I received a story yesterday on Fidel Castro from my good friend, Mike in Singapore that was written by a Cuban friend of his who now works at the Houston Chronicle newspaper.
The story is an intimate firsthand look at the dictator. The author first shares cake with him as a little girl then sees him again much later while studying journalism at university.
The story is bittersweet: offsetting the innocent naiveté of the child with the coming of age, loss of innocence encounter with El Comandante as a student. She maps her personal story to that of Cuba and presents a rather compelling case for the misunderstood duality of Castro’s Cuba.
The photo accompanying the article is breathtakingly charming –
So charming that of course I had to send the story on this morning to my daughter and a few of my friends. My only endorsing forwarding remark was to say ‘the article does a rather remarkable job of showing both sides of the man, the myth, and the dictator we knew as Fidel Castro.’ And to then finish by saying ‘The story is intimately written and explains a lot I didn’t know about Cuba and its people.’
As you can see I passed the article on with the minimum of editorializing so the first three return comments back were unsurprisingly broad in spectrum.
One person simply said, ‘Very interesting.’
Another – from my very smart buddy, Bob – said, ‘Good article. As usual, the truth lies in the murky grayness of the seams between hyperbolic polemics and love songs.’ (Great, right?)
But it was the other comment that made me pause and ponder over the extreme intellectual obtuseness that periodically dumps itself into my path. I won’t copy the specifics here least some of that proverbial turgid dogshit on my shoe smears the fine mauve colored rug that carpets your world.
The simple fact of the matter is, the Fidel and little girl story was marvelously and wonderfully written and I didn’t need a half-assed, simpleminded lecture on the Castro Cuban countryside as filtered through an apparently hungover mind (I am giving him the benefit of the doubt at this point) whose only possible source of information was fifty years of highly biased reporting from the American main stream media.
Sigh. An unbiased share shouldn’t (ever) launch a bully pulpit especially when the subject is also presented objectively.
That said, yesterday was a truly great day.
Me and my friend, Max and I left here at 8 a.m. and took a taxi up to Guadalajara where we had a nice meal after attending the annual book fair at the giant local expo center.
The size of the event was staggering. Tens of thousands of people; the entire expo was packed full of shoppers, books, publishers and authors from all over Latin America (even Cuba). It’s the largest book event of its kind in all of Mexico; maybe in all of the Americas. I’ve never seen anything like it.
I bought just a few things like a handful of individual Mexican state travel guides and a large magazine featuring all 111 Pueblos Magicos (towns of cultural importance) that dot the Mexican countryside.
On the drive up around the lake (L. Chapala), we stopped in a couple of small pueblos that were quite beautiful. Cobblestone streets, colorful adobe houses, and tons of charm from yesteryear.
Almost every day I am here – and talk to people like Max – I realize how little I know or have seen of Mexico. I have traveled quite a bit here over the years but there is still so much more to see and experience.
Mexico is vast country of mountains, volcanoes, lakes, rivers, beaches, cities and pueblas. There is diverse architecture spanning two millennia. The food is so much more than just beans and tortillas. Each region of Mexico has their own.
If (or when) the lawyers ever get my resident visa business settled, then I will happily look forward to spending the next few years exploring this amazing country.
BTW – Christmas started three days ago on Dec. 1st with 5 a.m. fireworks. And with a freaking parade of sorts; I only heard bits of live, mobile mariachi music and children chanting holy something-or-ruthers (I am not Catholic) as I had the pillow over my head muffling the noise (my personal screams of suffering were all internal). It’s all insane. Positively insane.
The noise goes positively over the top on Dec. 12 when The Virgin of Guadalupe is celebrated. There are live mariachi bands back to back firing up highly amplicated music that starts at dark-thirty and goes all night long. Yup, all night long. And in case you’ve forgotten, the plaza is one block from my house.
The other nights of insanity are: Christmas Eve, NY Eve, and July 25th. Those are the nights it makes great sense to drink until you pass out to where you will at least get some semblance of sleep.
So don’t think that I am some kind of pantywaist so firmly sucked into the local culture that I am oblivious to exclusion of all the rest like the loud party noises that keep everyone on edge, awake, and crazy all night long. There’s a lot to love and then there’s everything else.
PS – And this is my 5th Christmas in Mexico…