Elian vs. Fidel
Guillermo Cabrera Infante, the exiled Cuban author,
has written such works as Holy Smoke, Mea Cuba and Infantes Inferno.
LondonEvery year Santeria, the African-rooted religion popularly
practiced in Cuba, publishes its horoscope. The Santeros "toss the
coconut shells," in point of fact. Four pieces of a coconut shell
are thrown on the ground, and the future is forecast according to their
position, whether they fall flesh side up or down. The Santeros are now
predicting the future of the Castro regime as it is tied to the fate of
Elian Gonzalez, who to them is the reincarnation of the Elegua, a kind
of Christ child in Cubas mix of Catholic and Santeria-influenced
The position of the coconut shells cast by the Santeros has foreshadowed
ills for the "tribe" of Cuba and an even worse fate for the
"chief," Fidel Castro.
A little background. The Virgin of Charity of El Cobre is the patron saint
of Cuba. Blessed by the Pope when he visited her shrine in El Cobre, near
Santiago, just two years ago, she is known familiarly as Cachita. Legend
has it that the Virgin Mary appeared to three Cuban fishermen floating
on the high seas. This image of the Virgin in multicolored wood is revered
by the entire Cuban people. Her equivalent in Santeria is Ochun, half
virgin and half whore. "The extremely popular Ochun," as Lydia
Cabrera describes her, "...shares dominion over the waters."
Many Catholic believers have no doubt that Elian is the reincarnation
of the Christ Child, who, according to Santeria, is one of the 21 forms
that the Elegua takes.
As soon as the Santeros learned of Elians fate (the boy had been
rescued at sea, saved from sharks by the appearance of dolphins, with
which he was playing, and after 48 hours in the water under a blazing
sun did not show the burns and sores that other fugitives from Castro
who are rescued at sea always have), they declared that he was a divine
Elegua and that if he remained in Miamiin other words, in exileFidel
Castro "would fall."
The Elegua, it appears, had to be brough
t back to Cuba for the protection of an atheist dictator who believes
all of the Santeros prophecies!
Soon after these predictions became known, Castro began his speeches,
roaring threateningly, as he always does. Then the marches began, with
thousands of little flags suddenly appearing, in addition to (another
miracle) identical T-shirts with a likeness of the boys face, so
that he could appear over every Cubans heart (or at least on their
shirts). All sorts of Cubans, captive and free, marched. The marches then
became more specialized: members of the defense committees, mothers, single
mothers. The only thing missing was a march by albinos, as Santeria recommends:
blacks who are white.
None of this struck me as anything new because Castro is an expert in
organizing voluntary yet compulsory rallies.
The prophecies of the Santeros became increasingly gloomy over the months:
without the Child there will be no Castro.
Is anyone surprised that an erstwhile Marxist-Leninist believes in prophecies?
Hitler, no less a secularist, believed in the auguries of his personal
astrologer. These were not the voices of Germanic mythology but rather
the predictions of his horoscope, especially as his ideology, his war
and his life collapsed.
FIDEL CASTRO | We must remember that it is Fidel Castro and his
squandering of lives and property that has caused millions of Cubans to
flee, dividing not only families but also the Cuban people themselves.
He did not react this furiously when one of his torpedo boats attacked
and sank the tugboat Trece de Marzo just off the Cuban coast. Forty persons
drowned in this unnatural disaster, among them 10 children, and the government
did not express a single regret over the tragedy.
Why all the noise and all the threats this time over the return of a boy
who was saved from drowning? The only explanation is the incoherence of
a man who is struggling with the inevitable: his disappearance and the
end of his tyranny and his life. After all, the other Cuban dictators,
from Gen. Machado to Juan Batista, also turned to acts of sorcery in their
hours of need.
I am often asked whether I think that Elian ought to be sent back to Cuba.
My reply is always another question. What do you think my answer would
be, as an exile who fled from Castro and took his two daughters with him
because he did not want them to live in a place where life is brutish
That would be like asking Dante to traverse his Inferno again. Sending
Elian back to Castros Cuba is to condemn him to having no milk to
drink when he turns 7, to turn him into a "little pioneer,"
a rite of passage, and to force him to learn an alphabet that begins not
with the letter A but with F (the first letter in the name of you know
He will grow up malnourished, ignorant and with a paranoid fear of the
reigning terror under which his behavior will be monitored by a ubiquitous
police. Elians life in Cuba will be a future without a future.
A cartoon in the New Yorker reflects more than a shadow of a doubt. An
elderly man (an exile, no doubt) asks Elian what he would like to be when
he grows up, offering these two alternatives: "Gloria Estefan or
the Buena Vista Social Club?" It is a joke, of course. But for Elian,
an innocent child who could be condemned, it is something more: a terrible
and unacceptable proposition.
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