Christmas in Cuba faded under Political Pressure

Fidel Castro passed away on November 25th, 2016.  He was reviled by many Cuban expatriates who lived in the United States.  He was mourned by those Cubans still living on the island.  Honest expressions of sympathy were hard to come by for those of us living outside the country as the state controls the press in this communist country.  President Obama offered measured kindness from the U.S. perspective.  President elect Trump said "Castro is Dead".  So much for international diplomacy.

Many of us who celebrate Christmas are in the middle stages of preparing for the birth of Jesus Christ.  I envy families who have decorations up by Thanksgiving.  Shawn and I were cleaning and wiping down walls yesterday.  My goal is to clean windows and hang lights today.  We will get a live tree this year.  I am especially thankful for my job and my health.  The last few years have been tough but I never lost faith that I could be productive and provide for my Family.  We have had a Christmas Eve get together for a number of years now.  The tradition continues.

Fidel Castro became the Prime Minister of Cuba in 1959.  Cuba became an atheist state in 1962.  Christmas was officially removed from the calendar in 1969.  School and offices open in Cuba on Christmas like it is another day.  Many Cubans who were born in the 1980's have no recollection of Christmas traditions on the island.  Mr. Castro placed on the blame on removing the Holiday on the production of sugar cane.  He suppressed a tradition that is strong in many Hispanic countries.  A time for celebrating the Misa de Gallo and the arrival of the Tres Reyes was pushed to the wayside.

Christmas in Cuba is also know as the Noche Buena.  It was directly influenced by the Spanish Catholic domination of the island.  The women in Cuban families would prepare for weeks for a big family celebration that would include roasting a whole pig.  There would be turrones and bunuelos as part of the meal.  Rice and beans, plaintains and mpjitos would fuel a great sense of togetherness at the end of the year for families.  Many of the people of African descent celebrate with Yoruba or Santeria traditions.  Protestants also exist on the island.  I hope that Fidel's suppression of Christmas did not involve physical force and intimidation.

Image result for christmas in cuba 2016

I wonder if Raul Castro will allow Noche Buena to assume a rightful place in Cuba again.  The U.S. had made overtures to thaw relations with Cuba after years of strained relations.  We imposed a trade embargo on Cuba in 1958 as a result of the atrocities committed by the government of Fulgencio Batista.  It was the domination of Batista that spawned the leadership of Fidel Castro.  President Obama visited Cuba in March of 2016.  He has recently lifted restrictions against Cuban rum and cigars.  Beyonce and Jay Z visited in 2013 and were met with a firestorm of criticism by those who oppose thawing relations of any kind.

Our current President elect vows to overturn almost all of President Obama's overtures to this island.  I pray for the souls of those lost during the Cuban flotillas.  Thousands of Cubans were allowed to leave the island in 1980.  Fidel had to have a plan for allowing so many of his citizens to leave.  Many went to Peru. Many came to Arkansas.  Hundreds died making the ninety mile journey to try to reach the shores of Florida.  As the epitaphs to Fidel's life are writtten, I focus only on the impact that he had on Christmas or Noche Buena in the country.  When Pope Juan Pablo II visited, he did allow those who believe to celebrate.  May Fidel find eternal rest.  May suppressed traditions be allowed to flourish as relations thaw between the U.S. and Cuba.

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