The body of Che Guevara lies in a cool, darkened crypt beneath the scorching Santa Clara sun, surrounded by the remains of compañeros of all shapes and sizes.
I visited because I’m a tourist and that’s what tourists do, because some days I’m a sympathiser and full of faith, yet other days it falters. I visited because great people achieve great things but often die young at the hands of others, because some people dare to dream and, harder, dare to fight to achieve a dream knowing that they risk being right or wrong or neither, yet daring to do it anyway.
I walked into that crypt alone, probably because it was Boxing Day and not everyone goes to the grave of a man they never met, the day after the birthday party of a man they never met. But I wasn’t alone for long and, really, I’d never been alone at all, because I was there with all the Rauls and the Jonathans and their Comandante.
The girl who walked in behind me was 11-years-old, Cuban, slightly overweight and shy but with a lovely smile and an even lovelier mission. In her hands she held a small plastic water bottle with a tiny nozzle and, as she approached the white carnation which marked each of the carved gravestones, set into the wall, she daubed the flower with water.
She moved quickly and systematically. She didn’t pause beside Che but daubed his flower with the same gentle speed with which she daubed all the others. I was touched. Touched enough, that is, to ask. No she didn’t work there. She’s 11. Instead she just comes when she can and, when she comes, she waters the flowers. She does it quickly and simply and methodically and every flower has its turn.
I asked the girl her name but it was unwritable or unpronounceable, at the very least it was apparently unmemorable, unlike the girl herself with her deft little movements and surprising act of boldness. It’s a strange country Cuba. There are those who love and those who loathe, those who despair and those who dance. And then there are those who do what’s simplest of all, watering the flowers as they go.
Like this? You’ll love Colombia a comedy of errors.