An Exotic Custom

Photo: Peter Deel

Usually, when the death of some figure addicted to “the model” is announced, whether it be someone from the sciences, the arts, sports or some other field, among the relative merits mentioned are his having been faithful (sometimes unconditionally) to the nation’s top leaders.

As I recall, when notable figures from the struggle for independence or the era of the Republic died, I never read nor heard anyone mention that he had been faithful to Céspedes, Agramonte, Maceo, Gómez or Martí. Or more recently to Mella, Villena or Chibás, to name but a few, much less to Estrada Palma, Zayas, Menocal, Machado, Batista, Grau or Prío. Perhaps it was because they were never considered occupants of Mount Olympus and, therefore, simply did not warrant further mention. Having been faithful to one’s principals was more than enough.

This exotic custom, imported from some far-off place (it never existed in Cuba), has spread like the marabou weed (as happens with everything bad), and today is an obligatory feature in official obituaries. The problem is that it is foreign to us, like embalming or tea at five, to name but two extreme examples. Besides, it has an unpleasant whiff of the cult of personality, something that, at least officially, is said not exist in our country.

I feel that, with all the “updating” that is going on, it would be convenient to be aware of this situation, not to update it, but to uproot it.

December 4 2012

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