Isbel Díaz Torres
HAVANA TIMES — We’re so used to being the center of the universe here that I was surprised a few days ago when neither Cuba, nor the Cuban revolution, nor Fidel Castro were mentioned in a listing of Latin American leaders and revolutionary processes.
The list in question was cinematographer Tristan Bauer’s answer to a question from Tele Sur. As president of Radio y Televisión Argentina, the country’s public media system, Bauer was visiting Venezuela to partake in a meeting of intellectuals centered on the figure of Hugo Chávez.
The interviewer was Cuban journalist Rolando Segura, whom Bauer first answered by mentioning some of the continent’s great historic leaders like Simón Bolívar, José Martí, or the recently deceased Hugo Chávez.
I don’t even remember the exact question, but I know that it was one of those rhetorical ones, so dear to Cuban journalists, that aren’t backed by the need to address a real concern, but rather set the stage for the interviewee to say what they’re expected to say depending on their surroundings.
I, with my conditioned brain, was left feeling a little expectant, waiting for Cuba’s ex-president Fidel Castro to be included in the list, “as would be appropriate”. This didn’t happen. “Surely he preferred only to mention the dead ones,” I reasoned with myself.
I imagine that something similar happened to Segura, who came back with another question that would allow Bauer to speak of the region’s present and future. The answer came with another rattling off of names: Lula da Silva, Cristina Hernández, Daniel Ortega, Evo Morales… He even mentioned Che’s quest, but nothing about either the Cuban revolution or Fidel.
Personally, aside from possible criticism about how he handled his position as head of the government, I consider that Fidel’s Castro’s contribution to the Left’s thoughts and actions, and his criticism of imperialism, are more than enough to justify his inclusion in this light and speedy enumeration, with more rights than Ortega, Lula or Cristina.
I don’t know if this happens to you, but for those if us who were born with Fidel on our television sets day and night, it’s a bit nostalgic to see him omitted from the list of glorious heroes (since he’s alive), and his absence from the superficially progressive movement that is currently being promoted by certain Latin American governments.
On the other hand, it’s equally significant that Fidel hardly appears in the political analyses that spontaneously generate on a daily basis among your average Cubans.
But back to me, and my preoccupation at seeing how my education, which centered on such a personality, still forcibly conditions my thinking. After all, what Brazilian cares whether Bauer mentions Lula or not?
The argentine film director, who made Illuminated by Fire (Iluminados por el fuego), was born in 1959, the year the insurrection triumphed on the island. Has he thought about this coincidence? Should it even matter to him?
What’s certain is that for decades, all life on this island had a single focus, which revolved around the figure of the revolution’s historic leader. Many of us embraced (or were tied to) this central axis and moved with it, sometimes even in opposition to certain opinions.
National debate agendas were set by themes suggested by Fidel. The opposition positioned itself based on these agendas, and the government supporters prepared their posters with the president’s most brilliant aphorisms.
It’s as if all of life began and ended in this paternal figure. I’m not even saying it was a plan designed to function this way. It’s just the way society worked. Those who had other opinions (and there always were) were annihilated as “anachronistic” and foreign.
Today, I see that this isn’t the case. I’m glad, and it seems fair, but it doesn’t keep me from feeling a faint sense of mourning for abandoning someone we once knew and who knew us well.
Or am I just indoctrinated?