By Dariela Aquique
HAVANA TIMES, Sept. 30 — Thursday was September 28, a date that had great importance for Cuba in 1960. It was one of those rapturous moments in the first years of the revolution when men and women seemed to worship the “Messiah” – that guiding savior who liberated the homeland from an oppressive tyrant and ended foreign domination.
In those times mass rallies were applauded and fervent speeches were heard promising a revolution “for the poor, with the poor and by the poor.”
On that day — 51 years ago — the Commander-in-chief, Fidel Castro, founded the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDRs), an organization of the masses that was to include all citizens over 14 years of age.
Though supposedly voluntary, anyone who didn’t join its ranks created a poorly looked upon social precedent, one that could cost them a great deal for appearing disinterested or apathetic.
Block by block and neighborhood by neighborhood, there had to exist a committee. These would wield absolute control over each and every person who resided in or even spent a night in any nearby house or apartment.
The neighborhood CDR had to produce and maintain a rigorous register with each citizen’s first name, last name, age, profession, sex, race, credo, political ideology and sexual preference.
Other tasks, some having a healthier character (like donating blood, recycling debris or performing volunteer labor to clean the block), were also organized by the committees.
But these began to be accompanied by others that gradually turned more counterproductive, like cederista (“CDRist”) night-watch duty, justified on the basis of the need for reconnaissance to prevent sabotage, robberies and other acts of counterrevolutionary aggression.
The truth though is that in a very short time this all turned into a form of us watching over each other (finding out who was entering and leaving each home and who was sleeping with whom).
Similarly, the meetings began to turn into encounters that were by no means fraternal. They became places where the faithful were praised while others were called on the carpet and condemned for anything implying disagreement or difference with the laws or polices of the revolution.
The CDRs were the protagonists in infamous “acts of repudiation” (politically motivated mobs) of the ‘80s. Today the largest of the revolution’s organizations has seen its ranks decimated.
At this state it’s highly unpopular; with every year people fewer showing the will or motivation to belong to it. What is expressed is an almost unanimous rejection.
Every year, on the eve of its founding anniversary, each block throws a party. All residents are supposed to participate, preparing caldosa (a thick soup for the commemoration), recognizing outstanding members of the immediate neighborhood and toasting euphorically to the anniversary.
I gave myself the task of taking some photos, ones that demonstrate how unconcerned and spiritless the few cederistas who attend the celebrations these days.
Shortages are revealed and indifference reigns, with only the children seeming to be excited for having a reason to go to bed later than usual, as they run around, laugh and dance reggaeton.
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