Desde Dentro de Cuba.

Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. -

December 4, 1998


HAVANA - When the official government newspaper, 'Granma,' published the long article on December 1 announcing that Christmas might be celebrated from now on, it indicated that the reason it had been barred before was because the socialist 1970 sugar cane harvest had precluded winter holidays. It said the 1970 banning did not involve any confrontation with the Roman Catholic church and that since then, most holidays had been shifted to summer months.

Regrettably for the government, a large part of the population has a better memory: Those are the people who lived though those convulsed days when to wear a crucifix caused an ideological reprobation. And Gisela de la Rosa, a Christian activist in Havana, remembers that Christmas was censured much earlier than the failed 1970 harvest.

She said, "Already by 1964 my family had to hide its celebration of Christmas. One had to fool the informers of the (neighborhood) defense committees. They readily blacklisted anyone with a little Christmas tree."

Recent defectors from the regime, some of whom dedicated half of their lives to the "revolutionary" cause, have shed light on some of those early abuses. And earlier dissidents have for decades denounced the maltreatments but were ignored by world public opinion.

One of the most notable proofs of treachery comes from the ex-Commandant Dariel Alarcon Ramirez, alias Benigno. In his book he has at last told the truth about methods used by the Office of State Security (OSS) to neutralize the Catholic church. His autobiography, "A soldier's memoirs," describes how he and a group of secret agents hid explosives under a church's altar so that when police searched the church during a mass, the priests could be accused of a conspiracy in front of their surprised faithful.

Whether or not it was an anti-religious sentiment that drove the government to suppress Christian holidays is less important today. But when the oppressors rewrite history lived by the oppressed, anger occurs. Pilar Alaes, an 82-year-old Spanish immigrant, believes that when the revolution took power it usurped the religious holidays and substituted its own.

For example, she said, "The 26th of July is the 'Day of National Rebellion' and the 1st of January is another anniversary of the revolution. Where did 'New Year's' and the 'Virgin of Charity's Day' go? They (the governors) chose to forget them."

Youths who are not close to the church are not interested in discussion or polemics. Their concept of Christmas is merely material. They only know that December is related to nougats, trees and things they will not have. Three generations of Cubans have never known the true spirit of the Western Christmas tradition. Others think that December is the best month of the year: During Christmas their family in Miami sends them money.

By Ariel Tapia, Cuba Free Press

P.O. Box 652035
Miami, FL 33265-2035
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