a tribute to castro

the last of the old guard is out of the door. the last mohican in a generation ‎of the larger than life revolutionaries has bowed out. castro steps down after nearly half a century on the helm, and i can’t help but feel nostalgic for a man who ‎fought to the brink of the bitter end, who delivered the timeless extempore speech ‘la historia me absolverá’ with such passion that it galvanized the masses and became the manifesto of a movement, the man who once boarded the small 12-person granma, the mothership of la revolucion, along with che and 80 others, and the man who for all his flaws and falterings, finally made it to the helm of the nation that he led for half a century in a tough neighborhood, and who did it all with such flamboyance and style -shock-haired and bearded, clad in a fatigue, and with a cuban cigar always ready at hand. ‎

che raul fidel

as it was said recently about benazir bhutto, here too our nostalgia is less for the politics of castro than for his poetics and personality; for the man who was our last connection to the age when poets were revolutionaries, and men of letters were ‎also comrades in arms, and an era when leaders were more than managers and administrators; for he who smoked cigars with hemingway, and who fought in the trenches with che, and who sipped mojitos with marquez, and who charmed sartre -who in turn was always glad to see men who were living testaments to the truth of his existentialism -that destiny can be shaped, forged, brought on-; and who once as a 12 year old wrote the famous FCR to FDR letter asking the president of the united states for ‘a 10 dollar bill green american’. few have remained alive whose life stories become the stuff of legend during their lifetimes, and castro is one of them.

just as he rose to power, so too castro steps down in grand style: on the eve of a new era, just a year short of the half-century milestone of his time in the lead; in an age where leadership has become a lost art and is reinvented as a new science; an octagenarian who senses the coming of a new morning ushering in the era of post-modernism when all that was once holy and sacred and awe-inspiring is up for criticism and redicule, and who knows that in this new era not only his legacy but that of so many of his fellow tyrant and revolutionary classfellows is subject to revision and reconstruction; a man who is not repentant but is reflective; and who knows full well that whatever mistakes he made, whatever history will say about him, he lived life to the brimful and is loved by millions for that simple fact.

i do not know if history will absolve fidel, but in the heart of many of us who have a hard time separating and drawing clear lines between the human categories of poetry and politics and passion and philosophy, the legacy of the man is long absolved.


~ by safrang on February 21, 2008.

3 Responses to “a tribute to castro”

  1. You’re such a good writer, nomekhuda. I have cold war refugee feelings for Fidel but how quickly you get me to see the other side…Thanks. Always good to

  2. I feel that it is only fair to temper the above entry with this sobering account from the ‎wife of a political prisoner in castro’s cuba: ‎

  3. […] envy vero and we decide to get to cuba before the last of the old guard is out of the door and before the rapid process of change that has set in changes the face of this country from a […]

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