A Deplorable Spectacle / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya
It is a crime to manipulate a child’s conscience for the adulation of a
Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, 15 August 2016, Havana – This Saturday, August
13, 2016, was the culmination of true torture after months of putting up
with the fanfare in the official media on the occasion of the ninetieth
birthday of the Specter-in-Chief.
Against any reasonable forecast, the responsibility for the birthday
celebration was delegated to the members of the children’s art troupe
“La Colmenita,” (The Little Beehive) and was presented to an audience
that was beyond unusual: a theater crowded with adults dressed in
military accoutrements or in pressed white guayaberas, Cuban dress shirts.
In the front row, flanked by the president of Venezuela on his left and
his brother Raúl Castro on his right, the Orate Magnus in the flesh
writhed in his seat and turned to whisper something to the Venezuelan
catafalque, without paying much attention to the apotheosis of bad taste
that was taking place on stage. Undaunted and haughty, as he has always
been, he remained indifferent to the adulation, as if the whole
deployment of major sucking-up were not exclusively devoted to him and
his irreparable 90 years.
However, it this upside-down granddaddy, to whom the children narrated
stories, is not what this commentary is about, but specifically about
the child actors who were charged with the responsibility for the
pathetic spectacle, whose most salient feature was a waste of a
repulsive cult towards the ancient dictator.
An alienated representation of Abdala, José Martí’s well-known theater
piece, where the hysteria and the over-acting of the two young
performers stood out in stark contrast to the firm, serene and happy
mood behind this work of Martí, was the strong dish that attempted to
draw a parallel line between the hero of the play–young Abdala marching
off to war—and Cuba’s ex-chief.
Meanwhile, the girl in the role of the mother of Patriot Abdala rendered
herself on the stage with the same deranged passion of a slum tango, to
the delight of all spectators… except one. Poor children, victims of the
political manipulations of their elders! Poor Martí, so used and abused
by the power of a satrapy that has turned Cuba into exactly the opposite
of what he dreamed of!
Meanwhile, on the backdrop, images from the Wars of Independence were
projected, followed by other, real ones, of the guerrillas in the Sierra
Maestra, the Bay of Pigs battle and the thousand useless fights tussled
by the ex-Undefeated from his climate-controlled headquarters. The same
ossified scheme of the aesthetics of socialist realism rooted in the
years of the Cold War. The consecration of mediocrity.
And just in case the show wasn’t tasteless enough, the City Historian
and a decrepit Omara Portuondo were brought onto the stage. In a shaky
voice, Portuondo sang (again!), “The era is giving birth to a heart.”
Castro I sat in an armchair because his dreadful state of health no
longer allows those incendiary speeches standing on his feet before the
public. The City Historian, one of the most notorious pimps of Castro I,
made a grotesque and vulgar tribute praising the culture and genius of
the nonagenarian honoree, his astonishing knowledge, his aptitude for
speaking (and supposedly also “for listening”), the beauty of his hands
and that “Fidel” had given him a tie 20 years ago.
The children’s feigned passion, the fake joy of the director and the
artificial rigidity of the public provoked embarrassment among the rest
of the people, but it especially arouses indignation to note how
brainwashed these children are. Their carefully learned scripts, their
acting gestures, the projection of their voices; everything indicates
thorough indoctrination, long hours snatched from the play and joy of
that brief period of their lives, to be submitted to obedience and
sacrifice in order to satisfy the vanity of the old tyrant.
The U.N.’s Convention on the Rights of the Child should condemn this
practice as a criminal violation, suitable to Nazism, to manipulate the
conscience of defenseless children in serving the ideological interests
The children arouse pity. In a not-too-distant day, when the revered
specter of today is just a bad memory next to a pile of ashes, they will
discover that they were used in the service of an outdated ideology and
that their candor was sacrificed at the foot of a statue of the past,
with the willing consent of those who should protect them: their
parents. I would like to think that at least the children will have the
opportunity to change course.
Translated by Norma Whiting
Source: A Deplorable Spectacle / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya – Translating