By Jeovany Jimenez Vega
“Here rests a man who died millions of times” should be the epitaph engraved on the marble that finally covers him. By then, some will feel despondent, as if the earth were caving in on them; while others, no doubt, will receive the news with terrestrial joy. But absolutely everyone will be in agreement about something: that on that day the most loved and most hated man of the last two centuries in Cuba will have ceased to exist.
But Fidel Castro will not have died that day, because before then, little by little, he will have suffered millions of prior deaths. For some, for example, he has been dead since that first morning when he “couldn’t find” the way from Moncada while another group of reliable men were being sacrificed in the assault; and for others, he died when he legalized the death penalty at the beginning of 1959, every time echoes of gunfire from La Cabaña were heard; or perhaps a few months after that, when amid all the mystery the sea swallowed Camilo’s hat–and he was pronounced dead after just three days of dubious “searching.”
But later, thousands of Cubans buried Fidel Castro when, after having denied it many times, he suddenly announced out of nowhere that he was communist–even after having accused “traitor,” Huberto Matos, in a brief trial, of being the very same thing–and declaring without apology the socialist character of a Revolution that didn’t belong to him, but rather to the people listening to him with surprise.
Some days later, he would die again for other thousands of Cubans when they learned about the day Che Guevara died, abandoned by Manila [his code word for Havana], in the desolation of the Bolivian highlands.
Certainly for hundreds of thousands of Cubans, Fidel Castro died once and for all that fateful day in March of ’68, when the “Revolutionary Offensive” usurped every family-owned business without the slightest compensation—an act of vulgar and unpunished looting that betrayed those who, just 15 years earlier, he had called “the people” in his self-defense during the Moncada trial.
Also for millions of people in the Third World, he must have died in ’79, when as president of the Non-Aligned Movement, he preferred to be a chameleon and said nothing while Afghanistan, a member state of that world organization, endured an insidious attack by insurgent troops of the Soviet army, the unconditional ally of the incorrigible bearded one. Or perhaps, for those same millions, he already had died slightly more than a decade earlier, when he applauded the emergence of those same Soviet tanks in Czechoslovakia there to extinguish fervor for the Prague Spring.
But not all of his deaths were so grandiloquent and transcendental, because Fidel Castro also suffered many routine deaths during those dark decades: he died every time a Cuban was humiliated at the door of an off-limits hotel or of one of those elitist stores open only to tourists; each time family members were separated or a life was lost at sea because there was no legal way to emigrate from their prison; each time sincerity was punished and, under his personal aegis, hypocrisy and duplicity were praised; every time a defenseless Cuban was beaten while trying to exercise rights that had been taken away, each time a repudiation rally was carried out; he died every time a father was imprisoned or one of his sons was robbed of his future; the great dictator also died with each truncated dream and with each empty plate.
Nonetheless, it’s certain that when the death of Fidel Castro is finally announced–the death of his physical waste, I mean–the news will make headlines everywhere. Then every editorial board or columnist should take some time for reflection, because beyond all the love or hate generated by the eternal bearded one, it is imperative that we learn once and for all the lesson, so that no other people, ever, under no circumstance or latitude whatsoever, once again deposits the same power in the hands of a single man, regardless of how beautiful, just or sublime the cause he proposes appears to be.
But when Fidel Castro suffers his definitive death, it will inevitably be the day when Cuba wakes up with the sun of truth and, with its light, opens Pandora’s box: only then will we be able to know the exact magnitude of his megalomania, re-examine his true face, the mask hidden beneath so many decades of false rhetoric and unmeasured devotion to a personality with sick ways resulting in a pathology of character that extended across an entire society for more than half a century.
He whose dream was to pass for a genius will have left in his barren path nothing less than a country in the most absurd financial ruin and, what’s worse, buried in an abyss of moral ruins. And, if the gospel promises, “by their fruit you will recognize them,” then for that day, on which he will definitively die, my people will finally calibrate in all its magnitude the reach of his betrayal and his proverbial demagoguery.
Precisely now, when all around him there is a ridiculous pact to be silent about facts of indisputable transcendence, while many are making jokes about the idea of his death or his tacitly accepted decrepitude, I raise my prayer to heaven: may God offer him many more years of life, enough so that any day in our near future he shall be granted, in the midst of his well deserved mental fog, intermittent lapses of absolute lucidity.
I would ask God for those days, or minutes, of total lucidity for the tyrant, but it’s important that there be enough of them so that he who caused us so much harm has crystal clear awareness of how my country and my people raised themselves up from the ruins as soon as they could break free; as it will be in the future, the homeland was truly better once emancipated from his despotism.
I would ask God for those few days of lucidity, before returning to ash what was ash, so He may again submerge him in darkness to dodder without glory, ruminating on his permanent defeat. Then, yes, Fidel Castro will depart for the eternal misery that he deserves, as a tenuous and embarrassing memory…and not exactly absolved by History.
Translated by: Kathy Fox
15 January 2015