Speeches of Saturn

February 12, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

habana-1959

Anyone who wants to understand what happened on our island during the twentieth century, need only see Cuba the Beautiful, a 43-minute documentary by the filmmaker Ricardo Vega, who has composed a montage of key moments from 1902 to 1994 through archival footage.

The camera of Vega, the director and producer of the CD, surveys the history of the Republic and lingers on the 1959 revolution. The speeches of a euphoric Fidel Castro convey the atmosphere of the period without interference from other characters, interviewers, or explanatory text. Only applause from his supporters and some testimonies and drawings illustrate the voice of the leader, who speaks of goals and projects, and directs how to solve each problem.

A phrase of President Tomás Estrada Palma – “We have a republic, now we need citizens” – disquiets the viewer while listening to the raving Fidel Castro, whose messianic poses illuminate the future and dismantle the structure of the republic.

In Cuba the Beautiful, Castro is the voice. The country is his stage. The verbal incontinence of the political showman needs no comment, as he views life from a position of power, proposing, judging, and disposing in the name of the people. But his populist experiments do not hold up after the fall of the Soviet Union; the island is set adrift; the architect of manipulation hits bottom, but without wavering he then asks for “unity of action.”

The images of the mass exodus, and the testimonies of young people who left on rafts in 1994, allow the filmmaker to juxtapose these with what Castro said in New York in 1955: “Batista is solving the problem of unemployment: thousands of Cubans are forced to leave their homeland …”

Surprising to the audience are other phrases of the leader on democracy, development of livestock and agriculture, education, supplies, and events like the Missile Crisis (1962), the occupation of Prague by Soviet troops (1968), the foundation of the newspaper Granma, and terrorism.

When establishing the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (1960) he stated:

“We will establish a system of collective revolutionary vigilance, so that everyone knows who lives on the block, and what they do … and what relationship they had with the tyranny, and what they are dedicated to, who they meet with, what activities they’re involved in … ”

The voice of the ruler returns like a boomerang from forgotten promises and slogans: “… the high material and cultural level attained by a planned economy …”; full supplies of poultry meat (1961), of groceries (1962), of fish (1963); the guarantee that with nationalization there will be no lack of clothes, shoes, food and medicines for the population, plus the campaigns against the imperialist enemy, those “guilty of backwardness,” and illnesses like dengue hemorrhagic fever and swine flu.

In the exodus scene, the documentary testifies to the ideological orphanhood of the multitudes who escaped the paradise proclaimed by the Communist leader, whose demented leadership divided the nation, spread poverty, and devoured thousands of Cubans.

Saturn Devouring His Son, Peter Paul Rubens

Translated by: Tomás A.

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