Gioconda Belli on Fidel Castro’s Return

HAVANA TIMES, Sept. 18 — Nicaraguan author Gioconda Belli dedicated the most recent post on her blog on the  reappearance of Fidel Castro in the public life of Cuba, both a national and world news event.  We asked for permission to publish her entry for HT readers.


by Gioconda Belli (*)

Fidel Castro presents his book “The strategic counteroffensive” at the University of Havana.  Photo- Roberto Chile, estudios revolucion.

It must be incredible to come back from the dead.  That’s what Fidel has done, one more entry in his book of innumerable combats. I have a journalist friend in California, an expert in all things Cuban, who has been waiting four years for Fidel to die just so she can despair.

The man doesn’t die. He will die, there’s no doubt about that, but who knows when. Meanwhile, he keeps on pontificating. Rather, he returns to an abandoned pontification and does so ever more grandly. He gives his opinion on whatever moves him and his opinions make headlines in the world’s most important papers. The comandante must be pleased to see how the world continues to report his temperature, hang on his every word.

Think what you will of Fidel, you must admit that he is a phenomenon. Not only a dictator, as the right calls him, but one of those natural leaders, someone whose words, whether stupid or brilliant, carry weight. These days not everyone can claim that privilege. The words of our leaders are every day cheaper and more vacuous. Fidel has his sins to atone for, but his mark on history is indelible and very much his own.

I find what Fidel has told the press very moving: that he believed he would never return to the podium, that he thought his life was over. Without a doubt there is a special wisdom in his status, for he who has lost everything and has known the smallness to which one’s existence is reduced when confronted with death or illness, does not return to life with the same arrogance as before.

His call to Ahmedinajad to stop speaking garbage is a sign of lucidity. As a woman, Ahmedinajad and all those Iranian Ayatollas make me shudder, because they represent the macho demon in all his crazed splendor. They are a return to the cruelest and most ignorant inquisition. I am enraged when I see women covered with hijabs, for it seems to me the most terrible sort of submission to indignity and backwardness. And that these men, with their guns, at this point in time, not only deny Israel’s right to exist but question the fact of the Jewish Holocaust at the hands of the Nazis, is infantile and myopic. And this is in spite of the fact that I detest what the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians.

But okay, the thing is that Fidel is not afraid to call bread bread and wine wine. And for this reason, his confession that the Cuban model hasn’t even worked for the island itself is a brave and revolutionary affirmation. Because those of us who have been in Cuba or known Cubans have known this for a very long time.

The Cuban people are admirable, truly extraordinary. And they deserve more credit than their government gives them, because if there is a place where I have felt a revolution of consciousness it is in Cuba. People there are amazing. Marvelous. Nonetheless, their government keeps treating them with fear, with hesitancy, as if they were children incapable of deciding for themselves, of seeing reality for themselves.

The media there keeps on feeding them those doses of stupidity, they keep on bringing them out into the streets—in massive numbers—to protest this or that, as if they don’t know why the rafters leave or why it is difficult to survive and live with dignity in that “socialist” system about which their leaders speak.

I don’t know how far Fidel has gotten in his examination of conscience. I don’t know how close to wisdom he may be. But I hope his final legacy will be clarifying, that he will help his people to believe in themselves, in what they have learned, help them liberate those extraordinary energies they have demonstrated just surviving so much hardship, so many restrictions. If he does that, he will take his place in eternity as the leader who returned from the dead illuminated. If not, history will be his judge.

(*) Originally published in Spanish in the Nicaraguan daily El Nuevo Diario, on September 9, 2010

5 thoughts on “Gioconda Belli on Fidel Castro’s Return

  • You guys!

    What a difference between reading Fidel, whether his recent speeches or his various biographical works, and these “pundits” who know the truth unambiguously enough to pass judgement on what Fidel really meant and why full body coverings are both modest and sexy.

    I would argue that the sciences, whether social or hard, don’t take such credit for truths as your pronouncements unless they can demonstrate not only easy either/or’s such as binary math, but also the relative reality that is most of what goes on in our heads.

    I read the reports of Fidel’s statement on the Cuban model and all the subsequent comments and clarifications and surprise; I don’t think Fidel was either confessing or retracting. It’s called dialectics or dialog or a long discussion of complicated topics. Religious coverings don’t oppress women? How about the shame many cultures install from infancy about natural body parts or their functions. Would I be scientific if I said that most people have been conditioned to think certain things that are both a bit arbitrary and very often part of subtle oppressions. Remember all those sexy women in China with those tiny feet? Prove to me that there is more sexual health when the hair of women – but not men – is hidden than when Chinese women’s feet were shrunk or American women cossetted, or “well dressed” Western men choked on ties and stinky suits., etc. and I will argue back it’s all relative and lousy sociology and reactionary anyway.

    Fidel endures I believe, because he is a lot smarter than most about the complexities of reality and the real respect that life deserves if we are to learn.

  • “But okay, the thing is that Fidel is not afraid to call bread bread and wine wine. And for this reason, his confession that the Cuban model hasn’t even worked for the island itself is a brave and revolutionary affirmation. Because those of us who have been in Cuba or known Cubans have known this for a very long time.”

    Unfortunately he later retracted and said he was not interpreted correctly ! 🙂
    But yes he did say that. In my opinion his senility got the best of him that day.

    I wish he had not retracted later.

    The current changes to Cuba government point to the fact that they realized exactly that. That socialism does not work. Still they seem to me they are afraid to infuriate the international left that has been unconditional supporters of the regime.

  • Many people all over the world have made comments on Fidel’s recent statements, even in Iran where tens of thousands of communists, socialists, women, trade unionists and even Castroites have been jailed, killed and oppressed since 1978.

    Iranian Political Prisoners Welcome Castro’s Comments
    On September 15, four Iranian prisoners of conscience, including labor leader Mansour Osaloo, penned an open letter to the Cuban leader and asked him to condemn the policies of suppressing human rights and repression against freedom seekers by the totalitarian and authoritarian forces in Iran .


  • It is hard to deny the impact Fidel Castro has had on the world in general and Cuba in particular, it is difficult from my perspective not to have enormous respect for the Man. To have withstood the absolute worst that America could throw at Him makes you understand the inner steel that exists in the Man.

    I think it is for this same reason that the powers that be in Cuba are so nervous about how to govern Cubas people in the coming future. For a populace to not only have withstood the embargo and the resultant shortages and misery’s and to still be undaunted and unbroken makes one realize the strength and the steel in the Cuban soul. For a Government to witness this in its people must stand one in awe of their abilities or perhaps their wrath if ever unleashed.

  • I want to comment on the hijab issue. I was brought up a militant atheist but at some point I, following Huey Newton (see his article “On the Relevance of the Church “), decided to enter into dialectic with religion. There are two reasons for this, one was as a result of my studies of the infinite as a mathematician, and the other was the recognition of the enormous part that religion has played in various liberation struggles, such as the civil rights movement in the U.S.

    I am still against anyone imposing their religion on anyone else, but to say that the hijab is anti-feminist is a statement from ignorance. The point of the hijab is modesty. It’s imposition may be unacceptable, but many will chose to wear it out of a desire to be modest which is admarable. One can ask why is it that only women have to wear special clothes to demonstrate modesty. In fact in Islam this is not the case, though in Iran it might be. This from the Grand Mufti of Cyprus:

    “The prophets, beginning with Adam (as), called people to wear heavenly fashion, the dress that is honored from Heavens. Those who are not accepting Islamic dresses, their dress is the dress of animals. Our dress is heavenly and we are not running after new fashioned clothes that shaytan is making. The Seal of Prophets (saw) said, Turbans are the crowns of the Arabs, if they put them down, then Allah will put their glory down.”

    In other words he is saying that Muslim men should wear turbans. Again the point is modesty, because it is through modesty that honour comes from heavens.

    Further it is not only Islam that links people’s dress to the sacred in this way, and, if voluntarily done, it can lead to development of higher consciousness. The following from Naomi Wolf’s article “The Porn Myth”:

    “In many more traditional cultures, it is not prudery that leads them to discourage men from looking at pornography. It is, rather, because these cultures understand male sexuality and what it takes to keep men and women turned on to one another over time—to help men, in particular, to, as the Old Testament puts it, “rejoice with the wife of thy youth; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times.” These cultures urge men not to look at porn because they know that a powerful erotic bond between parents is a key element of a strong family.

    And feminists have misunderstood many of these prohibitions.

    I will never forget a visit I made to Ilana, an old friend who had become an Orthodox Jew in Jerusalem. When I saw her again, she had abandoned her jeans and T-shirts for long skirts and a head scarf. I could not get over it. Ilana has waist-length, wild and curly golden-blonde hair. “Can’t I even see your hair?” I asked, trying to find my old friend in there. “No,” she demurred quietly. “Only my husband,” she said with a calm sexual confidence, “ever gets to see my hair.”

    When she showed me her little house in a settlement on a hill, and I saw the bedroom, draped in Middle Eastern embroideries, that she shares only with her husband—the kids are not allowed—the sexual intensity in the air was archaic, overwhelming. It was private. It was a feeling of erotic intensity deeper than any I have ever picked up between secular couples in the liberated West. And I thought: Our husbands see naked women all day—in Times Square if not on the Net. Her husband never even sees another woman’s hair.

    She must feel, I thought, so hot.”

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