In Search of a Tropical William Tell
A huge metal cap measuring five feet long and 20 inches high, weighing 66 pounds, is the latest fetish born of the yearning of a certain regional leftist sector to honor Fidel Castro, the favorite demiurge of vernacular socialism, on the first anniversary of his death.
The project of the headdress-talisman, an imitation of the cap worn by the famous deceased one as part of his perennial military uniform, was conceived by the Union of Cuban Residents in Argentina (Urca) and the Argentine Movement of Solidarity with Cuba (MasCuba), two groups that, from the distant comfort of that Southern Cone country, enthusiastically support the longest dictatorship in the hemisphere, and have managed the entire sculptural project, including its transfer to Havana by air from the international airport in Buenos Aires.
So far, the total cost of the new votive object, such as materials used, labor, transportation, air freight, etc., has not been made public, but if we assume as true the information from the official Cuban media and the regional liberal left on the difficult economic and social situation that workers in Argentina are going through, under the government of Mauricio Macri, it can be surmised that those responsible for the work made a huge personal and family sacrifice to make it possible.
This should not surprise us too much. It is well known that the radical left factions do not shy away from difficulties and become especially wasteful in resources and creativity when it comes to the cult of those who are deceased. Hence, certain strange post-mortem practices have been applied at different moments in history to honor their founders or certain beloved brothers, practices that may seem twisted to some priggish members of the bourgeoise.
One of the examples would be the mummification of the body of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin and its exhibition to the public in the Red Square of Moscow, which turned him at the same time into a material idol of the communists of the world and a tourist attraction for millions of visitors addicted to the morbid. It was perhaps the first case and, so far, the most famous of the necrophilia epidemic of the left.
Another example, although of a different style, is the consecration of the cult to Che Guevara – with all the commercial paraphernalia of his image multiplied in T-shirts, match-boxes, ashtrays, posters or postcards – including the pilgrimages by many of the faithful of the ideology and other followers of myths to La Higuera, Bolivia, where the conspicuous guerrilla found the death he so desperately sought, or the tourist excursions to the tomb-monument that guards (his?) sacred bones in the Cuban city of Santa Clara.
We could also mention other interesting mortuary monuments of characters on the left, such as that of a total communist: the Spanish dancer Antonio Gades, personal friend of Raúl Castro. The talented artist spent such pleasant moments on the island that he asked to be buried in Cuba and, consequently, his mortal remains were moved from his native homeland and buried at the mausoleum of the Second Eastern Front, under a sepulcher with a pair of Flamenco dance boots fused in metal.
Not far from him, lie the remains of Vilma Espín – wife of the current general-president, Raúl Castro, and mother of his children – protected in a pyramid-shaped sculpture, symbol of immortality… Humble, these communist chaps.
But, returning to the matter of the monstrous metal cap, the intention of its creators is for the allegory to surpass the mere physical existence of the object, so that its presence promotes a complex ritual. Thus, the eyesore sculpture will participate in the 2018 May Day parade at the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana, and – as with happened with the coffin of the deceased-in-chief in the mournful novena that took place after his death – will be carried in a caravan to be revered throughout the Island, until it reaches the Santa Iphigenia Cemetery, in Santiago de Cuba, to the point where the ashes of the honored rest, but not in peace.
A liturgy to the benefactor of the poor that, paradoxically, would become a kind of tropical version of that ancient Swiss legend of the fourteenth century, immortalized almost five centuries later by the German poet and playwright Frederick Schiller in his work William Tell. In it, the inhabitants of the city were forced to offer humiliating reverence before the hat of their ruling despot, Hermann Gessler, placed on top of a stake in the main square. The rebellion of the archer William Tell, who refused to accept such a huge outrage, marked the beginning of the revolt that ended up liberating his people.
It is possible that, given the fascination with the cult of the Dead, Cuban authorities are ready to support the ridiculous spectacle of the adoration of the cap. What does seem difficult is that a William Tell would emerge unexpectedly from among Cubans, with enough courage to challenge such a colossal insult.
Translated by Norma Whiting