HAVANA – Cuba on the weekend will celebrate the 58th anniversary of its Revolution, the first such anniversary at which the man who led it – Fidel Castro – will not be on hand, having died on Nov. 25 at age 90, although he will be “present in every Cuban,” according to the island’s state-run media.
The New Year’s festivities coincide with the Revolution’s anniversary celebrations on Sunday, and the proceedings have generally been marked by a midnight speech broadcast by radio and television, and it is expected that this year Fidel and his legacy will figure prominently in those remarks.
“The anticipated moment will arrive on the evening of the 31st to bid farewell to 2016 and Fidel will be in the homes of Cuba,” said an article put out by the state-run Cuban News Agency (ACN), adding that “in dialogue with history, Fidel will welcome – together with the Cubans – this new January dawn.”
The speech is usually delivered by one of the official media’s key announcers, and has the character of an editorial setting forth the official stance of the regime.
The eastern city of Santiago de Cuba, where Castro’s ashes are buried and the city where the late leader gave an historic speech on Jan. 1, 1959, will celebrate the traditional “Flag celebration” in Cespedes Park, the same site where Fidel addressed local residents.
The ceremony dates back 115 years, with the raising of a gigantic Cuban flag at midnight while the national hymn is played, a festival that since 1959 has also commemorated the anniversary of the triumph of the Revolution.
Singers and local dance groups will perform at the event, which starting in 2017 will be known as the “Patriotic act in tribute to the flag” and which is expected to draw a large crowd to the local city hall in Cuba’s second-largest city.
In Havana, meanwhile, although as the date has approached this year the festive atmosphere of earlier years has not prevailed, several concerts and trade fairs have been scheduled at which Havana residents may purchase agricultural products that are normally scarce in local markets.
Cubans are not accustomed to welcoming the New Year with big events or fireworks displays, preferring to dine with relatives or at one of the hundreds of private restaurants, or “paladares,” that for the past few weeks have been advertising their special offerings for New Year’s Eve.
January 1 is the day normally chosen to party outside the home, attending concerts or cultural activities put on by the island’s Culture Ministry, which has adhered to its normal program this year.
Despite rumors that the country would not celebrate the event this year – as an extension of the nine days of official mourning observed after Castro’s death – state-run media has said that the celebrations will take place as normal at cultural institutions and public locales, although in “moderation.”
Just as “there are shared joys, there are also sadnesses. Cuba knows that, and just as in so many places on the island, and in ... Santiago de Cuba, an empty space is felt this yearend, because Fidel is no longer here,” said