By Martin Guevara*
HAVANA TIMES — Mayte, the head of the Young Communist League (UJC) committee at my high school, was the girl who presided over those summary trials we would hold in the classroom after school hours.
The meetings, then referred to as “Communist Moral Code Reviews”, were assemblies in which each student was publicly evaluated and judged in terms of those qualities which, supposedly, placed them on the right path to – or made them deviate from – the communist ideal.
When rumors that Mayte was a lesbian spread, she went pale. Suddenly, she was no longer fit to occupy that lofty position, and her permanent record began to accumulate the stains she had often caused others to suffer. Her victims had suddenly become inquisitors. A few days later, she hanged herself from the branch of a Flamboyant tree.
A hanging spills no blood, so when I looked at the Flamboyant on the sidewalk across the street from my house and saw its brown pods, hanging indifferently from the branches, swaying in the breeze beneath bright red flowers, I would think of Mayte and the many people who had hanged themselves.
Those who had refused to fight in Angola because they rejected violence or out of a basic fear of losing their lives, in a war that was just too distant; those who had asked permission to leave the country, and had never obtained it; those who were Jehovah’s Witnesses, or had a relative in the United States and told you they still corresponded with them, missed them; those who drowned their misery in alcohol; those who had put out to sea on a makeshift raft and run aground, on the dry earth where those trees grew.
I pay tribute to all of them. To those who were systematically intimidated, who were forced to live with an overwhelming sense of isolation, thirsting for understanding, feeling ashamed of who they were.
Because of all the ills that characterize these one-party systems, which are deceptively referred to as “socialist”, occurs the most baleful, perverse and sickening misappropriation of a revolutionary language, which speaks of helping those in most need. It constitutes the hijacking of people’s noblest feelings, feelings of profound empathy towards the laboring classes and their hardships, towards the poor and hungry of this world.
Because of this, those who believe that they are being stifled by an authoritarian and omnipresent Power, and feel the overwhelming need to express their condition, immediately begin to ask themselves if, by doing that, they could be damaging something greater and ultimately more important than their individual aspirations.
In short, if they are going against the “Good”, a category which has taken refuge in that domesticated revolutionary discourse, a brilliant re-articulation of the techniques which time has taught its precursor, the cunning Church. First cousins.
A warm breeze caresses the cheek of Mayte’s father, right where his bitter tears flow with disquieting persistence. He is already showing signs of instability: the knots are coming undone, he talks to himself, drinks without moderation, knocking back the beer they dispense in the neighborhood, to remain calmly wound-up.
He no longer laughs while playing dominos with the neighbors, no longer dances at parties thrown by the local Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR). His face has never regained its color, not since his daughter fell dead, choked by the weight of History.
Buried by an avalanche of amnesia, Mayte hazily lives on, as a solemn, chilling, eternal memory.
The time has come, today, to think of the best way we can prevent that from ever happening again, knowing that it could occur, being ready to make the soil fertile with nothing other than the footprints we leave behind as we walk.
Orchids and daisies, strewn over the feet of women who, today, raise their voices to help us become more aware. Mythical beings dance around the thick, thorny trunk of the ceiba tree, while the Flamboyant’s pods, crowned by fiery-red flowers, sway in the breeze, recalling the blood of the fallen.
I salute all of them. I salute you, Mayte.
(*) Born in Argentina, Martin Guevara was raised in Cuba. He is the son of Juan Martin, Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s younger brother. Residing in Spain, he publishes a blog and is currently writing a book about contemporary Cuban reality and his renowned uncle.