Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Death of Fidel: Welcome to the 21st Century!

Fidel Castro has died at 90. The young baseball prospect who just did not impress during a tryout for the Washington Senators but went on to became an historic Cuban dictator.

I never met him, but I saw him in person once. When Thabo Mbeki spoke at the University of Havana in March of 2001, I stood just above him on the balcony of the mezzanine level while he sat in the front row of the orchestra. I saw the power of his iconic image and the drama of his presence.

To much of the world he came to symbolize the rise of anti-colonialism and third world empowerment. The revolution that he lead was inspiring for its possibilities to Cuban people and to marginalized and oppressed people throughout the world.

By 1965, however, Castro had consolidated the power of the revolutionary government in his hands, and Cuba had passed from American to Soviet patronage. This would remain the case until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1990, resulting in complete and utter economic crisis in Cuba.

Of my History and Philosophy cohort at the university, the majority have emigrated elsewhere to find opportunity. One who graduated and progressed to the professor teaching the classes we once took as students, has joined the diaspora and moved to Florida.

To my Cuban friends, the death of Fidel Castro signals the delayed end of the 20th century. Indeed, with Fidel’s brother Raul still running the government, the Castro regime has never since 1959 transferred power to a younger generation.

Rest in peace Fidel Castro. He will remain a controversial symbol of revolutionary possibility and authoritarian repression. While the future remains unwritten, a generational transfer of power to a Cuban 21st century is coming. With my classmates and friends from that previous life, I plan to be a part of that future.