HAVANA TIMES – Cuban nationals and foreigners go to the park on 17th and 8th streets to see a beautiful statue of John Lennon which was inaugurated by Fidel Castro. When bathing in this public stunt, putting the man from Liverpool in the Revolution’s book of saints, I guess Fidel left out mentioning that his government had banned the Beatles when they were the most popular band in the world.
There’s no doubt that dedicating a statue to John Lennon is the government’s symbolic recognition of their failure in the fight for unanimity and the artificial construction of a population that share the same ideology.
Coincidentally, there is another statue in this same park, the statue of Freemason Fernando Suarez Nunez. Now alone and forgotten, he was once the object of Masonic pilgrimages until any public march was banned if it wasn’t a pro-government march.
Today, very few people approach this solitary statue of the dignified Freemason, and less people know that he was the creator of a para-masonic sect which was wiped out at the beginning of the Revolution as part of the government’s ambition to interfere in people’s minds, which is so typical of any dictatorship.
They not only censored the Beatles to do this (God knows why!), but they also tried to corner any organization which had its own message. Religious, fraternal, professional, union, management organizations all fell against the Revolution’s offense with the implicit or explicit approval of the masses who they promised paradise to. In post-1959 Cuba, there was only space for one message and one God.
Freemasonry suffered this harassment, membership fell to less than half in a few years, policemen infiltrated their ranks reaching the extreme case of doctor Collera Vento, former Grand Master of Cuba’s Lodge who was expelled from freemasonry after being judged as the culprit of poor management within the institution, who then came out in the national press as a State Security undercover agent, after his expulsion.
One of the greatest concessions Freemasonry had to make in the face of government harassment, was closing down Fernando Suarez Nunez’ project, the Association of Young Fraternal Hope, AJEF. An international organization today, it was conceived and founded by Suarez in Cuba for young people aged between 14 and 21 years old.
Taking Marti and Juarez’s thoughts as a basis, he wanted to give them, and I quote: “to learn as much about and without any kind of inclination everything which that you can take from the different paths human thought has known and young people learning to self-determine themselves using this as a basis, becoming owners of their own will so they can choose the path that they are individually susceptible to.” How was the Cuban government going to allow something like that?
Time has passed since then, the Government’s ideology is becoming more and more hollow and unfeasible, and it diverges from the reality we Cubans live greatly. Their cyclopean attempt to control society has been reduced to ugly billboards with Fidelista phrases on the sides of avenues full of pot holes and traveled by people who have no idea or care about what socialism actually is.
Even though Cuban Freemasonry suffered, its high social recognition allowed it to survive the worst decades and then regroup. Winning back the space that had been usurped from them, some Lodges have gone back to creating their own AJEF workshops, not so young people can learn about loyalty to the Homeland/State/Party, but to learn about humanist, universal and democratic values which are something we urgently need.
Fernando Suarez Nunez’s statue, like that of his famous Rock’n’Roll neighbor, then becomes another symbol of the demise of the party/government’s interference in the lives of Cubans, and seeing the civil disaster the State’s ideological monopoly has put us in, let’s pray it isn’t too late.
So, if you pass by 17th and 8th streets and you go to the park to see the short-sighted statue of Lennon, don’t forget that a few meters on, Fernando Suarez is smiling on his pedestal, go and say hello.