Sunday, July 31, 2011

Original Names / Fernando Dámaso

Original Names / Fernando Dámaso
Fernando Dámaso, Translator: Unstated

Our authorities have the absurd habit of changing the names of streets,
parks, shops, businesses and even some public places, according to their
short-term political interests. Thus, Presidents Avenue, El Vedado,
built during the Republic and along which appear monuments, statues or
busts of various Cuban presidents, degenerated into a the so-called
Avenue of the Latin American Presidents (not of all of them, just the
"friendly" ones). Previously, the site dedicated to the American
Presidents (taking the Americas as a whole), was the beautiful
Fraternity Park, next to the Capitol building. In its conversion to
Estrada Palma (the first President) all that is left on the marble base
is a pair of shoes, near the Hotel Presidente, an outstanding display of
cultural vandalism, and Jose Miguel Gomez was saved at the junction with
Calle 29, as his monument was so huge. The spaces provided for the
others have been occupied by statues or busts (some quite poorly
executed artistically) of Bolivar, Alfaro, Torrijos, Allende, etc., in a
strange hodgepodge of history.

The Avenida de Carlos III, has long has imposed on it the name of
Salvador Allende, but only a tiny minority of people call it this. The
same thing happened to Reina (renamed Simon Bolivar), Galiano (Father
Varela), Monte (Maximo Gomez) and others, all of which ordinary people
still call by their original names. This extends to sports venues, where
most of the ballparks have names that have nothing to do with their
sport, whether it be swimming pools, facilities for basketball,
volleyball and others where elementary logic suggests they should be
named for the respective leading figures in that sport.

Recently a rally held at the Acapulco Park in Nuevo Vedado got my
attention; in one of its corners they have erected an unimaginative and
completely oblivious to the design of the park monument dedicated to
Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh. It turns out that they have renamed it Ho
Chi Minh Park (when they dedicated the monument, it called Liberty
Park). At the ceremony, which they repeat every time some important
Vietnamese visits, the only ones participating were the students from a
nearby high school, in full uniform, Vietnamese students studying in
Cuba and a few selected officials. A political assembly that passersby
observe from afar, since it has nothing to do with them or with the
neighborhood. I don't know if the Vietnamese have noticed.

Undoubtedly, the authorities of the city and country have the right to
name avenues, streets, parks, etc., but please, build them first rather
than rededicate existing ones; it would be much easier and less
expensive than changing existing, and therefore historical, ones. For me
and the neighbors who live in Nuevo Vedado, Acapulco Park was, is and
always will be the Acapulco Park. I think, the same thing happens with
the neighbors of other places.

These names are also part of the much touted national identity. They
constitute the heritage of neighborhoods, areas and cities. Changing
them for short-term political expediency shows disrespect for the
citizens (who are not consulted) to whom they really belong, because
they live in the area around them, and also shows a lack of culture and
civility. The defense of national identity is demonstrated by deeds and
not speeches. Hopefully this nefarious practice, which has failed
wherever there have been efforts to impost it (St. Petersburg will
always be St. Petersburg), will cease once and for all, not further
complicating the lives of future historians with so many name changes,
which almost everyone ignores.

July 7 2011

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