May 20th: The Witch's Curse / Miriam Celaya
Posted on May 22, 2014
Cubanet, 20 May 2014 | Miriam Celaya
HAVANA, Cuba.12 years ago I read a beautiful article by poet and writer
Rafael Alcides in honor of the Republic's centennial. He titled it "The
Sleeping Princess", a metaphor enfolding the yearnings of many Cubans
who prefer to believe that our Republic, with so much sacrifice of
several generations of nineteenth century Cubans as its price, is not
dead, but reposes, mired in a long and deep sleep from which on day it
will awaken with a kiss of love.
Since then, every May 20th, I evoke the poet's work, full of hope and
wondering how much long longer the expected kiss, which will return the
Princess Republic to us, will take. Her lethargy has gone on for too
long, her absence is devastating.
Cubans in their seventies or older may remember May 20th as a national
holiday when people celebrated the birth of the Republic with
spontaneous joy each year. All of Cuba would dress up in flags, and
there was celebration throughout towns and cities, because on May 20th,
1902, the American flag was taken down from the official poles, and, for
the first time in history, our banner waved on its own.
The Witch's Curse
But, just as in the fairy tale, our Princess-Republic also received a
curse. The Witch-Revolution that took over power in 1959 was determined
to rewrite the Island's history under a new paradigm, to be followed by
all Cubans henceforth. The olive green dogma, dictated from the military
power oligarchy, devoted itself to mock the Republican past with
Since then, the autocracy indoctrinated us in denial: before January
1959, we had not had a Republic, instead –by Revolutionary-Sacred Word
inflation- the period between 1902 and 1959 had been a pseudo-Republic
or, preferably, a "mediated republic", subordinated to the US and to the
interest of foreign capital that embezzled the national treasure and
stripped Cubans of their legitimate sovereign rights. A discourse that,
paradoxically, sounds ever more like the current reality.
After half a century of "Republic" indoctrination and "revolutionary"
plunder, Cuba retains just the name, which only appears in certain
documents with official seals and the awful bills of a paper currency
which -unlike those that circulated during the brief Republican
democracy in the first half of the Twentieth Century- have no value.
Thanks to the "mediated revolution" which was only a means for a
military caste to assume absolute power, that buries all vestiges of
Republican advances and snatches citizens' rights, most Cubans on the
Island have forgotten that the date for the celebration of democracy is
May 20th and not January 1st .
A Judas for a false kiss
But, behold! the new reality that the regime is trying to build, in
virtue of which the paradigm is, once again, foreign capital, requires a
different image, more like prosperous societies which today are being
summoned to the Island's piñata. For that purpose, it is not enough to
have the pseudo-legal deployment of a handful of "reforms" that confer
doubtful rights to the plantation's slaves and retain the droit de
seigneur of the Castrocacy. It is necessary that the crew believes the
discourse of the changes, the promises of a prosperity that (finally!)
is just around the corner.
It is also important to stifle any scruples on the part of potential
investors-saviors of the regime, so now we need to awaken the
Princess-Republic, even if it is by force. In the first place, we need
to start redrawing the past and reviewing History in order to prepare
(repair) a discourse that, more than obsolete, is now uncomfortable.
I'll bet the Republic was not so bad after all, who knows that, after
all is said and done, it was not all that mediated, but only a little.
Only thus can we explain how such a loyal herald to the Castros as the
famous singer Silvio Rodríguez has brought us the novelty to propose in
his blog "Segunda Cita" to recapture the May 20th celebration since
-with all its flaws and virtues- The Republic of Cuba was born on that
day. Obviously, the former rebel maverick troubadour turned bourgeois
gentleman, because of his close links to power, has glimpsed from his
vantage point the return of the Princess, and he wants her back,
probably not covered in the tricolor banner, but in the trappings of the
olive green of her masters. We will have to admit to Silvio that this
ballad is indeed new, because to recover the celebration would be great
in principle, but it is necessary to rescue the Republic first, which is
not really Silvio's intention, or that of the Castros.
I hope that the Princess does not confuse this Judas kiss in her slumber
and stays asleep. Contrary to my own desires, which are those of many of
my compatriots on all shores, I prefer she continues to sleep and wakes
only with the caress that will bring with it the realization of a
Republic that, so far, is a chimera: the cult of all Cubans to complete
Translated by Norma Whiting
Source: May 20th: The Witch's Curse / Miriam Celaya | Translating Cuba -