mas rica,mas precisa q la de los normales.. Vi que las manos distinctivas de Camilo las tenia el Camilo del video igual que el de las fotos de 1959; tambien tenia su esqueleto facial, tomando en cuenta la diferencia de edad.. Al acabar de hablar sus 10 segundos de video Camilo hizo el gesto caracteristico que el Camilo de 1959 hacia despues de sus discursos: levantaba el brazo con la palma abierta y su dedo grande extendido y algo torcido. Ese dedo se parece mas a los dedos de la gente hypermobil (condicion genetica) que a los de os normales; examina las fotos. El Camilo de 2019 dijo que el pueblo lo reconociaria pero la mayor parte de los comentarios niegan que es Camilo y expresan una hostilidad fuerte a la videografa y a el programa de television. Pero esta gente no han pensado el asunto friamente sino solo emocionalmente y se expresaron en un discurso negativo, lleno de insultos y malas palabras. Para terminar te cuento de mi reaccion emocional: yo tenia la edad de 3 cuando el se murio; me deprimio por mucho tiempo porque yo lo adoraba como la mayoria de loscubanos. Yo si lo reconoci sin pensarlo y fue unos de esos momentos que te cambian la vida: senti un delirio de felicidad y por poco me desmaye. Yo como artista, igual que Camilo, tengo un sentido mas amplio de lo posible q la gente normal. La hipotesis mia, necesita datos para comprobarla: pienso q Camilo tenia un desacuerdo fundamental con los Castro y vio que a su amigo y correligionista, Huber Matos, lo iban a matar o arrestar p.q. se atrevio de dimitir de su cargo; sufrio condena de 20 yrs. en la carcel. Puedes verlo en video en YouTube. La otra explicacion alternativa es la de Carlos Franqui, campesino y muy amigo de Camilo; le acaban de publicar ediciones cars de sus libros pero la digital cueta menos de $7.00. Si tienes algo que responder a mi repuesta a tus inquietudes, con todo gusto lo leere.

  • October 31, 2014 at 12:53 pm
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    I was in Cuba when the news broke that Repsol, the Spanish oil company, was planning to drill offshore in Cuban waters in search of oil. The joke in the streets at that time was the question, “How was Castro going to find oil under the sea 30 miles out when they couldn’t find Camilio’s airplane on the sea floor only 3 miles offshore?” Ya’ gotta love the Cuban sense of humor.

  • October 31, 2014 at 12:47 pm
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    Are you trying to justify or defend the malevolence in Cuba by pointing out that Mexico has “disappearances” as well. Really? Is that the best you got?

  • October 30, 2014 at 5:26 am
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    I will have a look.

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