CUBA: Fidel Castro's vocabulary




Bill Ratliff, who like a colossus bestrides the Pacific with one academic foot in China, the other is Latin America, writes:  I don't recall Fidel Castro's referring to intellectual property as "imperialist bullshit," though after 45 years of watching the Cuban leader I feel safe in concluding that Ronald is quite right to suggest that that is almost certainly what Castro thinks. But I may have misunderstood Christopher Jones  when he writes, "Could we reasonably expect that Castro ...." He seems to suggest that Castro simply wouldn't talk that way. Well, how about speaking of the leader of the world's largest country as Castro did on 21 February 1979, after the beginning of a short war between China and Vietnam, a matter of recent research interest to me. I will quote both the official Cuban English translation and the original Spanish, as published in the Cuban Communist Party paper Granma (22 de febrero de 1979, in Spanish, and 4 March 1979, in English). Castro remarked on a "mad, neo-fascist faction that rules China" ("una camarilla de facinerosos, de fascistas que se ha apoderado de la direccion del pueblo chino." He continued that "the man who is at the head of this skullduggery, this crime ... the number one man responsible seems to be this numbskull, this puppet, this brazen Deng Xiaoping .. a sort of caricature of Hitler" ("el que esta alli al frente de esta canallada, de este crimen, el responsable numero uno parece ser esta mentecato, este titere, este desvergonzado de Deng Xiao ping" who "se ha convertido...en una especie de caricatura de Hitler." Don't underestimate breadth of Castro's vocabulary or his willingness to use it.

Oh, when I first tried to send this, my Eudora Big Brother monitor flashed me two red peppers and warned that the vocabulary contained in this note "is likely to offend the average reader." Oh, my, that made me pause, but then we WAISers are not average folk and can take it. In fact, perhaps the Eudora snoop is helping to make my point in this case, that Fidel sometimes uses gutter terminology. 

For those who may be interested in this sort of thing, see my "China's 'Lessons' for Cuba's Transition?," written with AID funding for the University of Miami's Cuba Transition Project. Link:  http://ctp.iccas.miami.edu/Research_Studies/WRatliff.pdf.

RH:Eudora doesn't know Spanish and assumes that  every Spanish word should be flagged, or rather peppered. Hank Levin gets into the language debate by saying that the polite Spanish for bs is "paja" (straw), but that is much wider, meaning worthless, since the grain has been removed, and fit only for donkeys.  Actually, an analysis of Castro's vocabulary would be an interesting subject.

Your comments are invited. Read the home page of the World Association of International Studies (WAIS) by simply double-clicking on:   http://wais.stanford.edu Mail to Ronald Hilton, Hoover Institution, Stanford, CA 94305-6010. Please inform us of any change of e-mail address.

Ronald Hilton 2004

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last updated: December 5, 2004