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Learning to live without / 14ymedio, Rosa Lopez
Posted on January 9, 2015

14ymedio, Rosa Lopez, Havana, 8 January 2015 — A poster with Fidel
Castro’s face is pasted on the glass of the deteriorated locale. Years
ago, some naughty boy painted the whites of his eyes dark and the effect
is intimidating, but almost nobody sees it. The man who wanted to be
indispensable and omnipresent for Cubans, has come to resemble the air,
which few perceive although it is everywhere.

Learning to live without Fidel Castro has been an urgent subject for
many Cubans during all these years of the convalescence of the Maximum
Leader. Lately, however, the rumors of his death have reappeared and
there are those who have dusted off the memories or rushed to close the
national chapter where he had too much of a starring role.

Adele’s family was one of the first in the Vibora neighborhood to put
the phrase “This is your house, Fidel,” on the door. From then until
now, this woman has worshiped the man who, in the photo hanging on the
wall of her modest house, wears a beard and a military uniform. “I’m a
Fidelista to the death,” she says almost angrily in front of her
grandchildren who don’t seem to have come out as fervent as their
grandmother. “Here, everything bad that has happened, they’ve ignored
it,” explains the lady. For her, the absence of recent months is because
“surely, he’s writing some book, his memoirs, or something like that.”

In a little lost village in the hills of the Escambray, Juan Manuel
doesn’t agree. “At best he died a long time ago,” says this 28-year-old
peasant who lives in one of the concrete buildings in the area where
“reliable people” were moved after the events of the Escambray in the
seventies. Although he comes from a military family, the young man shows
little interest in politics and speaks of Fidel Castro in the past
tense. “I saw him once when he passed through here in a jeep, but then
he was a man full of energy,” he says, making an effort to remember.

Others, more savvy, note how long it’s been since the Maximum Leader has
appeared on national television. “For about a year they haven’t even
shown a live and moving image of him. Lately, we haven’t seen anything
but stills,” says Miguel, a member of the Communist Party who sells
discs with music and movies on the streets of Cerro. “If Raul has been
able to arrange things with the yumas [Americans] it’s because he must
already be very sick,” he theorizes and when he mentions the personal
pronoun he makes a slight gesture with his hand making a beard on his
chin. Everyone listening knows who he’s talking about.

However, beyond the speculations, passions and indifference, there are
realities that point to the fading of the figure of Fidel Castro and his
role in national life. For more than a year, he’s not been among the
characters of any of the jokes on the street, although the stories of
Pepito with Fidel Castro have flooded Cuban imagery from decades. Nor
have there been any new nicknames for this man who came to have a list
of dozens of epithets, insults and nicknames. It’s also significant that
they haven’t hung the nickname of the latest soap opera villain on him,
although lately there are several of these soaps on the small screen.
Fidel Castro is dead in the collective imagination.

Ana Maria was born with the new millennium and now she’s finishing high
. “Yes, in the textbooks there are a lot of phrases with him,”
explains this teenager who belongs to a generation that only remembers a
convalescent Fidel Castro. “My grandfather told me some things about how
it was before, that he gave several hour long speeches,” she says as if
she were speaking of something very remote. If you ask her about the
long time since the one-time president has appeared in public, she just
shrugs her shoulders as if she hadn’t thought about it.

A prophetic joke is coming to pass. It said that in the Cuban
encyclopedias published in the year 3000, the entry for Fidel Castro
would have a brief entry. “Politician of the era of the Van Van
orchestra,” say those who jokingly repeat this gag. For those born in
recent years, the Commander in Chief will be remembered as an old man
who appeared sporadically in photos, wrote about moringa and dressed in
a tracksuit.

“The truth is that ‘The Five” have been here a lot of days and he hasn’t
come out to even give them a hug, it’s a clear signal,” says the
physiotherapist who talks with the old people who come the central
Havana polyclinic every morning. “People come here with all kinds of
stories, that he’s had a stroke, that they’re going to disconnect the
machines after January 8, that he’s frozen, but I will believe it when I
see it.” To conclude, and while helping a lady up from a chair, she
says, “I have lost count of how many times we’ve buried him.”

Outside the Inglaterra, a foreign asks a young woman:
“What will happen if Fidel Castro dies?” His poor Spanish has led to the
frequent mistake of saying “if” instead of “when,” which would be
correct in this case. One wrong word and the reporter has left open the
possibility of immortality.

The legends of a vital return are also mixed with speculations in the
last weeks. “This, this is hoping that we think that it’s cool to
return,” explains the custodian of a warehouse near the Almendares
River. His hypothesis is shared with an old ousted official. “No, until
January 10 he’s not going to reappear because he’s resting,” he says,
while saying his source is very close.

The last years of Fidel Castro are happening among rumors, speculation
and forgetting. There are signs that the news about his end will not
have the social or political repercussion that it would have caused
decades ago.

Source: Learning to live without Fidel Castro / 14ymedio, Rosa Lopez |
Translating Cuba –
http://translatingcuba.com/learning-to-live-without-fidel-castro-14ymedio-rosa-lopez/

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