May 1, 2018

Centro Habana, Cuba. February, 2012

The power of language. Friends have asked me if Cuba were plastered with propaganda slogans, posters and such. Somewhat. Driving along the highway, entering a new town or province, we would customarily come across a billboard testifying to the area’s allegiance to Fidel, to the revolutionary government. (The mural pictured above is at a bus stop fronting the Malecón, steps from the city’s largest hospital.) There are memorial signs for Che that appear regularly. But there are also tributes (monuments, statues, billboards) to José Martí, the national hero and educator who fought for Cuban independence (from Spain) and the rights of all people way back in the late 1800s. And even when it came to spoken language, I was struck by certain phrases that people would use almost by rote. Our tour guide, a young Cuban woman in her twenties, would never refer to the revolution but always to “the triumph of the revolution.” Happy May Day.

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