And while the material calling cards of rural and semi-urban poor appear in large numbers, the uniqueness of one’s surroundings is incredibly tangible, in fact, it will scream at you if you have even half a mind to listen. Cuba defies any attempts to summarize and define it. There is no such thing as the quick and dirty of Cuba; its all too complicated, wrapped like a passionate lover amidst blankets of truth and lies and history and culture. As so many of the local Cubans will tell you, though hushed whispers and barely parted lips, this is the land of contradictions.
For those still preoccupied with Fidel Castro, I would like to offer this bit of solace, though it comes perhaps 50 years too late: Cuba is not Fidel’s island. Cuba is growing up and finding itself full of a younger generation that doesn’t remember the Communist revolution of 1959. This generation is getting increasingly tired of the intellectual and social restrictions imposed by the very state that has given them an education that is equaled by few countries in the Americas (Cuba has literacy rates that are the higher than even the United States). Dissent is brewing and it is fueled the very regime that it will one day topple or otherwise transform deeply. Fidel represents the old, tried and variably successful politicos (politicians) of Communist Cuba. Him and his numbers are dying off, soon to be replaced by a future that is equally as unknown to them as everyone else in the world. There is still one potent symbol for this next generation, however, and especially at this time in Cuban history, it seems both extremely appropriate but also quite ironic: Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara.
|Posters, murals, slogans, statues and graffiti keep the revolutionary alive and well. Che is the most ideal andpotent symbol of those ideas that the Cuban revolution has come to represent.|
Driving around Cuba, one thing is almost immediately evident--Che is the model and the martyr of the Cuban revolution. He was memorialized ideally, like a delicate flower in amber, at a time when the guerrillas were still young, progressive, and shaking up the modern world. Every available surface on the island--whether the walls of aging, Soviet-era factories, in the streets or on dumpsters, in homes and on all tourist memorabilia--the face of Che immortal appears in all its defiant, resplendent glory. The man whom Jean-Paul Sartre once described as “The most complete human being of our era”, reigns supreme over the island that is sauntering on into an uncertain future. It is curious to think what the revolutionary would think of modern day Cuba, were he alive today. As this young generation flexes their well-educated minds (which, according to Cuban communist philosophy, are actually the property of the state), the old regime trembles. And yet, the world continues to move on.