mardi 19 février 2008

Homenaje a Fidel, El Jefe Comandante


This morning the news arrives, a long awaited news. Fidel will not seek or insist on being elected leader of the incoming Cuban Government.
After 50 years, thank God, he deserves a little rest, said a resident of Havana, as quoted in the newspapers.
The news filled me with an emotion, neither sadness nor longing, but saudade, as if a summary of my zeal for Cuba was painted on the canvas and presented to me.
I thought of those distant days my innocent Australian life, full of revolutionary fervor of the frivolous youth. Did Fidel had anything to do to preserve that youthful revolutionary zeal in its freshness to this day?
I wonder.
I was in Sweden, a teenager, wondering at the world that had been presented to me, without understanding, missing my home in Australia.
A very big black man comes into our hostel. Says he is a student in Moscow. And that he is from Cuba.
In our International Hostel we were celebrating the anniversary of the October revolution!
Sweden was where I became aware of Fidel, Che and the Cuban Revolution. Soon after that I had a chance to visit Miami, a city I fell in love with at first sight, and wanted to return one day.
Which I did
As a medical student. The contact with Cubans began in the earnest, once again with the poor Cuban patients who had come from Cuba.
The reality of cuba on either side of the Straits was not there. Our life as medical students and later when I returned to do my postgraduate training, Cuba was an image, Fidel and Che, icons, a place I could only imagine in my head, remembering trivialities like various flavours of icecream in Coppelia and the romance behind Che’s disappearance in Bolivia.
There was another love that entered my life at the same time, which fueled my love for Cuba and Fidel.
As a person coming from a very “socialist” background (father having fought for the liberation of Burma), the entry of Fidel and Che was made easier by the words of that eternal humanistic poet, Pablo Neruda.
I began reading him, in English and trying to pronounce the Spanish words on the other side of the bilingual edition.
I remember the music of the Spanish words
Sonrisa Corazon crepusculo madrugada… they still resonate within my heart..
I also remember Pablo writing about the Indians in his Machu Pichu epic and also …
Only the rich people think that Poverty will breed character… ha, an introduction into Fidelismo..
Who in the wide world of letters not know
Puedo escribir los versos mas trsite este noche? In Tegucigalpa, I recited the poem to the best of my ability under the influence of their second rate rum… soon realized that every educated person in Latin America knew the poem.. also other poems such as
United Fruit Company
that fly Ubico, another fly samoza… and the ultimate fly Batista…moscos..
Love for Cuba increased little by little despite being surrounded by Cubans of another shade stuck in their vivid recollections of partial prosperity of the 1950s..
In Jamaica, I came across Internationalistas, the idea attracted me very much. I, an Australian Jew, was also being an Internationalista in Jamaica… and the Cuban Ambassador was un negro calvo, Ulisses Estrada..
I remember reading, in a paper interview, the Ambassador said..I like Bob marley and Beethoven..
The magic of Cuba increased slowly in my mind..Miami and the Cortaditos, Cubans in Guyaberas heatedly arguing something or other that I couldn’t understand in front of the Versailles Restaurant…
I t was the Palm Trees that brought me to Cuba..
11 July 1994
Flight from Nassau to Havana. Antunov 24. Large windows. Soviet style seats, and airhostesses and absolutely no service..
Within minutes of arriving, my travelling companion, a doctor like myself, was accosted by a prostitute as he walked out of the immigration and customs at the Jose Marti Terminal 1, that was the only terminal at that time.
I knew within days that I have come across a pot of gold here in this Isla Rica..Humanity tattoed into your heart. Open, generous, caressing us with their affections, the Cubans won us over, completely..
So did Baracoa, looking at the Bahia form the Balcony of the Hotel Castillo, I was reminded of the lagoons of the various islets I had visited in my part of the world, in the Pacific.
Baracoa, La Habana, Amparo, Rosa Maria, Mother Lucia, Cari all slowly waltzed into my life.
Never through this period of absolute euphoria and non comprehension of what was happening to my mind, sheltered as I was by my magical imagination, not for a minute, did I loose my respect for the person responsible for all this
Fidel Castro Ruz
Intellectuals after Intellectuals in La Habana, made me realize, the unique qualities of life in Cuba, the non materialistic side and the artistic side and the humanistic side, the futuristic side, the global side of the Cuban magnanimity…
I met the son of a Polish jewish Immigrant who was one of the founders of the original Cuban communist party ( he , his son, their families did not migrate out of Cuba even though they had chances)..
One after noon in his walk up apartment in Vedado, looking at the malecon, sipping a strong cup of Cuban coffee he said to me:
If you are concerned about yourself more than others, please go to united states, that country would reward you very well.
But if you are inclined to think about the welfare of others, if the plight of others touch you, here or in Africa, stay here, Cuba will have many gifts for you..
Thank You.
For teaching the meaning of the word Solidaridad..
Seven Consecutive New Years Eves and Mornings in Baracoa
Tender hands which have touched my heart, the immensity of the loves, affections of the little ones who are no longer little, songs and dances, and our Club Sultan de Baracoa where on an average night we would empty 10 bottles of Rum and food and music and movies..
Cuba has been a moveable feast for me..
Defending Cuba during my travels and standing up for what Fidel believes in the sphere of medical help, has not been difficult..
Recently, at the airport in Siem Reap, Cambodia, someone asked, where are you from?
Tourists, like all of us, milling around this ancient site of Angkor Wat, the memory of Hindu Kings from TamilNadu, Vijaya Varman II
I live in Cuba and the next question was about Fidel..
Many Indians have enquired about his health and in on e ceremony we all did pray for Fidel.. Warao Indians and Penan Indians all have asked me about the health of Fidel Castro..
This new friend asked me, how is Fidel?
To which I answered. Before I discuss anything about Cuba with you, I have to tell you something. I am an unashamedly strong supporter of Fidel Castro, and whatever propaganda you might have heard in your country or in the internet, I am a strong supporter and lover of Cuba.. so I must warn you, you will hear nothing bad about Fidel or Cuba from me..
1994-2008
Fourteen years of Love worth a century. Admiration that moulded my compassion for people s suffering.
Such Close Friends.
So much affection has passed between us, setting the sail of this journey, become smoother..
When my dearst Friend, Miguel Angel’s son in Baracoa, asked me, when he was a high school student..
Doctor, Quien Tu eres?
Soy Fidelista
Soy Internationalista
Soy Cubano de Corazon, naci en la memoria de todos baracoese..

At the Healing Ceremony of Hocank Indians, a participant prayed: The leader of the country where our doctor travels to is sick, may the spirits look kindly upon him and heal him.
I can only humbly repeat those words..

PHOTO taken at the living room of the Blue House where I stay when I come to visit the Indians in the UmonHon Country.
The large pillow was a gift from the family of Marcia Tyndall, an UmonHon
The pillows were made by and given to me years ago by Louis la rose’s mother. She was a HoCank
An original photo of Fidel taken in the mountains, gift of a gallery owner in Obispo street in Havana.
An original 26 julio banner, a gift of a Santiaguera.
The fading painting is a gift from a then 12 year old Baracoan girl.
The Book 100 horas con Fidel, gift of Madre Lucia.

I am grateful to so many people in La Habana and Baracoa, for making my life in Cuba, a veritable feast..Sandra for introducing me to Ibrahim Ferrer and another world of magic and beauty..Miguel Angel for weaving fantasies with the language of Cervantes..my dearest friends and members of Club Sultan de Baracoa.. my magical little ones Mari 1 Mari 2 Chinita and Claudia. And a not so little Yanetsy.