Mixed Emotions on the Pope’s Visit to Cuba

Martín Guevara

Franicis in the Popemobile. Photo: Ismael Franciso/cubadebate.cu

HAVANA TIMES — On Sunday, a congregation of Communist Party militants and non-dissident Christians sang the Alleluia at Havana’s Revolution Square, a place that belongs, not to Fidel or Raul Castro, but to all revolutionaries who defend Cuban independence – Christian or atheist – and who fought and died for something more than clinging to power indefinitely.

Some progress we’ve made!

What the island needs today are positive changes that will steer it in a progressive direction. It needs Silicon Valley more than it does the Vatican, which is humanist in theory but medieval, sexist, misogynistic, classist and avaricious in practice, possibly the most undemocratic institution in the West.

We’ve had enough Alleluias, Cuba does not need to trade one opium for another. It needs democracy, debate, polemics, self-monitoring, modernity, plenty of modernity and, above all, boundless freedom.

To tell the truth, people seem to prefer these new bearers of a single, indisputable truth, who address the masses one day once in a great while, to a Fidel Castro who spoke every weekend for four hours. They also want to hear words of encouragement and see a non-official posture, and it is clear they’re going to get just that from Bergoglio. He’s a good man, but the last thing Cuba needs today is to exchange its blind faith on a piece of fiction for another.

There’s something great to Bergoglio, as there is to Obama. They are personalities who have emerged to save the system that engendered them, with a critical stance that still seeks to rescue the better part of the system, ditching what can be ditched. One reforms the Church, the other reforms capitalism.

They should not be accused of falsehood because of this. Both believe in humanity, in peace, in the premise that people can get along and, with respect to Cuba, they are evincing nobility and generosity. But Cubans need more than this. They have long been denied what the modern (imperfect, but free) world enjoys today. That said, it is also time for them to decide the path they are to follow in life.

At any rate, I’ve been giving some thought to the words with which Bergoglio closed his Sunday, post-revolutionary sermon: “Those who do not live to serve are unfit to live.”

I was left with an ambiguous feeling. On the one hand, it is a grandiloquent and even pretty phrase, but it comes off as something very similar to the slogans people are used to on the island, which tend to judge those who are worthy and those who are not, who is the chosen one and who the Pharisee, and they happen to have been pronounced by an authority who lives in abundance and absolute power and by another leader who lives in a State with enough riches to feed all of humanity for several generations.

I would say to them:

Bergoglio, Raul, Fidel, you should know that those who serve what you consider to be just and those who don’t (because they can’t or simply won’t) are equally fit for life.

Those who find satisfaction in devoting themselves to a cause have the same right to life as those who would lie on their couches, gorge themselves at a banquet or enjoy any of life’s mundane pleasures, the most sought-out and immediate embodiments of that abstract, intangible and often fleeting illusion baptized as “happiness.”

Those who interpret martyrdom, sacrifice, obedience, faith and servility before hierarchs as a path to the good have the same right to life as those who believe they are seeking it through rebelliousness, doubt, the quest for new values, beauty, pleasure, happiness, comfort and a break with what’s established.

Seeing the communist militants who once repressed the religious singing Alleluia, the ones who yelled “Christ lives” yesterday during the Pope’s reception, I could not help but recall those phrases different authorities in Cuba would say to me in view of this or that incident of domestic unruliness typical of youth:

“If your uncle were to came back from the grave and see you, he’d drop dead again.” Today, like then, that strikes me as a little too much. I feel that Che Guevara would take advantage of his resurrection and concern himself with more important and even more pleasurable things than his nephew’s rebelliousness.

However, I do believe that, were my uncle to rise from the grave and see what his former comrades and friends Fidel and Raul Castro were doing, he would likely drop dead from indignation. Before that, he would surely address them with a few epithets, a few angry glances and no shortage of lead.

I also thought: so much repression, so many shortages, so many imprisoned, so many prohibitions, so much abuse, just to get here?

So much fuss and this is what we get?

Following these questions and associations, I suddenly found myself humming Mixed Emotions by the Rolling Stones, who also want to travel to Cuba in March next year, to offer a massive concert at the Latinoamericano stadium.

I have to admit that, even if the concert drew Party snitches, CDR opportunists and Raul Castro himself, to dance to the rhythm of Honky Tonk Woman, I would gladly be there for this particular homily, as a faithful follower of these satanic lords. We all have weaknesses.

One thought on “Mixed Emotions on the Pope’s Visit to Cuba

  • Nice expression Martin: “satanic lords”. Loved how you managed to work your way from Alleluia to Honky Tonk Woman.

Comments are closed.