HAVANA – One hundred days after his death and although Cuba has limited the use of his name and image, the figure of Fidel Castro is more present than ever on the island, where the fervor for the former president is beginning to take on messianic overtones that even include his comparison with Jesus.
Since the Cuban revolutionary leader’s death on Nov. 25, 2016, at age 90, no activity, meeting or celebration in Cuba has not included a tribute to Castro in its program, while state-run media also devote a good part of their coverage to him.
A good example of the current situation was the recent Havana Book Fair, the island’s most important annual cultural event, which was dedicated to Canada and its authors, although the events and presentations of numerous titles on Castro eclipsed the invited guest nation.
The scenario contrasts with the last wishes of the former leader, transformed into law in December by the Cuban Parliament, to prohibit any monuments, streets or public buildings from bearing his name, along with a rigorously enforced rule to ban the commercial usage of his figure, name or image.
During his life, the controversial commander also opposed any personality cult with him as its focus.
“The charismatic and messianic figure of Fidel Castro was undoubtedly one of the most popular elements of the Cuban Revolution from ... the 1950s until at least the first decade of the 21st century,” the director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University, Jorge Duany, told EFE.
The key question is whether the Cuban Revolution can endure without the physical presence of the man who so passionately embodied it.
Duany said that “the cult of – and the loyalty to – the commander in chief has transformed itself into one of the ideological sustaining principles of the Revolution, although his overwhelming personality also provoked intense disgust and resentment among his political adversaries.”
The state-run media, meanwhile, has so far avoided using the word “dead” and has resorted to talking of Castro’s “physical disappearance,” a convolution that recalls the way in which Castro himself used the expression “biological inevitability.”
Juventud Rebelde, the official organ of the Union of Young Communists, went even farther on Dec. 25, a month after Castro’s death, with a front-page headline reading “Time does not devour redeemers” in a semi-veiled allusion to the figure of Jesus Christ.
And, during the nine days of national mourning after his death, the song composed by Raul Torres was played nonstop nationwide, some of the lyrics of which are “Man, we’re learning to know you are eternal. Thus, like ... Jesus Christ, there’s not a single altar without a (candle) for you.”
Yet another constant has been the assimilation of the former president with iconic Cuban independence figure and Founding Father Jose Marti, next to whose tomb in the city of Santiago Castro’s ashes are interred.