Cuba’s Committees for the Defence of the Revolution (CDR)

Havana graffiti stating Viva CDR 28 (Long Live CDR 28)

Havana graffiti proclaiming Viva CDR 28 (Long Live CDR 28)

Committees for the Defence of the Revolution (Comités de Defensa de la Revolución), otherwise known as CDR, exist in every Cuban neighbourhood. Established on 28 September 1960, less than a year after the Cuban Revolution, the volunteer-run committees monitor and report on counter-revolutionary activity and promote social welfare. Stephen Smith’s Cuba: The Land Of Miracles quotes a BBC reporter aptly describing the CDR as “a cross between the neighbourhood watch and the Gestapo”.

During our visit, Rocío and I witnessed many CDR references throughout the island.

Havana’s CDR Museum: Museo 28 Septiembre de los CDR

Old Havana’s Obispo Street contains a museum dedicated to the CDR: Museum 28 September of the CDR (Museo 28 Septiembre de los CDR). After Fidel died, a local recommended we visit the museum sooner rather than later.

Photo examples of surveilance (vigilancia) at Museo 28 Septiembre de los CDR

Photo examples of surveilance (vigilancia) at Museo 28 Septiembre de los CDR

The museum contains all kinds of CDR and pro-revolutionary artefacts including artwork created by volunteers, photographs and anniversary banners.

A cartoon character cardboard cutout of the CDR symbol at Museo 28 Septiembre de los CDR

A cartoon cardboard cutout of the CDR symbol at Museo 28 Septiembre de los CDR; the machete states con la guardia en alto (with guard raised)

Museo 28 Septiembre de los CDR banner given by Vietnam to Cuba for 46 years of CDR

A banner given by Vietnam to Cuba in 2006 commemorating 46 years of CDR

A 1987 voucher at the Museo 28 Septiembre de los CDR featuring images of Lenin and Che Guevara given to volunteers on Red Sunday

A 1987 voucher given to volunteers on “Red Sunday” commemorating the Russian Revolution’s 70th anniversary and featuring images of Lenin and Che Guevara

The most ironic exhibit was a framed certificate given to Museo 28 de Septiembre recognising it for bringing in foreign revenue. In effect, commemorating capitalism in an institution that protected the communist Cuban government.

A certificate at Museo 28 Septiembre de los CDR recognising the museum for bringing in foreign revenue

A certificate at Museo 28 Septiembre de los CDR recognising the museum for bringing in foreign revenue

Naive artwork propaganda The Biggest Star (La Estrella Mayor) at Museo 28 Septiembre de los CDR

Naive artwork propaganda “The Biggest Star” (La Estrella Mayor) at Museo 28 Septiembre de los CDR; the names are Cuban revolutionary heroes along with Nelson Mandela and Hugo Chavez

Other CDR References

CDR Zone Coordinator and CDR President stickers on Havana door

CDR Zone Coordinator and CDR President stickers on a Havana door

Many of the neighbourhood committees were personalised and named after notable pro-revolutionary people. A Havana committee with a faded sign was named after art instructor and CDR volunteer Olga Alonso who died in a 1964 tractor accident aged only 19. As an aside, Cuba named 18 February Art Instructors Day after Alonso’s date of birth.

Faded sign of a Havana committee named after late art instructor Olga Alonso (also pictured)

Faded sign of a Havana committee named after late art instructor Olga Alonso (also pictured)

The committee signs varied widely around Cuba from professionally-made signs and stickers to pieces of cardboard and poorly-painted walls.

Pelican in façade overlooking the professional sign of CDR number 1 Manuel Zabalo in Havana

Pelican in façade overlooking the professional sign of CDR number 1 Manuel Zabalo in Havana

CDR number 1 Mariano Perez Lopez in Havana

CDR number 1 Mariano Perez Lopez in Havana

CDR number 7 sign above Santiago de Cuba bakery

CDR number 7 sign above Santiago de Cuba bakery

CDR Vilma Espin Mural with pictures of Fidel Castro in Santiago de Cuba following his death

CDR Vilma Espin Mural with pictures of Fidel Castro in Santiago de Cuba following his death

Faded sign of CDR 11, Zone 448 Vilma Espin in Santiago de Cuba

Faded sign of CDR 11, Zone 448 Vilma Espin in Santiago de Cuba

Arrows pointing out CDR number 3 of Zone 105 in Santiago de Cuba

Arrows pointing out CDR number 3 of Zone 105 in Santiago de Cuba

Signs of the CDR were everywhere, even on top of isolated La Gran Piedra outside Santiago de Cuba.

CDR sign on La Gran Piedra

CDR sign on top of the La Gran Piedra mountain outside of Santiago de Cuba

Nuevitas CDR sign featuring Camagüey pottery (tinajón) and Nuevitas lighthouse symbols

Nuevitas CDR sign featuring symbols of Camagüey Province (tinajón pottery) and Nuevitas (lighthouse)

CDR Propaganda

CDR references containing pro-revolutionary propaganda were not uncommon.

Slogan on Havana wall The CDR Defending Socialism (Los CDR Defendiendo Socialismo)

Slogan on Havana wall: “The CDR Defending Socialism” (Los CDR Defendiendo Socialismo)

Propaganda from CDR on wall in Baracoa stating Together with Fidel and Raul, depending on socialism (Junto a Fidel y Raúl, dependiendo el socialismo)

Propaganda from CDR on wall in Baracoa stating “Together with Fidel and Raul, depending on socialism” (Junto a Fidel y Raúl, dependiendo el socialismo)

CDR 1 Zone 11 Camilo Cienfuegos mural in Baracoa with statement by Fidel promoting CDR on the right

CDR 1 Zone 11 Camilo Cienfuegos mural in Baracoa with statement by Fidel promoting CDR on the right. Translated, it reads: “To be a member of the CDR means to have the spirit of sacrifice to be an example for others, to work, to observe the counter-revolutionaries, but also to do a job of proselytising”

A horse and cart in front of CDR 57th anniversary sign in Pinar del Rio

A horse and cart in front of CDR 57th anniversary sign in Pinar del Río; the sign’s bottom left slogan reads “For the patriotic duty” (Por el deber patrio)

somos el barrio (we are the neighbourhood) CDR sticker on Baracoa wall

“we are the neighbourhood” (somos el barrio) CDR sticker on Baracoa wall

 

Cederistas

CDR volunteers are known as “cederistas” and in Nuevitas we found a sign directly referencing this term.

Cederistas sign in Nuevitas

Cederistas sign in Nuevitas

After taking many CDR-related photos I wonder if Rocío and I ever became subjects of Cederista conversations.

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