No statues for Fidel Castro, but his image is everywhere
While Cuban President Raul Castro has promised that no monument will be erected in memory of Fidel, his brother’s image has been plastered across state media since his death. Castro said the national assembly would fulfill the late communist leader’s dying wish by passing a law to prohibit erecting statues or monuments in Fidel’s name, or naming streets or parks after him.”The leader of the revolution rejected any manifestation of a cult of personality,” he told tens of thousands of people at a rally Saturday night before his brother was buried in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba. “His attitude was consistent until the final hours of his life, insisting that once he died, his name and his image would never be used to denominate institutions, plazas, parks, avenues, streets or other public places.” His ashes were entombed on Sunday inside a large, round stone with a simple plaque reading “Fidel” during a private funeral at a cemetery where other national icons are buried.
The sober funeral contrasted with the week-long tributes and the largerthan-life image Fidel Castro projected from the time he swept to power in the 1959 revolution until an illness forced him to hand power to Raul in 2006. Generations of Cubans grew up watching him on television or in the flesh at the massive rallies he held across the island to deliver hours-long speeches. He was seen cutting sugarcane, showing off his pizza-making skills, playing baseball and monitoring emergency responses to hurricanes.
After he was forced to hand power to Raul following emergency intestinal surgery in 2006, he remained a presence through columns he wrote in the official newspapers. He sporadically appeared in public or in pictures alongside presidents visiting him at his house. But since his death at age 90 on November 25, his image has been ubiquitous. Cuban television has aired around-the-clock footage showing him during the various stages of his life from his bearded rebel days to his aging years, including his famous speeches.
Posters of the bearded revolutionary adorn balconies, windows and walls. A song titled “Riding with Fidel” by the popular singer Raul Torres constantly plays on television and the radio. The communist party newspaper, Granma, called him the “eternal comandante.” Hundreds of thousands of people lined the streets of the island, holding his picture and chanting “I am Fidel!” as a convoy took the cedar urn containing his ashes on a four-day trip from Havana to Santiago’s cemetery. Many call him a “father” of the Cuban people. “His memory will cast a shadow over Cuba for a long time,” said Ted Piccone, senior fellow at the Washington-based Brookings Institution think-tank.
‘I have him at home’
For his 90th birthday in August, the island’s media launched a campaign called “Fidel among us” with articles, pictures, documentaries and interviews related to Castro. One university developed an eponymous smartphone app providing biographical information, quotes and famous anecdotes-on an island with very limited internet access. Although none of Cuba’s 285 museums is solely dedicated to him, Castro features in several of them, including Havana’s Revolution Museum, which contains a sculpture of the late comandante. One plaque in Havana with an image of Fidel Castro flanked by his comrades-in-arms adorns the corner of a building where he once gave a speech, but that’s the closest thing to a statue of him. Many Cubans support their maximum leader’s refusal to erect a statue of himself. “It was his wish because Fidel was a modest, humble person,” said 61-year-old computer technician Tomasa Savatel. — AFP
CRUCES: A man with a tattoo of Cuba’a late leader Fidel Castro, waits for the arrival of the caravan carrying his ashes during a funeral procession that retraces the path of Castro’s triumphant march into Havana nearly six decades ago, in Cruces, Cuba. — AP