The Revolutionary Mass is Held at Dawn

Raúl Castro antes de su discurso en Santiago de Cuba por el 26 de julio. (EFE)
The official ceremony to commemorate the assault on the Moncada Barracks was celebrated at dawn. (EFE)

The liturgy does not change. The anniversary event for the Day of National Rebellion took place this Sunday in front of the Moncada Barracks. A script where each detail is repeated year after year, like a rite empty of emotion and surprises. The only novelty on this occasion has been the hour chosen for the start. At 5:12 in the morning National TV began the broadcast of the event from a plaza in darkness with an orator yawning in the dawn.

The second secretary of the Communist Party, Jose Ramon Ventura, was charged with the annual speech for the 26th of July. Any study of the television audience would reveal that the only viewers of the small screen at this hour were the insomniacs looking for something to entertain them and the journalists chasing headlines. Both nocturnal creatures ended up disappointed. There was no entertainment nor news.

And of course, the event would not be complete without the “ Young Pioneer” girl on the verge of tears hysterically spewing out well-rehearsed slogans. Nor the reenactment of the assault on the barracks, 62 years ago, acted out by teenagers who only know the version of history imposed on them by the gentlemen seated in the front row. The only excitement was hearing their youthful voices crying “Down with the dictatorship!” The applause, almost syncopated, completed the spectacle.

The only excitement was hearing their youthful voices crying “Down with the dictatorship!”

The artistic gala, with its roughly gesturing men dancers and languid women, added to the historical cult. A dance style widely used at official events that mix socialist realism with the kitsch of a circus act. In the words of the playwright and film director Juan Carlos Cremata, another of “the thousands of public events where masses of money are squandered and bad taste, ineffectiveness, falsehood and madness are encouraged.”

No announcements occurred during the “Revolutionary Mass.” Not even on addressing the theme of the reestablishment of relations with the United States did Machado Ventura go beyond what has already been repeated ad nauseam. The process will be “long and complex,” the functionary recited like a weary oration. Conspicuous for its absence in his words was any allusion to John Kerry’s upcoming visit to Cuba and the opening ceremony for the American embassy in Havana.

For its part, the speech of Lazaro Exposito Canto, first secretary of the provincial committee of the Communist Party in Santiago de Cuba, slid along the path of triumphalism. He boasted of the territory’s economic results, in an uncritical and obviously fake way. There was no lack of commitment to the founders of the cult, when he affirmed that “Santiaguans have never failed the Party nor the direction of the Revolution, because in Santiago, dear Fidel and Raul, always, absolutely always, you will be victorious,” without explaining that it would be a “victory” like that of those terrible early morning hours of 26 July 1953, on the feast day of Saint Anne.

Only one gesture departed from the script. Raul Castro, at the last second, grabbed the microphone and shouted, “Let Santiago always be Santiago!” A tired “amen” that few heard because they had already turned off the TV.


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