Thursday, July 30, 2009


Alfredo Triff

Is "Castrismo" a cultural Cuban trait?*
Answer: Do you have to be Chinese to be a Maoist?

What follows is not a discourse on social Darwinism,1 but after five decades of Castro's undisputed reign, perhaps it's time to admit that Cubans may not be above patrocliny:2 Something about Castrismo seems to realize glossed over aspects of Cuban culture.

An often-neglected aspect of Castrismo? Its heavy-handed HEROISM: All pretense (true heroes belong in Greek tragedies), penultimate curse coming down on Cubans like a beam of light through the solar plexus. Behind the tough posturing lies a dormant inferiority complex. Why? Jingoism is driven by an insatiable search for validation (lies presented as legitimate needs: "In politics, be as unpolitical as possible"). One doesn't know how bad it is until one gets reminded. Can Cubans escape this Third-World-symptom and march on to First-World socio-economic development?3 As the story goes, since their republican incorporation, Cubans lived comfortably in the dark corners of self-induced socio-political anomie. The Platonic/Revolutionary imperative of "facing the sun" 4 left them blinded. Cubans had no choice but to revise and accommodate their hopes to Castrismo's second coming.5 And the only good thing about this "second coming" is that it forced Cubans to pay attention to Castrismo's first incarnation.

Learn by rote!

For Cubans, any experience-memory of the present becomes automatically erased. They are happy to witness the present as if it was the first time! It must be hard not to have a (redeeming) past to fall back on. Never mind, Castrismo's "exile version"6 is no less utopic: The past gets altered, its memories appropriated (as Wall Street hedge-fund speculators do) from possible to non-existent futures. Teleologically speaking: Cubans exiles enjoyed uninterrupted progress -with minor misalignments- right until January, 1959.

Thus, the Nineteenth-Century slave refrain:

Siá, desásete cará, desásete historia, dale pa'trá ("History, free yourself, go back!").

Why is this relevant now? Castro's impending physical disappearance has very little to do with Castrismo. Watch out, all ghosts come back!7

*The question is seldom asked for fear of the truth. 1I don't take "Castrismo" as just an ideology -which it is- but as a broader set of cultural symbols and practices, transmitted through cultural habits. Given the proper environment, they flourish or become latent (or repressed). 2I'm referring to nom du père, symbolic Lacanian order, Castrismo as imago. 3History's true delivery, according to Castrismo's teleology. No doubt, this dependency theory is a product of Modern Neoclassical Economics. Isn't the very idea of "development," after Global Warming, in need of revision? Castrismo had it that Socialism would deliver humanity from the ills of underdevelopment (fifty years later, Castro's promise hasn't delivered). 4Were it not Platonic through-and-through, "Morir de cara al sol" ("To die facing the sun") would not pull such jingoistic zeal. Incidentally, José Martí is considered by nationalist Cubans as "the thirteenth apostle." 5Barely manifesting itself during pre-Modern Spanish-American colonialism, Castrismo grows to healthy maturity during the 1960's, just at the time of Cuban Revolution. Stubbornly idiosyncratic, during the 1980's it didn't sit well with Soviet-style bureaucracy and perestroika. Presently, Castrismo (as ideology) enjoys a comeback from oblivion after the apogee of Neo-conservatism. 6There is this Cuban cultural terribilità, like a two-heads-in-one-trunk syndrome (think of Lot's wife vs. Freud's Rat Man). 7Derrida's quote, referring to Marx, in Specters of Marx, Routledge, 1994).


jose said...

"I seem to know what you mean.I have to admit Castro has given Cuba A sort of spirit by which all men who wan't to come in power or take power of cuba will have that same Catrismo as you call it.Due to which it seems his legacy will live on for ever. to break this Catrismo will not be eazy, and I don't see at no time soon no real revolution, who knows when these people will break free there doesn' t seem to be much hope for the people.

Anonymous said...

Triff: Too funny. I take notes.


Matthew said...

Ok. Triff: I don't see how one can inherit a cultural trait. I'm part black and Dominican. What cultural characteristics do I carry?

Also, which Cubans are you talking about? The Cubans in the island? I have Cuban friends that would disagree with your point of view.


miamibourbaki said...

Jose: In time, Castro's ghost will come back. Castrismo, on the other hand, is a staple of our identity.

miamibourbaki said...

Matthew: Cultural traits are pretty common. Some are passed on as memes. Think of protocol, beliefs, moral norms, etc, which are particular to each culture.

I'm, talking -but not exclusively- about Cubans. You could be a Castrista. I certainly (even in spite of myself) exhibit some Castrismo-like traits. BTW, disagreeing is good.


Anonymous said...



JR said...

Definitively, Castrismo is a psicopathologic classification

R.L.R. said...

A beautiful piece of writing to address a very awful issue, Alfredo.

It seams to me that castrismo is a trend which (beyond ideological positions, as it equally includes castrismo and anticastrismo) aims for power and control in a ruthless way, through intimidation, blackmailing or whatever means they have at hand, finding easy prey on people not yet fully trained in thinking by themselves.
However, I still hope that "the ghost" is going to leave the scene forever with Fidel -perhaps even his brother might be able to transcend such a national curse.

Lets say the guy was the embodiment of our worst psychological features but at the same time was a sort of karmic lesson on what not to do. Hopefully the lesson was learned.

miamibourbaki said...

Thanks, JR. Is there a reliable treatment?

RLR: Very good point. Let's hope the ghost comes back as a Buddhist. It may actually have a positive impact.

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