The nine days of expression of affection for Fidel and support for the revolutionary project was the essence of dignity. It was well-conceived and well-organized. In addition to the Mass Act on November 28 in the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana and the Political Act on the evening of December 3 in the Plaza of the Revolution in Santiago de Cuba, the people had three opportunities to express their sentiments, including filing by photos of Fidel at 286 designated centers across the island, signing a pledge of commitment to the revolutionary project at 11,512 locations, and greeting the caravan transporting Fidel’s ashes from Havana to Santiago de Cuba. This structure prevented that the people would run in a chaotic and overwhelming manner to the two principal activities in Havana and Santiago de Cuba.
The caravan transporting Fidel’s remains stirred the entire nation, as the people lined the streets and highways of the caravan route, waving Cuban flags, and chanting in unison, “I am Fidel.” On December 3, the caravan was greeted with an incredibly tumultuous reception as it entered Santiago de Cuba, an historic center of revolutionary activity and a city that Fidel called “the moral capital of the revolution.” On January 1, 1959, Fidel had entered Santiago de Cuba with a triumphant rebel army, promising to make fundamental changes in defense of the people. On December 3, nearly fifty-eight years later, Fidel triumphantly returned, with the people proclaiming, “Mission completed; promise delivered.”
It has been an emotional nine days. The people, journalists, and international personalities repeatedly and passionately have expressed their sadness and their commitment to the teachings of Fidel.
During these days, Cuban television has been running repeatedly the mass chanting, “I am Fidel,” at the Mass Act in Havana on November 28. The video is followed by a young person explaining why she or he “is Fidel,” and each repetition features a different person. In their commentaries, many of the young people are demonstrating maturity of reflection and a strong commitment to the revolutionary project. The TV spot exemplifies the use of television to promote the political and cultural formation of the people as an integral part of the forming of a revolutionary people. In socialist Cuba, television functions primarily to educate, and only secondarily to entertain; in contrast to capitalism, where television gives emphasis to entertainment and the selling of consumer goods.
I have observed during the last ten or fifteen years that some Cubans complain about material conditions in the presence of international visitors. The visitors often interpret such complaining as indicating dissatisfaction with the Cuban revolution or with Cuban socialism. But I have not viewed it in this way. I view it as bad behavior by the people, a manifestation that they are not perfect. The people ought to view an interchange with a visitor as an opportunity for international diplomacy, and they should conduct themselves with a sense of responsibility, explaining things that they know very well to be true, and that visitors for the most part do not know. But they have a right to be normal, and such complaining reflects a normal human tendency to imagine that life is better somewhere else, a tendency given strength in Cuba by the presence of many international visitors from the consumer societies of the North.
I have never forgotten what a Cuban friend said to me many years ago, when I was new to Cuba, and I was taken aback by the way a Cuban store clerk expressed her desire to go with me to the United States. “We Cubans speak ironically,” my friend said. “The clerk was indirectly criticizing you, for being unable to break the U.S. blockade against us, making life here difficult.” Regardless of the validity of this interpretation, my friend’s comment points to a general phenomenon, in which the people are framing their comments in ways that are conditioned for reception by international visitors, with various intentions and personal motives. I also have never forgotten what the international affairs official of the National Assembly of Popular Power said to my students a number of years ago. “The people talk, but they are with us.”
Thus, in reflecting on the manner in which some of the people speak to international visitors, I have arrived at the conclusion that, in spite of the irresponsible talk by some, there is a deep fund of support for the revolutionary project among the people, which has continually expressed itself in a number of observable ways, including an electoral participation rate in excess of 90%, a membership of 85% in various mass organizations that are central to the Cuban system of popular democracy, the total absence of a formulation of an alternative national project, and the evident advanced understanding and strong commitment of the vanguard formed by the Cuban Revolution.
In these days of mourning, this popular fund of support for the revolutionary project has fully and powerfully expressed itself. The comportment of the people, their discipline, their commitment and their emotion has been incredible to behold. I personally have been moved by it, as have been many, Cubans and international residents alike. We wonder if such a thing could possibly occur in any other nation, or if any person has ever received such a departure from this life.
In these days of mourning and of expressions of gratitude for the life, teachings, and commitment of Fidel, the people have demonstrated that they are a revolutionary people and the people of Fidel.
U.S. President Barack Obama has said that history ultimately will judge concerning the legacy of Fidel Castro. Obama previously demonstrated, in his addresses to the people and leaders of Latin America, that he has no appreciation of history. Therefore, he is not aware that history already has judged: it has absolved Fidel, and it has condemned U.S. imperialism; for in the final analysis, the true history of humanity is not written by the powerful, but by the peoples in movement.