A Museum for Violence

21 Mar

Photo: Luis Felipe Rojas

They told me about it a few weeks ago and I couldn’t believe it.  In my neighbor city of Holguin, they are about to inaugurate the Museum of Clandestinity.  They are renovating the building and have invested plenty of money on fine woods and expensive accessories to improve their looks.

It is the same building in which, more than half a century ago, the commercial offices of Cuban Air once stood.  On November 23rd of 1957, one of the commandos from the 26th of July Movement fired his gun and perforated colonel Fermin Cowley Gallegos (chief of the Holguin Rural Guard Regiment) with bullets.  A year prior to that, many Cubans had been killed during the dark period known as Bloody Christmas.  The animosity ran so deep that more Cubans were killed even after the death of Cowley, who himself had carried out a wave terror throughout Holguin.

Now, 54 years later, in the very spot of those bloody events, they are going to exhibit the arms, some of the 26th of July bonds, documents, and various paraphernalia to commemorate an era of hate and violence among Cubans who did not see eye to eye.  These Cubans decided to solve the problems of a country the same way they would have solved a domestic brawl and they started a war.

In this “Museum of Clandestinity” they will display dry blood-stained clothes, pliers and nail clippers, and photographs of the street where the automobile of the colonel and his driver once stood before he was assassinated.

Yesterday, I walked by Liberty street, located in the corner of General Angel Guerra, and I could not believe it.  Of course, I don’t know the exact amount of money they are spending on doing this, but I do know that with this same money they could restore a theater, re-open a library, or install working computers which provide internet service.  And if this seems to be too much for them, they could even renovate a children’s park or invest on the Museum of Natural Sciences, which is about to collapse any moment now.  But I must realize that I am only dreaming.  For an autocracy, there is nothing more gratifying than to pay tribute to its own aura of “strong guerrilla fighter”,  and to its spirit of violence.  And they have to inject the new generations with this as well, for it is in that age group where they seek to create their “back-up”.

Photograph: “Automobile of Cowley parked outside the offices of Cuban Air, the very same spot where the assassination took place, on Liberty Street.”

March 18 2011

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