The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Faithful cult worships Cuba's reluctant Cuban leader Fidel Castro at 90
A woman participates in a photo and audiovisual exhibition called "Fidel" dedicated to Cuban former president Fidel Castro in Havana, on August 12, 2016. Next August 13 marks Fidel's 90th birthday amid a strong popular reverence for the ex-guerrilla and his former comrades-in-arms. YAMIL LAGE / AFP.

by Carlos Batista

SANTA CLARA (AFP).- It was just what the fiery communist leader Fidel Castro told them not to do.

His admirers say he freed Cuba from tyranny, but the revolution wasn't about just one guy. Would they please not plaster his face everywhere?

Yet as he marks his 90th birthday this Saturday, such popular reverence for the ex-guerrilla and his former comrades-in-arms is strong.

So strong, it is drawing thousands of tourists to Cuba -- including more and more from its old enemy, the United States.

Semper Fidel
Castro made it a point of pride not to be worshipped in effigy like certain other communist world leaders.

"I am hostile to anything that resembles a personality cult," he said in an interview published in 2006 in a book by Spanish journalist Ignacio Ramonet.

"There is not a single school, factory, hospital or building that bears my name. There are no statues of me. There are practically no portraits."

That year Castro retired from the public eye due to poor health. He officially handed over the presidency to his brother Raul in 2008.

But though formal portraits may be few, the bearded, cigar-chomping revolutionary smiles out from countless billboards across the island.

Local sociology student Juan Carlos Cabezas, 25, says he is struck by how many images of Castro's face he sees around Havana.

"He has become like an icon, a symbol," Cabezas said. "He is no longer just a person. He represents something more."

In the central town of Sancti Spiritus, a poster bears three photographs of Fidel: as a young rebel, a middle-aged statesman and a gray-haired elder.

"Fidel is a model that will be alive forever for all Cubans," said passerby Celia Gomez, a 27-year-old psychologist.

'Fidel With Us'
In the run-up to his birthday, Cuba's state-run media published a series of photographs and articles about Castro, entitled "Fidel With Us."

A university in the province of Santa Clara even launched an online application of the same name with information and quotations from the ex-leader -- despite limited internet access on the island.

There is no museum dedicated to Fidel, though relics of his life are scattered around various historical venues.

A small sculpture in the Museum of the Revolution in Havana is the closest thing Cuba has to a statue of him: it portrays him along with his late comrades Camilo Cienfuegos and Che Guevara.

Key sites in Castro's life are preserved in his birthplace in the eastern village of Biran, the old barracks in Santiago de Cuba and an apartment in Havana where he planned a failed attack.

His crushing of the US-backed counter-revolutionary invasion in the Bay of Pigs in 1961 is commemorated in a museum at Playa Giron, a beach on the south of the island, with old weapons and uniforms.

Castro may not have imagined as a young rebel commander in the 1950s that decades later his face would be sold printed on T-shirts.

Besides Fidel with his cigar and military cap, a cult surrounds another hero of the revolution: Che Guevara, the ultimate revolutionary icon.

His beret-clad image graces countless T-shirts and posters.

Thousands of visitors flock daily to the museum where Guevara's remains lie in Santa Clara.

US visitors to Cuba have surged since the two countries normalized diplomatic relations last year.

US citizens are still officially forbidden from visiting as tourists but many are managing to do so under new travel categories that permit certain cultural exchanges.

Nearly 10,000 US citizens were among the 186,000 foreigners who visited the Che Guevara site in the first half of this year, says its director Maira Romero.

The overall figure was more than double the total for the same period last year.

"For years we have been hearing about Cuba and the revolution," said one visitor, retired US teacher Jacqueline Rubio, 72.

"We wanted to see what it is like with our own eyes."

© 1994-2016 Agence France-Presse

Today's News

August 13, 2016

Faithful cult worships Cuba's reluctant Cuban leader Fidel Castro at 90

Nouveau Musée National de Monaco presents Villa Marlene, a project de Francesco Vezzoli

Guild Hall Museum opens "Aspects of Minimalism: Selections from East End Collections"

Kunsthistorisches Museum exhibits works from the Emperor's coin collection

Robert De Niro opens Sarajevo film fest

A wealth of jewels at Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions this autumn

Spink announces sale of Fine Stamps and Covers of South East Asia

Historic Ex-Roy Salvadori Frazer-Nash Le Mans replica to be offered at Bonhams Goodwood Revival Sale

World's largest William Blake gallery to open in San Francisco

Orange County Museum of Art unveils two new installations as part of its Pacific Initiative

Tokyo Chuo Auction 2016 Autumn Sales feature imperial treasures, Chinese paintings and tea wares

Pump House Gallery presents a site-specific work by Samara Scott in Battersea Park

Dr. Jörn Günther Rare Books to showcases the Book in the Age of Discovery at TEFAF New York

Edinburgh celebrates European culture after Brexit vote

Dubai looks to boost cultural life with opera house

Connect with your everyday creativity at the Irish Museum of Modern Art this August

Set of 8 Tiffany windows could bring $400,000-$600,000 at Fontaine's auction

Billings Auction announces Fall Auction of Modern Art & Design

Ruhrtriennale 2016 opens with 'Alceste' in Bochum

Eternal Beauty: Egg tempera paintings by Fred Wessel on view at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts

Hunt for Nazi 'gold train' resumes in Poland

Leading London silver dealers, Koopman Rare Art to exhibit at the inaugural TEFAF New York Fall

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

Royalville Communications, Inc
Founder's Site. Hommage
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful