Birthday or anniversary?


While preparing extensive reports on the fiftieth anniversary of the Cuban Revolution, few ask themselves if the celebration is the birthday of a living creature, or simply the anniversary of something that happened.  Revolutions don’t last half a century I advise those who ask me.  They end up devouring and excreting themselves in authoritarianism, control and immobility.  They always expire, trying to make themselves eternal.  They die because they want to remain unchanged.

What began on that first of January has been, according to many, under the earth for many years.  The debate seems to be around the date of the funeral.  For Reinaldo, it died that August of 1968 when our bearded leader hailed the entry of tanks into Prague.  My mother saw the death throes of the Revolution when they imposed the death sentence on General Arnoldo Ochoa.  And the Black Spring of March of 2003, with its arrests and summary trials, was the final death rattle heard by some stubborn believers who had believed it was still alive.

I’m telling you, I met its corpse.   In 1975, the year I was born, Sovietization had erased all spontaneity and nothing remained of the rebellion that the older people remembered.  We had neither long hair nor euphoria, but rather purges, double standards and denunciations.  The devotional artifacts to those who had fallen in the mountains were already banned and those soldiers of the Sierra Maestra had become addicted to power.

The rest has been a protracted wake to what could have been, the lit candles of an illusion that dragged so many down.  This January the deceased has a new anniversary; there will be flowers, ‘Vivas!” and songs, but nothing will manage to raise it from the tomb and bring it back to life.  Let it rest in peace and we will soon begin a new cycle: shorter, less pretentious, more free.

Translator’s notes

General Arnold Ochoa:  In 1980 Fidel Castro awarded Ochoa the title “Hero of the Revolution” for his long and popular service; in 1989 he, along with others, was convicted of treason for drug trafficking and executed.  The trial and execution were videotaped and the trial shown on Cuban television.

March 2003, Black Spring:  While the world’s attention was turned to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, approximately 75 Cuban journalists and others were arrested and sentenced to long prison terms; most remain in prison today.


  1. Yoani, let me be the first to congratulate you on another insightful and bang on post.

    My thinking had been that the so-called revolution wouldn’t out live Fidel Castro by much. Your suggestion that its already been dead for years is definitely another way to look at it. The Castro dictatorship consists of old men with old grievances shouting out the old slogans without realizing that almost everyone (inside and outside of Cuba) has tuned them out.

  2. Excellent!!!! All those people who still believe in Cuban socialism, please, live in Cuba for a while as regular Cubans. Then, tell everybody yours experiences….

  3. I don’t understand why “se los digo” was translated as “they say.” “Se los digo” is in first person and means something like “I’m telling you;” quite different from “they say.”

  4. Cafe Cubita hit the nail on the head with that comment for sure. I’ve done it for a little while and found it to be the single most sobering experience of my life.

    Yoani is right, the revolution died a long time ago. When a movement, any movement, stops moving with the times, stops listenning and loses its focus it become irrelevant. The revolution was originally aimed at making a better life for all Cubans and now I’m not exactly sure what it’s aimed at except keeping those in power afloat.

  5. MCT — Thanks for the translation correction… it’s been made!
    All: We really do appreciate these careful reads of the original and the translation and welcome all corrections and try to make them as quickly as possible. In addition to leaving a comment here, you can email “desdecubaenglish — at —”
    Thanks again!

  6. Wonderful as usual Yoani. Not only is the revolution dead, Cubans are left to lay with a rotting corpse full of maggots. The corpse and the maggots that feed off of it need to be buried deep underground, never to be seen or heard from again. May that corpse rest in peace – unfortunately for Cuba, its remains will pollute it’s future for a very long time. What a different and beautiful future we could’ve had…

    [Very loud sigh and visible sadness]

  7. Poor translator. He or she probably does ProBono work and his work gets scrutinized. Look, you are doing a great job. Gracias.

  8. Yes, translating here is a labor of love and actually the work of several people who provide constant back up and answer my numerous questions. But I really do want to encourage readers to help make it better. I don’t find corrections insulting at all… it’s very helpful! Thanks for the good words. And thanks to all of you for visiting and commenting on the blog.

  9. ET and Yoani, thanks for your insightful posts and work. The youth there today should aspire for the new political positions that will soon become available as the current TOP DOGS are all old and close to punching out. Bless you all and a merry christmas to All.

  10. It is comical to visit Cuba and see the propaganda posters praising the revolution. At what point does a revolution become a status quo?
    Sadly the old men in power will be an obstacle to reconstruction – they will spend their efforts protecting their positions, not building a better place for Cubans. It will take many, many years to see recovery and reconstruction (which is an incorrect phrase – Cuba has never been constructed for the vast majority of residents).
    It saddens me to see slight increments in the well being of Cubans being described in flowing terms.
    Will be back next week to see how the Revolutionary 50th Party goes.
    I don’t think many will be celebrating, except when under the watch of the CDR.

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