People greet the caravan carrying the ashes of Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro upon its arrival in Santiago de Cuba, southeastern Cuba, on Dec. 3, 2016. As the caravan carrying the ashes of Fidel Castro reached its final destination in Santiago De Cuba, hundreds of thousands of Cubans had come together over the last four days to bid farewell to the revolution leader. Fidel Castro passed away on Nov. 25 at the age of 90. (Xinhua/David de la Paz)
by Xinhua writer Ma Guihua
HAVANA, Dec. 3 (Xinhua) -- It is impossible to witness Cuba on Saturday without hearing the resounding chorus: "Yo soy Fidel!" (I Am Fidel!) by people who mourned the Caribbean island country's revolutionary leader, Fidel Castro.
Ever since the news of Fidel's passing on the night of Nov. 25 came, Cuba has been plunged in disbelief and sadness, and also an unusual calm and determination in the people who turned out in tens of thousands, to pay homage to their beloved leader and a man they dearly and proudly called "Fidel."
THE REVOLUTIONARY LEADER
In a way, the Cubans have been prepared for this day as Fidel himself bid farewell in his last official appearance at the 7th Congress of the Cuban Communist Party on April 19, saying: "I'll be 90 years old soon...Soon I'll be like all the others."
In a husky voice, the veteran revolutionary, who turned 90 on Aug. 13 and had been renowned for his eloquence and passion in delivering speeches for hours on end at every critical moment of the Cuban nation, said: "The time will come for all of us, but the ideas of the Cuban communists will remain as proof on this planet that if they are worked at with fervor and dignity, they can produce the material and cultural goods that human beings need, and we need to fight without truce to obtain them."
For Cubans, Fidel is a symbol who led them in a hard-fought resistance against the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, against its next-door Cold War power, the United States, which, upon Fidel's declaring of Cuba as a socialist state in 1961, deemed the island "a red monster" and tried every possible scheme to smother the Cuban government.
Fidel was a survivor. He survived more than 600 assassination attempts, outlived eight successive U.S. presidents, and 11 U.S. governments, and emerged triumphant and revered by millions in the world.
Fidel was a believer. He believed in independence, sovereignty, social justice, equality, and solidarity.
It was under him that Cuba sent troops at the end of 1970s to African countries to help people there fight for their independence. It was under him that Cuba became a social welfare state with free education and free health care, with a Human Development Index ranking 67th of the 188 countries assessed by the United Nations Development Program in 2015, putting many developed countries to shame. It was also under him that Cuba, despite its own economic difficulty, dispatched doctors and teachers to African and Latin American countries to support the local people to overcome medical and educational shortages.
Fidel was also an idealist and thinker of humanity. Encroached on all sides by the roaring waves of capitalism and consumerism, he never wavered about the ideals of socialism, insisting that the country built "of the humble, by the humble, for the humble" should remain like that.
Even after his retirement from politics, he never ceased pondering how to curb poverty through food production, studying the threats of nuclear weapons and climate change, and wondering how much money squandered in launching wars could be invested in science to relieve people from the scourge of cancer, diabetes and other pains, or to promote arts and culture.
CUBA, A MIRACLE
For those who wish Fidel's passing would mark a bygone era and that Cuba would soon forsake his ideals to embrace capitalism have no evidence to support their pure naivety.
The high-level delegations from the world's 55 countries, including 13 heads of states and government, were not just one show of solidarity, not to mention the thousands of Cubans signing their oaths, pledging loyalty to the revolution at the Jose Marti Memorial and the iconic Revolution Sq Equally impressive were the millions of sleep-deprived Cubans lining the streets of Havana and the "road to freedom", bidding farewell to their commander-in-chief as the caravan carrying Fidel's ashes coursed through the country to the destination where he would rest with Cuba's national hero Jose Marti.
For people in the world, Cuba is a miracle. It has survived 55 years of U.S. blockade, the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, the nuclear crisis in 1962, the special period from 1991 to 1995 and emerged triumphantly as a proud and dignified nation.
Despite its various difficulties due to the U.S. embargo, Cuba stands with a high spirit. The spirit, which is also largely the spirit of Fidel Castro, will last.