HAVANA TIMES – Lately, I seem to sense a light breath of optimism in the official slogans, something of an attempt at modernization, like this slogan that I’ve seen on several Havana billboards:
“NEW CHALLENGES, NEW VICTORIES”
Note the absence of ideological indicatives; that the affirmation isn’t a pronouncement, a choice between two extremes (socialism or death), and could refer to any facet of human activity. I don’t know why, but to me it seems that the challenges are economic (that is, for the everyday Cuban) and the victories…will be whose?
There’s now a poster located at the entrance to the Havana municipality of Cotorro that I couldn’t assign to either of the two tendencies. The one it replaced – very washed out from the effects of the sun and grime – affirmed:
THE PARTY IS THE SOUL OF THE REVOLUTION
Now, alongside a gaudy painted Cuban flag it announces:
CUBA, FOREVER PATRIOTIC
Since I found myself obliged to wait beside that cryptic slogan for a bus that took a very long time to arrive, I found myself submerged in tangled reflections.
Is Cuba forever patriotic? I wondered. If the function of the adjective “patriotic” is to delimit or characterize the noun “Cuba”, then to say that Cuba is patriotic – Isn’t that the same as affirming that Cuba is Cuban?
Believing that this was already implicit in the noun, I deduced that the concept should be even more hermetically conceptualized and I continued to burrow into the mystery of the issue.
Do they mean to say that Cuba is becoming more patriotic? According to the Larousse dictionary this is the meaning of patria [fatherland,]:
“n.f. Country in which a person has been born or possesses nationality.”
Which suggests: Cuba nationalizes itself? It declares itself a “patria” and in addition “forever” (the adverb should also give us relevant information). Could it be that before it wasn’t one? That it discovered itself? That it is no longer the fatherland of its children but of herself? I, Cuba, make myself Cuban. I reaffirm myself and I become a country.
I know that these painted billboards beside the streets or highways aren’t put there at random, much less the meaning that they express. Any design destined to promote the government’s policies is carefully conceived and checked.
So, the supposed redundancy or meaninglessness (or excess of meaning) had to have been selected from among several proposals and have survived close scrutiny and suspicion.
This argument redoubled my confusion, convincing me of my complete ineptitude for absorbing such profound messages.