Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My Fears / Yoani Sánchez

My Fears / Yoani Sánchez
Translator: Unstated, Yoani Sánchez

A solitary man sweeps the dry leaves on the wide avenue where not one
car is traveling in either direction. He lowers his head and avoids
talking with the cameraman. Perhaps it's a punishment for not applauding
with sufficient enthusiasm at a meeting, or not bowing with theatrical
reverence before a Party member. The scene of the sweeper on his
desolate street is captured in a documentary about North Korea that has
circulated on our alternate information networks. A painful testimony,
with people all dressed the same, grey depersonalized buildings, and
statues of the Eternal Leader on all sides. Hell in miniature, which
leaves us with a sense of relief — at least in this case — for not
having been born under the despotism of the Kim dynasty.

When Fidel Castro visited Pyongyang in March 1986, almost a million
people greeted him, among them thousands of children waving flags with
suspicious synchronicity. Cuban television reveled in the chorus that
sounded like one voice, in dancers who didn't differ from each other by
even a hair out of place, and in those little ones playing the violin
with surprising mastery and anomalous simultaneity. Months after this
presidential trip, on the artistic stages of Cuban elementary schools
they tried to emulate this robotic discipline. But there was no way. The
girl next to me threw the ball seconds after mine had already fallen to
the floor, and some abandoned shoe was left behind on the stage after
every performance. The Maximum Leader must have felt disillusioned by
the chaotic conduct of his people, so different from those syncopated
genuflections before the Secretary General of the Workers Party in North

On Monday the images of thousands of people crying in the streets over
the death of Kim Jong-Il called to mind those perfectly timed children.
Although our tropical experiment never managed to "domesticate us" like
them, we did copy something in the Korean model. In these parts, as
well, genealogy has been more determinate than ballot boxes, and the
heritage of blood has left us — in 53 years — only two presidents, both
with the same last name. The dauphin over there is named Kim Jong-un;
perhaps soon they will communicate to us that over here ours will be
Alejandro Castro Espin. Just to think about it makes me shudder, as I
did one day before those long rows of little girls throwing a ball at
the exact same millisecond.

December 20 2011


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