Cuba marks first anniversary of Fidel’s death
It’s been a year since the death of Fidel Castro, the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution, but on the island, his name is still invoked almost as much as when he was alive.
Children perform an act in a school to commemorate the first anniversary of the death of Cuba's late president Fidel Castro, in Havana, Cuba, November 24th, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer
The music stopped and the rum didn’t flow for nine days last year when Cuba went into official mourning after the November 25th passing of Castro who had been an intimate part of Cubans’ lives for more than half a century.
A year later, the country is planning a series of Castro-focused events from Saturday through December 4th, the day he was laid to rest at Santa Ifigenia cemetery in Santiago de Cuba. On the island, homages both in the official media and on social media — with hashtags #PorSiempreFidel, #YosoyFidel #FidelVive and #FidelesFidel — have reached a frenzied pace.
And across the world, tributes have begun springing up in the form of statues, photo exhibits, a musical called Fidel and a giant olive-green cap, crafted in metal, to look like the hat he frequently wore.
For months, the country’s main newspapers and state television have been publishing and broadcasting so many stories focused on the Castro legend that he seems more alive than ever.
Many of the commemorative activities will be centered in Santiago, the cradle of the Cuban Revolution and the city where Castro was laid to rest. Historian Rogelio Salietes Toro will walk the streets of the city in remembrance of the time Castro spent there, students at the University of Oriente will hold a patriotic vigil and memorial events will be held at workplaces, according to Trabajadores, the newspaper of Cuba’s labor union.
On December 3rd, the eve of the anniversary of Castro’s internment, a cultural event featuring traditional music and dance will be held at the Plaza de la Revolución Antonio Maceo, where Cuban leader Raúl Castro, Fidel’s younger brother and successor, said a final farewell last year.
School children wait for the passage of Fidel Castro's ashes outside a clinic on the route to the Moncada Barracks, in Santiago de Cuba, on December 3rd, 2016. AL DIAZ [email protected]
The next day, a pilgrimage will leave the plaza at 7 a.m. and follow the same route along Avenida Patria that Castro’s ashes took to the cemetery after a military caravan carrying his remains crisscrossed the country from Havana to Santiago.
Even schoolchildren are taking part in the tributes. Students from an elementary school in the Diez de Octubre section of Havana recited a poem in his honor in which they called Castro “the boyfriend of all the girls.”
In the days leading to the anniversary, people have quietly been leaving flowers at Castro’s granite tomb. It was sculpted to look like a kernel of corn, and its shape was inspired by a line from a poem by Cuban patriot José Martí: “All the glory of the world fits in a single kernel of corn.”
Elections to select delegates to municipal People’s Power assemblies will be held Sunday, and they, too, have been dedicated to Castro. “It will be a gift that Cuba will give to Fidel,” said the daily newspaper Juventud Rebelde.
Castro still has a daily presence in Cuba’s official media. His name is often invoked in official speeches and his Reflections, short opinion pieces he wrote until his last year of life, are still featured on the homepage of Granma, the Communist Party of Cuba’s media outlet.
A man hangs pictures of late Cuban president Fidel Castro on a stage to be used during celebrations of what would have been his 91st birthday in San Antonio de los Banos, Cuba, August 10th, 2017. Picture taken on August 10th, 2017. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
When Raúl Castro spoke at the plaza last year, he announced that Cuba would carry out his brother’s wish that there be no statues in his image and no naming of Cuban streets, plazas, buildings or other public sites in his honor. Of course, old billboards with Castro’s image and words still dot the Cuban countryside.
Several statues of Castro also have appeared since his death in Russia, South Africa, and the Dominican Republic as well as in London. There also have been photo exhibitions and seminars on the life and times of Castro held around the world, including a seminar this week at the Cuban Embassy in Washington.
A giant metal cap designed to look like the olive-green cap used by a young Castro is one Argentine tribute to “el comandante.” The piece, weighing in at 66 pounds, was constructed of sheet metal by workers from the town of Carmen de Areco in Buenos Aires province. The workers “donated the materials and put all their love into this project,” according to Cubadebate, an official online news site.
The tomb of Fidel Castro at the Cemeterio Santa Ifigenia in Santiago de Cuba on Sunday, December 4th, 2016, the day of his funeral service. AL DIAZ [email protected]
His death last year plunged Cuba into nine days of national mourning.
A funeral cortege carried his ashes on a three-day journey from Havana to his final resting place in the east of the island, where he had launched the Cuban Revolution.
“I am Fidel” became a nationwide chant, as many Cubans pledged to stay faithful to the revolution he led, which in 1959 overthrew a dictator.
“He was the best we’ve had as a leader,” Rene Perez, a Havana taxi driver, said, echoing the feelings of many Cubans who miss Fidel’s leadership, especially at times of crisis./.