Twenty years ago Cuba’s Communist Party renounced atheism. I remember those discussions in which some militants couldn’t manage to understand how it was possible that having a “scientific world view” could cease to be a prerequisite for membership in the organization. “If we ignore dialectic materialism,” they said, “we are opening the way to dispense with historic materialism and, with that, forget the struggle of the classes and the rest of the communist principles.” Taking a coffee break during a pause in that fourth Congress, a seasoned Party militant with captain’s stripes on his military uniform explained to a young colleague, “We’ve lost, don’t you see?”
The expectation was that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of men and women who had been refused entry into the only permitted party in the country would have the opportunity, the honor, of acquiring the red card that signified membership, but in fact the opposite occurred. Thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of militant communists, and particularly those who aspired to be, threw off the mask of atheism and began to visit the temples, to baptize their children, or to place their Elegua — the Santeria deity — by the door of their house. All religions gained a new space and the churches ceased to be half-empty vaults where little groups of old women prayed the rosary.
Twenty years later the Cuban leaders have not lost one iota of power, they themselves attend the openings of new seminaries, and they accept the blessings of all pastors. The hierarchy of some Christian denominations and a good number of consecrated babalaos ask their faithful to be obedient and to perform their prayers and incantations for the health of the leaders and the success of their plans.
I always had a scientific world view, although I was never a member of the Communist Party, but I can’t stop wondering if there isn’t someone up there watching what’s happening.
26 September 2011