A Humorless Tyrant

Although Castro almost invariably introduces a few humorous elements into his speeches and gives the impression of considerable wit, he seems to lack any real sense of humor. He can never take a joke on himself. Though he enjoys laughing at others, he rarely does so at himself. He is incapable of purifying his gloomy self with self-irony and humor. He is extremely sensitive to ridicule. He takes himself very seriously and will flare up in a temperamental rage at the least impingement by act or attitude on the dignity and holiness of the Maximum Leader.

The following incident gives an idea about Castro's lack of sense of humor. In early February, 1959, Zig-Zag, the Cuban weekly humorous newspaper, tried to show through its cartoons that the Castro movement, like virtually every Cuban political movement before, was being hitch-hiked by political hacks. It is pertinent to add that Zig-Zag enjoyed a well earned reputation for letting the air out of gassy politicians. Its full front page cartoons were brilliant, and even President Batista, often the butt of Zig-Zag's satire, let it pass with a smile. In this instance, the full-page cartoon showed Castro marching along, following by a group of his barbudos and a multitude of civilians wearing derby hats. Derby hats are known in Cuba as bombines, and the appellation is tagged unto those who are political turncoats, professional flatterers who follow every government in power.

But Castro's unexpected reaction was an explosion of rage. Next day, while giving a speech, he accused Zig-Zag of employing "cowardly writers," who, he alleged, had pictured him as "consorting with bombines." "Don't ever," threatened and angry Castro, "portray me in the company of bombines." His threat prove to be not an empty one. A few months later he banned Zig-Zag, which won that way the dubious honor
of becoming the first member of the Cuban free press on the long list of the ones destroyed by Fidel Castro.

After the banning of Zig-Zag, just a few humoristic publications have appeared in Castro's Cuba, among them Palante, and Dedeté. But political satyre in these publications is mostly devoted to ridicule the "Yankee imperialists" and other Castro opponents. Caricatures of the Maximum Leader have been conspicuosly absent from their pages.

In 1987, however, a caricaturist known as Ajubel broke the non-written rule and published one of the few caricatures of Castro appeared in the state-controlled press. It depicted a gigantic Fidel walking through a field of desks and bureaucrats, destroying them with his feet. Ajubel's caricature was supposed to be a depiction of Castro fighting the inefficient government bureaucracy. After approval from the Ministry of Culture, and perhaps from the dreaded Ministerio del Interior, the caricature was published in Dedeté. But, almost immediately, the whole edition of Dedeté was confiscated and destroyed after somebody (most likely Castro himself) realized that Ajubel's caricature could be easily interpreted as The Maximum Leader destroying the whole country.

Ajubel currently lives in exile in Spain.