By Pedro Pablo Morejon
HAVANA TIMES – My friend Alberto was born in 1954, a few years before Castro’s revolution took power. From then on, he heard only that the best and most humane project in life was the construction of socialism under the Marxist-Leninist principles. In Cuba, these were nothing but Stalinism, but he knew nothing of that.
From his teenage years on, they taught him that the only way to serve the homeland and honor the Flag, the Hymn, our forefathers and everything Cuban was to become a Communist; here, that meant nothing other than complete loyalty to Fidel, but he didn’t understand any of that either.
Fidel was viewed as a kind of Messiah, the very embodiment of the Homeland. An infallible, divine presence who couldn’t be questioned, only devotedly believed, because his word was the Bible of the masses; because he held all the wisdom and kindness of the universe.
That’s how Alberto grew up and was educated. Also, hearing that everything that opposed that revolution was opposed to Cuba and served imperialism, and as such was dishonorable.
He believed in this firmly, although as luck would have it, he’s an upright and decent man. For that reason, he suffered his first crisis when he refused to heed the call to attend a hate rally in the days of the Mariel exodus.
His refusal brought him a strong, but “constructive” criticism. A kind of mini-repudiation of the compañero who is “revolutionary” but who “we must still work on, politically and ideologically.”
That shocked him for some days, but time has softened the memory. Then came Angola*, and like a good “internationalist”, he heeded the Comandante’s call. He formed part of the thousands of Cubans who served as “cannon fodder” and part of an invasive army, sent in to that African country’s civil war.
Alberto was lucky: he returned alive and unmutilated, with perhaps a little post-traumatic stress. It didn’t lead him into alcoholism, though, although he tells me that he suffered nightmares for a year, from which he would spring abruptly up, bathed in sweat and looking for his imaginary AKM, until he returned to reality.
One day, they questioned his choice to baptize his daughter. On that occasion, he gave his second demonstration of dignity by turning in his Communist Party card. It was during the 80s, an era when being a religious believer was worse than an obscenity – something that a communist couldn’t allow in their family. Threats and pressures on him were useless, because he’s a man of character, “a man in everything”, as he says it. But that didn’t keep him from continuing to be a revolutionary.
Later came the 90s, bringing the crisis that followed the collapse of the former Soviet Union. Two of his brothers left, but that didn’t wake him up from his bad dream either. He wouldn’t give up; he wasn’t one of those who abandoned ship when there were threats of shipwreck.
And so, time passed amid scarcities and disappointments. Now Alberto is a man worn by the years, who survives with the help of his family members in Miami. He’s nearing 70 and it seems he’s just beginning to perceive that his life has been lost to a sad simulation, that he’s been a marionette whose strings others have pulled.
Sometimes he seems to wake up, but when he blames the United States for Cuba’s extreme poverty, he makes evident how he clings to the utopia of that just revolution that only exists in the mind of those of his generation. A generation betrayed, sunk under the weight of tons of indoctrination and at the same time responsible for our national disaster.
Alberto clings to his point of view, because it’s sad to accept that your life has been lost to a lie, pursuing the unicorn that turned out to be nothing more than a bloodthirsty beast that devoured dreams, that brought us misery and slavery. Like so many of his generation, he’s been enslaved to his own biography amid the crossfire.
He doesn’t want to let it go. After 60, it’s nearly impossible to reset the brain. One becomes very conservative and doesn’t understand the ideas for change; for that reason, no one is more reactionary than men like Alberto.
But, as I said, sometimes he seems to have taken the red pill, and – like Neo – to awake from the Matrix, although shame or pride won’t allow him to accept it. Especially because the other day he confessed to me that he’s afraid for his children, because “these people are capable of anything, the situation is difficult and anyone can be blocked or taken away, which is worse.”
Alberto deserves a different life. He was never a snitch or a repressor, only a good man who believed in the sham.
Maybe that redeems him.
*Following Angola’s independence from Portugal in 1975, multiple groups fought for control. This civil war quickly became a proxy war between the Eastern bloc led by the Soviet Union, and the Western bloc, led by the U.S. Cuba sent troops from 1975 – 1991 to support the fight of the leftist People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola. Cuban casualties over these years are estimated at over 10,000 dead, wounded or missing.