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Fidel in Haiku Mode


Recently a number of journalists and commentators have wandered whether Fidel Castro has lost his marbles [or as it is said in Cuba, “perdió la chaveta”].  Thus, Paul Haven of the  Associated Press in Havana on June 19th“ wrote, “So acolytes and detractors alike have met the latest musings of the Cuban revolutionary, long famed for five-hour speeches, with befuddlement. His normally loquacious opinion pieces in the local press lately almost have been short enough to tweet, and sometimes as vague and mysterious as a fortune cookie.” [1]

Jeff Franks of Reuters had a similar Havana report, “A new, briefer Fidel Castro has emerged in Cuba, where for the past 10 days he has been dispensing varied bits of wisdom in Twitteresque pieces that have people wondering what he is up to.” [2]

Kyle Munzenrieder of the Miami New Times went much farther, “Fidel Castro is apparently undeterred by American speculation about the recent brevity and downright bizarreness of his Reflection of Fidel newspaper column. The retired dictator dropped not one but two new pieces in the state media yesterday. One was some nonsense about yoga, while the other was about science and religion. We think.” [3]

Are these the musings of someone who is out of touch with reality? Is he so old and his presence so powerful that people around him do not dare to correct him? That is what some analysts and academics seem to suggest. But there is another way of looking at the matter.

Fidel’s cryptic comments might be the result of several things:

First, advisers have told him that it is essential to communicate with as few characters as possible. Thus, he has reduced his message to fewer sentences and words.  Second, he no longer has the responsibilities he used to have. Yet, in those days he read historical works, handbooks on economy and agriculture, and every conceivable major writers as well as newspapers and magazines. He has shifted his insatiable thirst for knowing and then communicating by getting involved in areas that his state responsibilities did not allow him to explore in the past. That is what he is doing. Third he is somewhat emulating Chavez’ presence through “Candanga” ( 8 characters) in the twittersphere. Except that Fidel refers to his creation as “FC” ( 2 characters). Neither Chavez nor Fidel have entered the super abbreviated world of texting. Give him time.

The FCs have not yet morphed into the world of Hashtag (#) although it will be a development to be expected. Probably, the Cuban revolutionary will seek ways of using the most recent technologies to battle against MegaDeath and Cliocide. He is just learning the instruments at 86.

But why the haiku-like pronouncements? The key was given to us on March 29th, 2012. He wrote:

“Simply reading these news items shows the possibility and the necessity we have of enriching our knowledge which today is fragmented and scattered. Perhaps it takes us to more critical positions on the superficiality with which we deal with cultural and material problems. I have not the slightest doubt that our world is changing much more quickly than we are capable of imagining.”

For the rest of us who are not that much on top of the ever changing world of human communications what the old revolutionary is doing might seem ill-conceived or worse.  Yet, this world, right now, is producing extraordinary discoveries: the mapping of the human brain,  Higgs Boson in physics, or the Spitzer telescope opening  an amazing infrared universe to all of us, among thousands of nano discoveries. We are confronted with the most amazing scientific revolution in human history. And Fidel might be telling us that we ought to notice. Yet, we are also surrounded by numerous catastrophes. Like the Navaho sand painters the FCs capture ideas, concepts, facts and abstractions that are let loose so that we see the complexities and integrated structures of the fast moving future – now.

Nelson Valdes is Professor Emeritus, University of New Mexico.


[1] 06/19/12 – Associated Press – Famously loquacious Fidel Castro discovers brevity

[2] 06/20/12 – Reuters – A More Succinct Fidel Castro Asserts Himself [3] 06/21/12 – Miami New Times – Fidel Castro’s Columns Just Keep Getting More Bizarre



Nelson P. Valdes is Professor Emeritus at the University of New Mexico.

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