Saturday, July 12, 2008

Elegy for a Dictatorship?

This month’s Condé Nast Traveler boasts an article about Cuba entitled “Remains of the Revolution.” And it certainly lives up to the allusion of the title, as author John Graham provides not only a travelogue of sorts, but also a requiem for an era and a regime. His is not a look-at-the-reforms type of piece: these he treats with skepticism. No, rather the impression, unstated, is one of inevitability, like the fate of those multi-storied Havana buildings, decayed and crumbling under the weight of time.

Starting at the Floridita where he finds himself drinking with the likes of Padura, he never loses sight of those Cuban realities most mojito swilling tourists seem to miss. For instance, after telling us he loves Cuba, he feels the need to qualify the statement-

But lest you regard me as a sentimental fool, let me couch my amour in a little pragmatism. Unlike Jack Nicholson, who arrived here in 1998 and proclaimed Fidel "a genius," I see a place that possesses a magnificent legacy architecturally, culturally, and spiritually but that has been suppressed and held back by fifty years of Socialist torpor. Far from being a genius, Fidel was a political anachronism for decades before he resigned. Holding on to l'illusion lyrique (the early, idealistic phase of the revolution) far beyond its sell-by date, he has dragged his talented, free-spirited people down with him.

The sound you hear is yet another chink in the Great Wall of Denial that has shielded the Castroite regime. Are there things he writes that I don’t like? Sure, but I am impressed by just how much he gets right. Read it here.

Cross-posted at Babalublog

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