Published Humanitas, Volume IX, No. 1, 1996
Political pilgrims have been a special part of the Cuban landscape ever since Fidel Castro came to power in January 1959. It started with Herbert L. Matthews’s dispatches from the Sierra Maestra, and came to fruition with his March 8, 1959, interview published in The New York Times Magazine, in which Matthews declared that “no one ever calls him anything else [but Fidel] in Cuba” since he “obviously arouses all the maternal instincts in women”—a subject on which Mr. Matthews presumed to have been well versed. In thirty-seven years since then, the iconography has hardened into dogmatism, while the idolatry has gone from bad to worse.
How can it be that professional people of ostensibly sound mind and firm moral principles are able to tender their support for the longest-running dictatorship in the world? I have in mind those political pilgrims who still manage to sing paeans of praise for Fidel Castro and his Cuban regime after thirty-seven years of demonstrated tyranny, while bemoaning militarism and the loss of civil liberties in other nations of the region. That individuals are able to do so, not only in the face of overwhelming empirical evidence of a singularly failed government but also a century of turmoil and tyranny identified with communism throughout the world, is, in my view, less a failure of intelligence, perception, or knowledge-gathering than of fantasy—psychological and sociological illusions that persist despite dramatic evidence to the contrary.