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dinsdag 9 oktober 2007

40th anniversary of Che Guevara's death

On October 8 Ernesto "Che" Guevara was celebrated worldwide. On that day in 1967 he was taken prisoner by the Bolivian army and executed the next day. In a morbid way, dying was the best thing he could have done for Fidel Castro's Cuba. He has become the symbol for the Revolution. Whereas you do not see as many pictures of Castro in the streets of Cuba, Che (together with the 'father' of the nation, José Martí) is everywhere. He died fighting for the cause, and being dead he cannot do anything wrong anymore. He represents the person that every good communist should aspire to be. Every day, school children start their classes by pledging "pioneers for communism, we will be like Che!"

This anniversary was celebrated with lots of gusto in Santa Clara, the city he and Cienfuegos liberated from the Batista's troops, at the plaza in front of his mausoleum. Although Castro himself couldn't make it because of his present state, he issued the following statement: "I make a halt in my daily struggle to bow my head in respect and gratitude to the exceptional combatant who fell on October 8th, forty years ago; for the example he passed on to us as leader of his Rebel Army Column, which crossed the swampy grounds of the former provinces of Oriente and Camagüey while being chased by enemy troops. ... I thank him for what he tried but was not able to do in his home country, because he was like a flower prematurely severed from its stem. He left us his unmistakable style of writing — with elegance, brevity and veracity — every detail of whatever happened to cross his mind. He was a predestinate, but he didn’t know it. He still fights with us and for us." In his stead, Raúl presided over the festivities. Some 10 000 people attended the rally, together with his family members and family of old comrades-in-arms that have fallen with him. The second important meeting took place in Bolivia. A march to La Higuera, where he was shot, was undertaken by about 7000 people.

Hammy and I are not really Che aficionados, so we didn't know about all the planned activities. If we did, we probably would have taken our holidays two weeks later. Now we just missed out on the 47th anniverary of the CDR (Comités de Defensa de la Revolución) and the whole Che thing. The primary function of the CDR is the defense of the revolutionary values. Initially, they were founded to make sure that the American backed counterrevolution would be nipped in the bud. With the slogan "revolution in every block" CDR officials were installed in, indeed, every block. Their main function nowadays is to keep an eye out on the Cuban population, to check if everybody is still thinking in the right direction. The vigilance of the different branches differ from block to block. If the local officer is a hardcore communist everybody has to watch their step, if he's just a regular guy he'll look in the other direction in most cases. Be as it may, a large party was thrown in the evening on the 28th of September (when we were flying back home). F. and Rikkel left the day after. They told me everybody in Habana was having a blast in the street. People were cooking chicken on wood fires in these large blackened pots, the Malecon was full with people and everyone was letting it hang loose. Aah well, you can't have it all ...

More info on Cuba, Che and the CDR :
Wikipedia entry on CDR
De Cubaanse CDR
The CDR: repression in Cuba

And of course the excellent books Chasing Che and The Boys From Dolores by Patrick Symmes.

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