By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
HAVANA TIMES — On October 31st, on the Buenos Dias show on Cuban TV, we watched a news report that was as funny as it was unbelievable. A farmer from the Manjana neighborhood in Baracoa (devastated by Hurricane Mathew earlier in the month) attributed the protection of his flimsy home to Che Guevara.
He has a large photograph of this “heroic guerrilla” hanging on a wall in the living room of his rural and humble home, made out of rustic wood. His appearance, home and words denote great poverty. It seems that the Communist sermon has left a great impression on him even though he doesn’t seem to have benefited from the Revolution; his situation is similar to that of those wretched people Fidel describes in his “History will Absolve Me” speech who he was going to redeem.
Among so many experiences of pain and destruction, journalist Adrian Legra surely caught wind of this imaginative story, which I’m sure became a joke among locals, and saw an opportunity to make a good news report out of it. As it involves Che Guevara, it would surely be accepted by the media’s screening board.
Perez Correa, the innocent old man, tells us how he asked Che to protect his house and kneeled before his photo praying, before he had to leave his home and go to the evacuation site. He managed to hold onto his life at the shelter and when he saw all of the destruction the hurricane had caused, he didn’t believe that he would have a house to go home to. He had a great surprise when he was able to confirm that absolutely nothing had happened to his home, which was surrounded by fallen or mangled trees.
It’s a well-known fact that a low rise building, made out of flexible materials and a palm thatched roof is much more resistant in the face of a hurricane, like the ones our indigenous people used to have. Our country’s native people didn’t suffer as many losses as we do, because their infrastructure was similar to that of Perez Correa’s house. And they didn’t exactly beg Che for protection, instead they begged their animistic gods.
When there is a disaster like the one that took place in far eastern Cuba and people are greatly affected, it’s not only national security that steps up its game by persecuting independent journalists or any protest against the Government; the political-ideological sermon is also stepped up to another level. This news report forms part of this and will transform a local anecdote, which was a great “joke”, into something serious and respected “because it even came on TV.” While it is difficult that people will believe this word for word or that it’ll contribute to Che being seen as a “patron saint” just like he is in some parts of Bolivia, it does reinforce the subliminal idea that the Revolution and its heroes protect us.
Che Guevara is already venerated in Cuba as a legendary hero, almost a superman, the model of what a communist, revolutionary, the new man, a victorious leader, military strategist, doctor, economist, the driving force behind industry should be and, incredibly enough, he is even an example of a “good father”, for having abandoned his children and giving priority to altruist ideals. However, this new side to him that Cuban TV is promoting by giving a voice to this old man, who is clearly innocent and naive, that depicts him as a “patron saint against hurricanes” is the last straw.
We would be stupid if we believed that this piece of news has reached Cuban media by accident, to fill time or by the journalist’s own initiative. This isn’t the way the government’s absolute media power works in Cuba. It’s no longer clear whether Marxism-Leninism is atheist or superstitious; they don’t know what to appeal to as to stick the idea of “everyone with the Revolution” into people’s minds. Either they’re going crazy or they’re taking their last breaths. That’s the feeling that I had while watching and listening to this incredibly unconvincing news report.