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FIDEL CASTRO AT LILLISLEAF FARM, 2017​ by Salimah Valiani

Salimah Valiani | Sep 9th, 2021 | Uncategorized | No Comments

Poem

I.

THE FIRST TIME I SPENT AN EXTENDED PERIOD WITH FIDEL
HE ASKED ME HOW MANY MATH TEACHERS ARE ALLOCATED TO LIMPOPO?

AND

HOW MANY LITRES OF PETROL ARE CONSUMED IN SOUTH AFRICA EACH YEAR?

WHEN WE MARCHED IN A DEMONSTRATION TOGETHER
HE DISPUTED THE ESTIMATED TURNOUT. HE HAD WORKED OUT
THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE IN OUR VICINITY AND THE AREA WE HAD WALKED AND…

*

I WAS BORN IN 1959. IN THE FIRST TEN YEARS OF OUR REVOLUTION
THERE WERE DAILY CHALLENGES. WE TRIED OUR BEST.
BUT WHAT KEPT US GOING WAS THE SPEECH BY FIDEL
EVERY WEEK, ASSESSING THE SITUATION AND GIVING US IDEAS ON HOW TO ENGAGE.

GABRIEL GARCIA MARQUEZ HAD A HABIT OF SHOWING FIDEL DRAFTS
OF HIS NOVELS. ONE WAS CHRONICLE OF A DEATH FORETOLD. FIDEL
READ IT AND WHEN MARQUEZ ASKED HIS IMPRESSIONS HE SAID
IT’S GOOD, THE.… BUT THERE IS ONE MISTAKE. THE GUY WITH THE MACHINE
GUN WHO IS SHOOTING…IT’S IMPOSSIBLE. EITHER CHANGE THE ANGLE
OR THE DISTANCE BETWEEN HIM AND THE…OR….

II.

WE WERE WORKING IN SANTIAGO DE CUBA. THERE WAS AN OLD WOMAN
WHO HAD BEEN A SLAVE. FIDEL SAID IT WAS CRUCIAL THAT SHE BE
GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY TO READ AND WRITE. SO THAT SHE COULD TELL
ABOUT HER EXPERIENCE AND IT COULD BECOME A KNOWN PART OF OUR
HISTORY. SO WE COULD ALL LEARN FROM IT.

*

HE WAS A MAN WITH THE POWER TO MOBILISE AN ENTIRE NATION.
IN A YEAR AND THREE MONTHS, HE CONVINCED THE STUDENTS TO ABANDON THEIR
STUDIES, THEIR COMFORTS OF THE CITY, ALL THAT THEY KNEW
TO GO TO THE COUNTRYSIDE AND TEACH LITERACY. THESE WERE CHILDREN
OF THE MIDDLE CLASSES. HE CONVENED THEM TO CONTRIBUTE. THIS
IS WHAT WE MUST PRESERVE IN CUBA. THE MEANS BY WHICH CUBANS
TODAY CAN CONTRIBUTE TO THE WORLD.

*

I AM ONE OF SEVERAL MEMBERS OF THE NATIONAL UNION OF MINEWORKERS WHO
WENT TO CUBA TO STUDY ENGINEERING IN THE 1990S. I RETURNED TO SOUTH AFRICA
AND HAVE WORKED IN MANY POSITIONS
AS A MINING ENGINEER SINCE

THAT, IS RADICAL ECONOMIC TRANSFORMATION.

III.

IT WAS 1983, JUST THREE WEEKS BEFORE THE USA ASSASSINATED
PRIME MINISTER MAURICE BISHOP AND WE WERE IN GRENADA FOR THE
ALL AFRICAN STUDENTS CONVENTION. WE SAW THE IMPACT OF
FIDEL, AND CUBA, ON THE GRENADIANS, AND ON MAURICE BISHOP
HIMSELF. WE USED TO SAY BEHIND EVERY TREE IS A CUBAN.

*

CUBA, THE SMALL ISLAND NATION, HAD THE COURAGE TO STAND UP TO
IMPERIALISM AND CAPITALISM. TO MAKE THE CHOICE OF SOCIALISM
OVER BARBARISM, AS ROSA LUXEMBURG PUT IT, SO LONG AGO.

ILLITERACY WAS WIPED OUT IN CUBA IN NINE MONTHS. THIS WAS DONE LARGELY
BY CANDLELIGHT. WE SAID WE WOULD DO IT IN SOUTH AFRICA IN FIVE YEARS.
TODAY WE ARE STILL SITTING WITH THIS CHALLENGE.

*

I WISH WE COULD HAVE A SCHOOL OF SELFLESSNESS HERE IN SOUTH AFRICA.
I WILL NEVER FORGET WHAT I LEARNED FROM BEING PART OF THE
MOVEMENT FOR THE ALBA, STARTED BY THE LATE COMRADE CHAVEZ.
WE GATHERED MANY TIMES IN LA HAVANA TO BUILD THIS VISION OF
COOPERATION BASED ON INDIGENOUS PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICES.
CUBA PUT A LOT INTO THIS MOVEMENT.

IV.

ON THE SCHOOL OF SELFLESSNESS: IT WAS IN THE CAMPS, IN OUR GUERRILLA STRUGGLE.
BUT WE DON’T WANT TO SAY IT IS POSSIBLE IN SOUTH AFRICA ONLY IN TIMES OF WAR.

―INSPIRED BY THE SPIRIT, IF NOT PRECISE FORMS, OF INTERVENTIONS MADE AT THE CENTENARY COMMEMORATION OF FIDEL CASTRO RUZ, 4 NOVEMBER, 2017.  

Poet Bio

Salimah Valiani is a poet, activist and researcher. Her latest poetry collection, 29 leads to love, will be launched very soon.

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