14 Oct 1994, Fidel Castro watches Havana from El Morro. Photo: Gérard Rancinan/Sygma/Corbis
There are moments in life that mark us forever. They influence us. And there are people with equal power, over one and over thousands. Over millions. Fidel Castro is such a man. It is, and I don't say was, because we don't see Fidel in the past, but in the present. Vital as the young man who tore down the walls imposed by imperial interference on Cuba. A dreamer like the man who stood one day at the Country Club in Havana and envisioned art schools for the son of the peasant, the worker, the housewife. Human, like the one who warned of the need for Cuban women to gain autonomy and stop being an "ornament" in the home or the servant of some lord, without the right to an opinion on politics or social issues. Universal, denouncing at the United Nations the inequalities of our peoples and raising our voices for Human Rights, the Rights of Humanity.
A man who, without wanting to be a prophet, prophesied: "I did not come here as a prophet of the revolution; I have not come to ask or wish that the world should be violently convulsed. We have come to speak of peace and collaboration among peoples, and we have come to warn that if we do not resolve the current injustices and inequalities peacefully and wisely, the future will be apocalyptic."
It was October 1979 when he spoke these words before the <>th session of the General Assembly of the United Nations, held in New York. "The noise of guns, of threatening language, of arrogance on the international scene must stop," he warned.
Forty-four years later, we are witnessing a terrible chapter in human history: Israel's genocide against Palestine, which has claimed the lives of more than thirteen thousand civilians in Gaza in less than two months. Arrogance has a name and nationality, and orders brutal attacks against civilian populations, health personnel and facilities, humanitarian organizations, and press workers. Threatening language swarms under the flags of Israel and the United States, which pour out their hate speech under the cover of the Western narrative, which places mentor and disciple as weak lambs in the face of a terrible enemy: Palestine. In this way, they justify their campaign of extermination, in the eyes of an indignant humanity.
Just a few days ago, my son asked me why there was so much evil. At almost nine years old, he senses how turbulent the world is. It's inevitable that I won't see, that I won't hear, that I won't read. He knows that we don't live in the age of cavemen, but he doesn't understand that some of his peers in the 21st century behave so primitively. Respect for life is a universal right. He has read Martí and knows it. The Golden Age was for a long time his faithful companion; now it is volume I of the Martian Notebooks. They have also done a good job at school, and although in a classroom the children are not exempt from setbacks and disagreements – as in society – their teachers talk to them about respect, values, the importance of companionship and solidarity.
We also owe access to education to Fidel. To the Moncada Program that was fully fulfilled when the Revolution eradicated the problem of land, industrialization, housing, unemployment, education and the health of the people.
There are moments in life that mark us forever. I remember it like it was today. He was only fourteen years old. It was 2002. On the block, the Federation of Cuban Women was preparing to go to the Plaza de la Revolución Calixto García: Fidel would speak!
The mothers, the grandmothers, organized themselves to leave early. I barely slept that night. Four hundred thousand people, from Holguin and neighboring provinces, woke up in the streets and in the Plaza. Flag in hand, we were there to condemn the U.S. blockade against Cuba and the latest threats by W. Bush, who was then president of the empire.
It was the time of the Open Grandstands. Bush had chosen May 20 to lash out at Cuba and insult Martí. That was unforgivable. Fidel gave an energetic speech in the Plaza, before a visibly moved people.
"The criminal blockade that he promises to harden us multiplies the honor and glory of our people, against whom his genocidal plans will crash. I assure you," he said, addressing Bush.
As he progressed in his discourse, the forces of nature combined with tremendous power and fell in the form of a downpour. Fidel was unfazed. He remained steadfast, with a force greater than that of the natural event.
I remember it as a giant. He never considered the option of an umbrella to protect himself from the rain and immediately rejected his team's intervention. Fidel was one of us, in the rain. His words and his attitude corroborated the firmness of the man from Granma, from the Sierra, from Girón. A mythical Fidel for his exploits, but real. A man of flesh and blood who was there, in front of us, reaffirming: "In the face of dangers and threats, long live the Socialist Revolution today more than ever!"
At the time, I did not have the political conviction to understand the dimension of what had happened; But that day was engraved in the memory of the heart, the affective memory, the memory that moves the fibers of sensitivity for those who suffer and drives you to want to change things. Social justice is not a utopia, it is possible to achieve it, even if sometimes you feel that it escapes; But one action, no matter how small it may seem, makes all the difference.
And the fact is that Fidel is all of us. Because Fidel is part of each one of us. He did not die on November 25, 2016, although today marks seven years since his physical departure. Fidel is not going to be killed by death, because even after he is dead, he continues to give us moments that mark us.