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Tiptoeing Tradition, Cuba Welcomes the New Year

Written by Elaine Díaz · Translated by Javad Sikder On 6 January 2013 @ 12:00 pm | No Comments

In Caribbean, Citizen Media, Cuba, Digital Activism, Feature, Latin America, Photos, Politics, Protest, Spanish, Weblog

[All links lead to Spanish language websites unless otherwise noted]

The year 2012, marked by the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Cuba [1], Hurricane Sandy's trail of destruction [2], the controversial legal regulation of the public use of music [3], among other events, also made a mark on the island's blogosphere.

The celebration of Christmas in Cuba was also a reason for analysis in some blogs. In his article ‘La cultura de la Navidad’ (The Culture of Christmas), Roberto Méndez compiles [4] historical information about the evolution of this tradition on the island.

Hasta muy avanzados los años 60 del pasado siglo (…) aunque solo una porción de la población fuera auténticamente cristiana, era común celebrar esta época en familia (…) La orientación atea del gobierno a partir de 1961 y, sobre todo, la suspensión de los festejos navideños en torno a la zafra de 1970, convirtió a la Navidad en algo casi clandestino. (…) Con el avance de los años 80, ciertas prohibiciones oficiales fueron relajándose, aunque lo navideño quedaba sumido en el ambiguo terreno de los ‘festejos de fin de año'.

Until the late 60′s of the last century (…) even if only a portion of the population was authentically Christian, it was common to celebrate that time with family (…) The Atheist orientation of the government from 1961 and, above all, the suspension of Christmas festivities around the harvest of 1970, converted Christmas into something almost secret. (…) With the advance of the 80′s, certain official prohibitions were gradually relaxed, although Christmas arose in the ambiguous terrain of ‘end-of-year festivities.’

At this time, Rosana Berjaga, in her blog Yo Me Mi… pero contigo [5], recounts the meaning of the Christmas tree for her nephew of 7 years.

A Ernesto no le importa la apología a lo extranjero. Mi sobrino no puede entender qué es una tradición importada, qué es un consumo inconsciente, en su cabecita de 6 años no hay espacio para entender que la tradición de la navidad y la de Papá Noel y la de los Reyes Magos, nos fue impuesta por la colonización económica.

Mi sobrino hace apología de una navidad sin nieve porque es el momento del año en que todos juntos, como una familia, armamos el enorme arbolito de mi abuela.

Ernesto doesn't care about the defense of what is foreign. My nephew can't understand what an imported tradition is, what subconscious consumption is, in his little six year-old head there isn't space to understand that the tradition of Christmas and those of Papa Noel and the Three Wise Men were imposed on us by economic colonialisation.

My nephew calls for a Christmas without snow because it's the time of the year when we all, as a family, decorate the enormous Christmas tree of my grandmother.

The Cuban city of Santiago, the main city affected in the wake of Hurricane Sandy [6], likewise celebrated

Motivos de Navidad en las calles de La Habana, Cuba. (Foto: Cortesía de Jorge Luis Baños)

Christmas symbols in the streets of Havana, Cuba. (Photo: Courtesy of Jorge Luis Baños)

the arrival of the new year. In the blog Musilla Traviesa [7], the author picks up on [8] a celebration that dates back to the year 1900.

Es la fiesta de la Bandera, acto único en todo el país y de su género en el mundo, que se desarrolla ininterrumpidamente desde el 31 de diciembre de 1900. Oportunidad en la que el entonces Alcalde de Santiago de Cuba, Don Emilio Bacardí Moreau izó en el edificio gubernamental una Bandera Cubana justo a las 12:00 de la noche.

Esta fiesta tuvo su origen cuando el señor Ángel Moya conocido por los santiagueros como ‘Chichi', ‘concibió la idea de regalar a la ciudad la primera bandera cubana que debía ondear oficialmente en el edificio municipal, una vez proclamada la república libre y soberana.’

It's the Flag Festival, an act unique to the country and only in its kind in the world, which has been uninterruptedly celebrated since 31st December 1900. Time at which the then-mayor of Santiago of Cuba, Don Emilio Bacardí Moreau, hoisted a Cuban flag in the governmental building at exactly midnight.

This festival originated from when Sir Ángel Moya, known by the santigueros (habitants of Santiago) as ‘Chichi', ‘thought up the idea of giving the city the first Cuban flag to officially wave in the municipal building, when the free and sovereign republic was definitively proclaimed.’

The extension of Internet access was also a topic that set the end-of-year agenda in the Cuban blogosphere. According to an article published in the official daily, Granma [9], the fibre optic cable between Cuba and Venezuela should have gone into operation in July 2011. This investment, of 70 millon dollars, would have [10] “multiplied the transmission speed of information, images and the voice that Cuba possesses today by 3000 times.” At the end of 2012, for Luis Rondón Paz [11], author of Ciudadano Cero [12], “we are still bogged down by the Internet vs Intranet battle, where the Internet is what is outside of Cuba and the Intranet is what is inside.”

Where the blogosphere is concerned, according to Rogelio Díaz [13], “the year that finishes this Monday 31st December, according to the Western calendar, was not a very happy one for intelligence, debate or the free expression of the inevitably existing differences among the visions and aspirations of each Cuban.”

The closure of some blogs like La Joven Cuba [14] from positions related to the government aggravated the Díaz's questioning, who also points out:

¿Por qué a la juventud, llamada a desempeñar roles protagónicos en todo proceso revolucionario y enaltecida con el llamado guevariano al Hombre Nuevo, le decapitan todo intento de desbordar el rol asignado de obediencia? ¿Qué mensajes clarísimos emiten estos sucesos? Evidentemente, que el horno no está para galleticas; que toda voz fresca, espontánea, que se atreva a poner en juicio las políticas de la burocracia imperante, está en peligro de ser suprimida en el momento en que así se estime conveniente. No habrá tolerancia al debate abierto, al análisis sincero de ideas diversas, ni siquiera dentro del campo de las corrientes que respeten ideales socialistas desde distintos matices. La unidad monolítica y la obediencia a la clase burocrática imperante seguirá siendo el único estandarte aceptable.

Why do they decapitate young people's attempts to subvert the assigned role of obedience, when they are the ones being called to play leading roles in the entire revolutionary process and exalted with the so-called ‘Guevarian’ call to the New Man? What crystal-clear messages do these events offer? Evidently, that the oven is not for cookies, that the latest, spontaneous voice that dares to put the policies of the ruling bureaucracy into question is in danger of being suppressed at the moment when it is deemed convenient. There will not be tolerance of open debate, of sincere analysis of diverse ideas, not even within the field of commoners who respect socialist ideas from different aspects. Monolithic unity and obedience to the dominant bureaucratic class will continue to be the only acceptable standard.

However, for the final day of the year, Cuban blogger and journalist Luis Sexto recommended [15]: “I dare to suggest to you, then, that we don't pray on the last night of the year (…) for a rosary of reproaches to life. Neither for what has been lost, nor for what we will lose”.

*Cover photo by flippinyank [16], taken from Flickr [17] under Licence CC BY-2.0. [18]


Article printed from Global Voices: http://globalvoicesonline.org

URL to article: http://globalvoicesonline.org/2013/01/06/the-cuban-blogosphere-welcomes-the-new-year/

URLs in this post:

[1] the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Cuba: http://cronicasobscenas.wordpress.com/2012/03/28/la-sacrosanta-plaza-de-la-revolucion

[2] Hurricane Sandy's trail of destruction: http://cocodriloazul.blogcip.cu/2012/10/26/huracan-sandy-el-frankestorm-del-caribe/

[3] legal regulation of the public use of music: http://www.granma.cubaweb.cu/2012/11/30/cultura/artic02.html

[4] Roberto Méndez compiles: http://www.ipscuba.net/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=6207:la-cultura-de-la-navidad&Itemid=11

[5] Yo Me Mi… pero contigo: http://yomemiperocontigo.wordpress.com/

[6] Hurricane Sandy: http://musillatraviesa.blogcip.cu/tag/sandy/

[7] Musilla Traviesa: http://musillatraviesa.blogcip.cu/

[8] the author picks up on: http://musillatraviesa.blogcip.cu/2012/12/31/fiesta-de-la-bandera-tradicion-centenaria-en-santiago-de-cuba/

[9] an article published in the official daily, Granma: http://www.granma.cu/espanol/noticias/12octu-clable.html

[10] would have: http://www.cubadebate.cu/noticias/2010/11/03/cable-submarino-entre-cuba-y-venezuela-revolucionara-las-telecomunicaciones-en-la-region-afirma-ramiro-valdes/

[11] Luis Rondón Paz: http://lrpcuba.blogspot.com/2012/12/internet-y-la-metatranca.html

[12] Ciudadano Cero: http://lrpcuba.blogspot.com/

[13] according to Rogelio Díaz: http://observatoriocriticodesdecuba.wordpress.com/2012/12/31/un-mal-ano-y-la-persistencia-de-la-esperanza/

[14] La Joven Cuba: http://lajovencuba.wordpress.com/

[15] recommended: http://luisexto.blogia.com/2012/122901-el-ultimo-dia.php

[16] flippinyank: https://secure.flickr.com/photos/26326001@N08/

[17] Flickr: https://secure.flickr.com/photos/26326001@N08/3093235732/

[18] Licence CC BY-2.0.: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en

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