A New Cuban Law Prohibits Public Spaces to Be Named After Fidel Castro

Lead Photo: Cuban President Fidel Castro waves a Cuban flag during a demonstration outside the U.S. Interest. Photo by Jorge Rey/Getty Images
Cuban President Fidel Castro waves a Cuban flag during a demonstration outside the U.S. Interest. Photo by Jorge Rey/Getty Images
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During his lifetime, public admiration for Fidel Castro manifested itself in many ways, including through public speeches extolling the former leader of Cuba. On Tuesday, Cuba’s National Assembly passed a law that effectively seeks to limit public reverence for Fidel. Following Fidel’s explicit requests, there won’t be any commemorative statues to honor him or public spaces named after him. “His fighting spirit will remain in the conscience of all Cuban revolutionaries, today, tomorrow, and always,” Fidel’s younger brother, President Raul Castro, said, according to Reuters.

Though Raul says that the best way to honor Fidel is to follow his guiding principles, the government isn’t banning artists, musicians, and writers from invoking Fidel in their works. The new law also doesn’t prohibit images of him that hang in government buildings. Since his death on November 25, a Havana building has displayed an image of Fidel dressed in military fatigues.

According to France24, Fidel disliked the way Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin were lionized. “He considered it to be one of the errors of his Soviet allies, and it’s a position that gained important for Castro as the years went by,” said Cuban sociologist Juan Valdes Paz. “In the end, it became his dying wish.” But despite what Fidel wanted or said, a cult of personality did develop in Cuba. This has led some to believe that the government won’t truly honor his dying wish. An unnamed bookseller told the publication that Raul and other officials have already started to use Fidel’s image as a tool to suppress dissenters.

While his legacy may be up for debate – some see Fidel as a champion for the poor or as a ruthless dictator responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands – his belief in the power of imagery isn’t. Castro may have argued that his image served as a distraction, he recognized that it helped him communicate his positions. According to the New York Times, the government commissioned thousands of posters “to communicate his vision of a socialist society” after he came into power. Activist and journalist Susan Sontag said that the posters did more than just boost morale. She wrote, “In this revolution, a revolution in consciousness that requires turning the whole country into a school, posters are an important method of public teaching.”