Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Aug 22 Santa Clara to Havana

Cuban censorship and revolutionary fervour.
When i offered my week old Guardian to a man picking up a newspaper in the Spanish colonial town of Remedios i opened up a tale of isolation and repression. The man was an unemployed journalist with minimal access to the internet. He had a Spanish passport and had been to Barcelona last year, the ticket bought by friends there. He related how it would take him seven years of all his salary to buy a ticket. He also told me that a bartender in the tourist area earns more in a week than a doctor in a fortnight. I have noticed the absence of newspapers and magazines, also that no-one in Cuba is writing with pen and paper. Later our guide told us how the government censors all the news and uses secret police. Critics of the regime find themselves in prison. Many Cubans appear loyal to their country but they would still like to travel but cannot since the government controls all the passports.   
I think we have seen every revolutionary monument in Cuba. Our guide Raimondo was deeply committed to the revolution and its history. It reached its apotheosis today with our visit to the Che museum in Santa Clara. A key battle in the revolution was fought there when the revolutionaries captured an armoured car in 1958. The site has been nicely preserved with railway carriages displaying the battle and a new concrete sculpture integrated into it. Che was an attractive revolutionary but he has been sanctified in the museum there. The display about his life captures his early life, his revolutionary zeal, his militarism and internationalism in a respectful display, even the spurs he used as a guerrilla in the Cuban sierra maestra. A vast statue of Che is battle fatigues looks out on the countryside from atop the museum. Communism meets Catholicism with the beautification of St Che. I wonder what Che himself would have made of it.  Castro himself seems to avoid a personality cult, his birthday was barely noticed but he is in posters exhorting people to live up to the revolution.

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