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Photo Essay : The Fading of Revolutionary Fervor

August 02, 1994|David Stork | Stork, a Dutch photographer, recently spent two months in Cuba

What are the three big successes of the Revolution? "Hospitals, education and athletics." And the three failures? "Breakfast, lunch and dinner," quipped the young woman waiting for her daily ration of one bread roll in central Havana.

Last Tuesday, Fidel Castro celebrated yet another anniversary of his 1953 attack on the Moncada Barracks, the first step toward revolutionary victory in 1959. Once again the merits of the Revolution were put forth to the Cuban people, but tired of hearing the now old glories, they make cynical jokes.

While there is a small sector of the population that remains loyal to Castro and the Revolution, most people are simply waiting for change, any change. Those loyal to the cause faithfully attend neighborhood meetings of the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution and unanimously vote to "unconditionally support any and all measures employed by the government." Typically fewer than 15% of a block's residents attend these meetings. The majority of the population of Cuba continues to wait.

They wait for food, buses, water, electricity, government understanding and compromise, but most important, for the passing of Fidel Castro. "No evil can last 100 years," said a taxi driver. Castro, however, seems to be healthy and stubborn.

Castro's die-hard attitude of toeing a Communist line seems confused at best. His policies of developing tourist centers such as Varadero are done at the expense of rebuilding long-crumbling Havana. When buildings fall, they are left where they collapse. Eventually the rubble is cleared away but hardly ever is a new structure raised. Often these open spaces have a couple of benches erected and are declared parks. Public recreation facilities are left to the mercy of the sun and sea. Meanwhile, large hotels with luxurious swimming pools and restaurants cater to foreign tourists.

What keeps Castro in power is in part a huge black-market system of goods stolen from the state, as well as Cubans' uncanny mentality of comedic patience about their own condition. But the situation continues to deteriorate.

Those without access to dollars from either family members in the United States or contact with the tourist industry are quickly becoming the most indigent segment of society.

So Castro leads his country into another year of a Revolution that exists in name and history only. The Cubans continue to play dominoes and to gossip, the primary topic being how difficult their lives have become.

And as one old man said, "I am no longer a Fidelist, I am now a finalist." He too continues to wait.

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