November 25, 10:29pm, the longest night. It’s a dark time for Cuba and the world. Fidel has died. They tried to kill him over 600 times, without success, because men like Fidel can’t be killed. They die when their time comes, trying to make a quiet exit.
There’s silence even amid the deafening noise of the streets. An unparalleled sadness has suddenly befallen Cuba. “The last revolutionary has died,” reads the headline of some large media outlet, which has been receiving hits every second since the fated hour.
Yes, a man has died, but not the Revolution. If there was one thing Fidel was sure of, it was that he would begin to weave the Revolution with his own two hands, and teach many others to do the same. There was no other alternative for the man who “despite all the sorrows, despite external aggression and internal despotism,” struggled until the very last breath of his 90 years because “this suffering, but obstinately joyful island,” makes “Latin American society more just.”
To alleviate the bitterness of his death Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano, reminds us, “His enemies fail to mention that this great feat was the result of the sacrifice of his people, and also the work of the stubborn will and antiquated sense of honor of a certain gentleman who always supported the underdog, like that famous colleague of his, from the fields of Castilla.”
You’re awake, the news took you by surprise and now you can’t sleep. You’re not the only one. Even before the Cuban government announce the official nine-day period of remembrance, you are already mourning his loss in a state of mute impotence and uncertainty. You and millions of other Cubans, and people both in and beyond the island who love Cuba, which Fidel placed on the global geopolitical map. He put and kept us there, and now leaves us the mission to remain there, by the force of his example.
I log on to social media sites. News of “his death” is trending, spreading, reactions coming from inside and outside of the country.
I speak to Haiti, with the Cuban doctors who have, and are currently serving there. With members of that brigade of hope he created; the Henry Reeve medical contingent, the work of his liberating thought, as well as those of the island’s permanent medical unit based in the southern community of Anse-d’Hainault, severely affected by Hurricane Matthew, who ratified before “Cuba and the world” their “firm and non-negotiable commitment to the poor of the world and humanity.”
This is the best way to “bring his ideals to life, as the army of white coats. Today, all revolutionaries fortunate enough to have experienced the example and leadership, that was, and always will be, the undefeated Comandante Fidel Castro Ruz, a brave, worthy and patriotic man, mourn the physical passing of a volcano of ideas, an eternal fortress of dignity, unwavering in the face of any battle,” noted Cuban medical professionals in a statement issued in the early hours of November 26 from the sister nation about which Fidel so often spoke, calling on humanity to unite efforts to support the country.
In one of his reflections written six years ago following the 7.3 magnitude earthquake which struck Haiti, Fidel noted, ”Many people have been deeply moved by the tragedy, especially regular, unassuming people. But perhaps few will stop to think about why Haiti is a poor country. I can’t help but express the view that now is the time to look for real, genuine solutions for this sister nation,” adding, “We feel a healthy sense of pride for the cooperative efforts which Cuban doctors and young Haitian medical students trained in Cuba are offering to their Haitian brothers at this tragic time.”
They are still there, Comandante, solving problems. “Hasta la Victoria Siempre.” Helping, saving lives, in this vital “show of humanitarian spirit” you asked for.
The word pain is repeated in conversations. It seems like a cursed, omnipresent expression, and it is. “But we will find a way to pick ourselves up again, just like he showed us. And we will be faithful defenders of his ideas, and continue struggling for our freedom and our socialism,” says 44 year old Hygiene and Epidemiology graduate Fabián Pérez Hernández from Pinar de Rio, who speaking from Haiti knows that thinking now of Cuba is the best way to think of Fidel.
Pain. “A test of our resilience. A sad moment all the more as we are far from our families,” states Nevis González Calderín, a young doctor from Pinar del Rio. “Doubly painful,” says Dr. Alexis Díaz Ortega, head of Cuba’s Henry Reeve medical brigade, “As we are far from our homeland and immersed in a poor country where people suffer from hunger, and that he struggled so greatly for. We can proudly say: Thank you, Fidel, thank you, Cuban Revolution! For not leaving children with hunger and malnutrition and without hospitals.
“Because everything in Haiti reminds of us Fidel. Because thanks to him children in Cuba don’t go barefoot or hungry. We were here during Hurricane Matthew and many of us thought: if this were Cuba, Fidel and Raúl would be here with us. Thanks to their example of altruism and internationalism we are helping these people in need,” writes Dr. Dariana Dayamí Velázquez, a member of Cuba’s permanent medical brigade in Haiti.
Jorge Armando Delgado González, a 59 year old epidemiologist from Matanzas, notes that the death of the Comandante is a “hard blow, but even more so for the generation that was born in the 50s. It was he that guided and taught us to walk from the very beginning of the Revolutionary process. We were able to become the professionals we are today thanks to him. We owe it all to him.”
Words fail David Goles Machado, a hygiene and epidemiology graduate from Villa Clara. “We have lost a brother, a father, the greatest!”
I close the chat box, I re-open it. I see photos of our doctors healing bodies and souls in the poorest country in the Americas. I continue looking and among images of the giant, appear some in which he is photographed with Chávez, and others of the lands that he loved. Next I read that in Venezuela the posthumous tribute to Fidel will be held at the Cuartel de la Montaña. The perfect place, where Chavez’ remains rest.
Paraphrasing the song “El regreso de un amigo” (A friend’s return) dedicated to late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez by Cuban trova singer Raúl Torres’, there’s another unsaid farewell to our friend Fidel. Just like the song, words begin to freeze during a long night and lingering morning. But “all his friends / have their souls embroidered / there’s no last farewell / or final ashes.
Let’s not fool ourselves. Fidel isn’t gone, he simply stroked his bearded and set off, just like he did 60 years ago from Tuxpan, for a moment into immortality, from where he will return, to tell us everything.