Luis Rondón Paz
HAVANA TIMES – The morning of November 26, 2016 hasn’t been just any other day – not for me, nor for most Cubans. In Santiago de Las Vegas, the town where I live, you can usually note the movement in the streets after eight in the morning. But today the only thing apparent is the sound of television sets repeating the news bulletin that has once again placed this largest island in the Antilles in the center of attention of the entire planet.
“The king has died without a crown,” Alejando commented, highlighting how Fidel was able to govern in all of Latin America from Cuba, as well as lead a war in Angola from Havana. “A man like him will never be forgotten,” he concluded regretfully.
“He was a good man, I knew him personally and thanks to him today I have a little farm that’s enough to make a living from,” says David Pérez, 38, in the tone of one who’s lost a person very dear to them.
“I was already ready for these specials about Fidel on the television, since it was repeated so many times that he was ready to keel over. It’s a shame, but anyway that’s the law of life,” Sandra stated. She’s a young woman of 19, self-employed in the food business. She was worried about what might happen from now on, since according to her, Cuba doesn’t have a clear future following the death of its historic leader.
Alberto, who makes a living changing American dollars to Cuban convertible pesos on the black market, felt differently: “Chico, I believe that despite the mistakes the Comandante made he was a born leader, and above all a genius at oratory and an impeccable military strategist,” he said, adding that it was great that the Cuban government had declared 9 days of national mourning. “For the rest, this isn’t going to change, it’s going to keep going just like it has up until now,” he concluded.
Other residents, like Sandra and David, both workers outside the state sector, floated two possible scenarios for the country:
1- Now that “Big Brother” is no longer here, his symbolic power will decrease and the island’s transformations will delay less. At last the Cuban-American community will overcome the grief caused by political differences between the the United States and Cuban regimes, and then the country might begin a real transition towards the reconciliation of the two sides. We can turn the page, and Cuba could advance towards progress and the constitution of a more just and egalitarian participative democracy.
2 – “No one knows who will be the future president; none of them have Fidel’s charisma. And Raúl will be dying soon. It’s very possible that Cuba could become a version of what’s happening in Venezuela,” David asserted. And Sandra broke in: “I’m afraid that the United States could come and put their hands on Cuba once again. Yeah, that would screw this up more than what we are now! We’ll go back to savage capitalism. God help us!” She didn’t dismiss the possibility that something similar to the defunct Soviet Union could happen in the country. “They’re going to divide everything up among themselves,” she concluded.
Everyone that I managed to interview in Santiago de Las Vegas, felt deeply in one way or another the physical disappearance of the Cuban Revolution’s historic leader. Some wept; others affirmed that they’d been prepared for this for a long time. Still others ignored the event and went on with their daily lives.