Huffpost WorldPost
Sarah Stephens Headshot

Haiku Hype: The Flutter Over Fidel's Twitter-Length Reflections

Posted: Updated:
Print Article

Whoa, Fidel Castro in the age of Twitter.

Headlines from Miami to London sound the alert. "Fidel Castro leaves people guessing as he writes cryptic, Haiku-like notes." As the Miami Herald put it:

In cryptic paragraphs of never more than 65 words, the former Cuban president has written about yoga poses, edible plants, a criticism by a Chinese leader who died 15 years ago and a former leader of communist East Germany who died even further back.

Despite even more pressing high-tech business -- such as a meeting of bloggers in Cuba or the report that U.S. sanctions prevent Cubans from using Google analytics -- it is no surprise that this development made news. What Fidel Castro says and how he communicates has been engaging some and enraging others since before the creation of the computer, the fax machine, or the U.S. embargo.

According to Lars Schoultz, political scientist and renowned Cuba scholar, the U.S. government has been tracking what Fidel Castro thinks and says since 1947 when he was in college, 65 years. That is longer than the time period extending from Morse to Marconi, from the invention of the telegraph to the invention of radio.

This preoccupation with Castro's communications skills intensified after the revolution.

In 1959, as Schoultz records in his classic history of U.S.-Cuba relations, That Infernal Little Cuban Republic, the U.S. Embassy in Havana described one of his appearances as follows:

Castro in his standard uniform of rumpled fatigues, radiating health and boundless energy, hunched over the table as he talks, waving his arms and hands, with the eternal cigar always at hand. Words pour from him like a ceaseless torrent. He appears literally capable of talking forever, on any subject under the sun.

The volume of words was astonishing. "This is, after all, the man who gave the longest speech in the history of the U.N. General Assembly," Joshua Keating observed in his foreign policy blog. But, of course, the effort to overthrow Castro and the Cuban system stemmed not from how much he said -- or how he said it -- but from his commitment to revolution and his resistance to the will of the U.S.

What followed has been decades of U.S. sanctions, and division between both countries, a collision between Cuba's immutable faith in its right to self-determination and the immoveable desire of U.S. policy to upend its system.

Reporters inside Cuba tell us that Cubans are genuinely baffled by the former president's messages on the Moringa tree, the cosmos, and yoga, published after his most recent full-length treatise on the use of drones by President Obama.

That's probably right. This interest is clearly shared by the boo-birds in Miami who've waited so long for the embargo to bring Cuba to its knees that they are now reduced to snickering about Fidel Castro's twitter length pronouncements.

One "Miami analyst" said the former president needs to stay in the limelight. "Like a mediocre starlet of cheap and superficial shows, [he] needs to feel like he's in the center of the spotlight." Prof. Jaime Suchliki, Director of Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami, sniffs, "Evidently he does not feel coherent enough to write longer pieces."

If the "Cuba wars" are now being waged with exchanges of snark and sarcasm, that's progress. But, after 65 years, if we're still worrying about how Fidel Castro, Cuba's former president is expressing himself, doesn't the policy of not talking to the current president of Cuba about matters that actually concern us merit reexamination?