[Fidel’s Passing, Part 5 of 6] Fidel Castro’s Santiago de Cuba Memorial Rally, 3 December 2016

After 4 days caravanning across Cuba, Fidel’s ashes arrived to Santiago on 3 December 2016. That evening a second mass rally occurred. Unlike Havana’s international speakers, Santiago’s rally featured only Cuban orators. Some world leaders did attend though including Bolivia’s Evo Morales, Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro and ex-presidents of Brazil Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff. Soccer legend Diego Maradona and presidents Jakob Zuma of South Africa and Robert Mugabe were also in attendance although Rocío and I did not see them.

People in front of flagpoles prior to the rally

People in front of flagpoles prior to the rally with the Sierra Maestra in the background

The Santiago rally arrangement and procedures were similar to Havana’s including the same master of ceremonies, although the speeches were more domestically focused.

Cuban flags held by crowd prior to rally

Cuban flags waved prior to rally formalities

Held at Revolution Square (Plaza de la Revolución Antonio Maceo) the impressive statue of Cuban independence hero Antonio Maceo on a rearing horse and even grander 23 machetes sculpture formed the rally backdrop.

The rally setting overlooked by the sculpted machetes and Antonio Maceo on a horse

The rally setting overlooked by 23 sculpted machetes and Antonio Maceo on a rearing horse, both representing Cuba’s historic independence struggle

Again, like in Havana, we couldn’t get close to the stage with people seated at the front followed by organised groups of students. The closer big screen provided our best view of proceedings.

Rally attendees wearing "order!" t-shirts

Student rally attendees wearing black arm bands and “order!” t-shirts

We positioned close to the press platform and I enjoyed watching the experienced photographers and seeing what they recorded. Who knows where their following assignment would be.

Photographers standing on a platform at the Santiago rally

Photographers focusing from their platform at the rally; how much does the AP (Associated Press) camera and lens combination cost? I’m sure its images are better than my compact camera’s

Except for a single occasion when someone blocked Rocío, we felt free to shoot the Santago event, as in Havana.

Students chanting, Fidel's Santiago memorial rally

University students chanting; the woman of the left has a card clipped to her with a picture of Fidel and the word “invited” (invitad0)

Girl on shoulders with I <3 Fidel on her cheek

Girl on shoulders with I heart Fidel on her cheek recording proceedings

The rally involved much chanting and flag-waving. Although the audience interaction appeared spontaneous, officials coordinated students at the front of the standing section. This is captured in the following video:

Former presidents of Brazil Dilma Rousseff and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Cuban president Raúl Castro and Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro at Fidel's Santiago rally

In the front row sit former presidents of Brazil Dilma Rousseff and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Cuban president Raúl Castro and Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro

The nine speakers were all leaders of Cuban organisations and spoke passionately about Fidel and what he meant. The full speaker list is at the end of this article.

Miguel Barnet, president of the National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba speaking at the rally

President of the National Union of Writers and Artists, Miguel Barnet speaking

Jennifer Bello, president of the University Students’ Federation speaking

Jennifer Bello, president of the University Students’ Federation speaking

Cuban President Raúl Castro again spoke last. He sounded tired and this time his speech lasted a far longer 25 minutes.

Cuban president Raúl Castro speaking at his brother Fidel's Santiago memorial rally

Cuban president Raúl Castro speaking at his brother Fidel’s Santiago memorial rally

Below is footage of Jennifer Bello and Raúl Castro addressing the audience and the crowd responding after Raúl’s speech:

The rally ended with a Fidel tribute on the big screen accompanied by the same ending song as Havana.

A Fidel tribute showing on the rally big screen

The final Fidel tribute on the rally big screen

With fewer speakers, thankfully the Santiago memorial ended sooner than Havana’s 4 hour epic.

Rocío and I after the rally ended

Rocío and I after the rally

Man with the biggest "I Am Fidel" face art

The man with the most prominent “I Am Fidel” (Yo Soy Fidel) face art

Afterwards, people dispersed, journalists recorded interviews and uploaded stories and cleaners came with their brooms and dustpans.

Woman with Cuban flags in hair smiling after the rally

Woman with Cuban flags in hair smiling after the rally

A metal façade of revolutionary Juan Almeida Bosque overlooking the square

A metal façade of revolutionary Juan Almeida Bosque overlooking the square; the quotation reads: “No one here gives up” (Aquí no se rinde nadie)

We soon joined the departing crowds and wandered back to our accommodation in central Santiago. Only one official event remained: Fidel’s funeral.

Cuban Newspaper Coverage of the Santiago Memorial Rally

2016_12_04 Sierra Maestra newspaper cover on Santiago memorial rally

2016_12_04 Sierra Maestra newspaper cover on Santiago memorial rally

Santiago’s own Sierra Maestra newspaper’s front page rally coverage read: Before Fidel’s remains in Heroic Santiago de Cuba’s Plaza Antonio Maceo, we swear to defend the Homeland and Socialism.

2016_12_04 Granma newspaper cover on Santiago rally

2016_12_04 Granma newspaper front page coverage of Santiago rally

The national Granma newspaper headlined: Fidel’s permanent instruction is that you can.

Speakers at Santiago de Cuba’s Fidel Memorial Rally

  1. Ulises Guilarte de Nacimiento, Secretary General of the Cuban Workers’ Federation (CTC)
  2. Rafael Ramón Santiesteban Pozo, President of the Association of Small Farmers (ANAP)
  3. Major General José Antonio Carrillo Gómez, President of the Association of Combatants of the Cuban Revolution
  4. Carlos Rafael Miranda, member of the Party Central Committee and National Coordinator of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR)
  5. Teresa Amarelle, National Secretary of the Federation of Cuban Women
  6. Miguel Barnet, President of the National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba
  7. Jennifer Bello, President of the University Students’ Federation
  8. Sucelys Morfa, Secretary of the Young Communists League
  9. President Raúl Castro, President of Cuba

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