The Greatness of a Small Island

By Fernando Buen Abad on July 23, 2020

Photo: Yamil Lage

It was expensive, for my monetary resources at age 16, to send a telegram to Cuba from Mexico. However, I made “the thousand and one” and was able to put a message in the telegraph office: “Comandante Fidel Castro: happy anniversary of July 26th”. To what address are you sending it,” the telegrapher asked me, and I did not know what to say. Put down “Cuban Government Palace”. I paid for my telegram and left. With the passing of the years I remember my audacity (and my ignorance) not without perplexity: how did I come up with such an idea, where did I get the madness of believing that, “just like that”, one could send Fidel anniversary messages that would arrive unhindered in his hands? Obviously, it did not seem impossible to me.

A number of memories help explain why, for my generation, Cuba and Fidel always seemed very close and friendly. I was born in 1956, I grew up with the Cuban Revolution installed in my home. At the age of 16, an uncle had already given me La Historia me Absolverá (1953) and my grandmother had given me El Diario del Che in Bolivia. In the Unam there were posters with Fidel’s image, Carlos Puebla’s music came to us in “singles” and “long play” albums. Between “secundaria” and “prepa” (national high school) I listened to Oscar Chávez singing to Che and Camilo. My grandmother said that she loved “the bearded ones”, because they did good things for their people. Cuba, Fidel and the Revolution were part of my family since my adolescence and even before that. Very quickly I realized that such familiarity ran through houses, schools and workplaces all over the country. I am not exaggerating, Cuba touched very sensitive social fibers in Mexico.

I have heard very similar stories over the years, stories of love and commitment engendered by a small island in the Caribbean, which knew how to become a giant in the hearts of the people. This is not just a metaphor for an exercise in rhetoric. It is a confession on the part of the people. Women and men of the intelligentsia, of the academia, of the arts and of the popular struggles grew up impregnated with Cuba. Of its struggles and its examples. It was embedded in our heads and hearts to flourish with ideas and debates about the Revolution and its class engines; about the Cuban method to transform the world; about socialism discussed with a Caribbean accent, with the rebellious and geographical proximity framed by the Gulf of Mexico. One can still see the wake of the Granma breaking the waters towards a history, which became a master of life from the Sierra.

It came to my house, my parents’ house, the Bohemian magazine because I signed up on a list that circulated in “high school”. It was a delight to flip through it on homework evenings. My father frowned, between worried and curious. Soon his misgivings were gone because he read, from Rius, his Cuba for Beginners (1966) and also read Marx for Beginners (1972), from the brilliant pen of a lover of Cuba like few others: Eduardo del Rio. Incidentally, he read books read by millions of Mexicans who also learned, with drawings from a unique comic book, the basics of the revolutionary experience that connected Zapata, Villa and Flores Magón with Fidel, Camilo, Raúl and Che on the same path that the “spirit that travels the world” follows.

At night, late, on my father’s radio -which had shortwave- my brother and I would listen to Radio Havana, Radio Watch and Cuban music, constantly interrupted by that noise of interwoven frequencies. It was a sonorous delicacy from Cuba that satiated the hunger for anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist sounds. A few times we were able to listen to Fidel without fully understanding what he was saying, but comforted by the dignity of his words in combat. It was a political night school with its ear to the radio. Revolutionary delights. Why, what was happening that so many young people were attracted to Cuba and the Revolution that we were making our own in our very peculiar way? What strange love, of a new kind, was growing in our heads and hearts? We were not a few.

I wish it were possible to tell the Cuban people how much their titanic example of resistance and fortitude has educated us. I wish it were possible for a few lines to summarize, and express, the accumulation of fraternal emotions that exist in our lives thanks to Cuba’s example of solidarity with all its brotherly peoples, in Angola as well as in Venezuela, to mention only one geopolitical and historical axis of a new form in time and space.

I am writing in the first person with the assumption that this is the best way to explain the deep love that many Mexicans feel for the Cuban Revolution and, also, the immense debt we owe to its example of struggle and dignity at all costs. Thus, in the first person, I suppose that I can leave in view the many hours of reading and debates, the so much music, film, poetry and philosophy collected from so many extraordinary Cuban talents. Casa de las Américas… Prensa Latina. Pablo, Silvio. I write in the first person indebted to the good hours of the best scientific and cultural production in Cuba and indebted to the solidarity (never enough) in the bitter hours of harassment, blockade and humiliation against an exemplary and unbreakable people like the Cuban people. At my age, I know that I will never be able to repay what I have received. Nevertheless, I am committed to Martí’s words, which I understand as a warrior song in the midst of an always humanistic struggle: “Love is repaid with love”. I hope to live up to them every July 26, in the first person.

Source: teleSUR, translation, Internationalist 360