You Can’t Fool the Fleas of the Revolution
by Dr. Clodomira Garcia-Borges Cienfuegos, PhD
“The absentminded conservator left the bestiary door open on his desk … the cavorting beasties escape one by one.”
– J. Ignatius, “The Revolt of the Bestiary”
Horacio Sobrenada was the owner of an absurd flea circus.
He inherited the circus from his father, the formerly esteemed phrenologist, Dr. Cresencio Sobrenada. It was a bequest rich in penury. On a wretched August afternoon in 1956, under the light of the diabolic sun, Horacio renamed the flea circus “El Espectacular Circo y Orquesta Sinfónica de Las Pulgas Absurdas de La Habana.”
This piqued a number of the fleas whom did not agree with the name change. True, the fleas had a thirty-eight piece chamber orchestra that favored the Russian Romantic composers—it wasn’t a true symphonic orchestra—but that was not their cavil. A number of fleas claimed they had not been consulted on the name of the circus, and were anathema to the premise upon which Horacio had based the name.
Many other fleas thought it was a perfectly good name in a post-war world where life was bereft of meaning.
The fleas in opposition objected—they were neither from Havana, nor were they Absurdists. In fact they despised Camus and the mid-century strain of existentialism. These fleas were Jesuits and staunch Augustinian Neoplatonists.
Whereas, the Absurdist fleas were chiefly existentialists, and some of them nihilists; and furthermore, they thought it was a most appropriate name for the enterprise.
And this is where the troubles began.
Two weeks into the 1956 tour of the southern provinces the unhappy fleas, most of them strict Posttribulationists, went on strike and naturally the Postmillennialists followed. After a unanimous vote among the strikers, they demanded a name change to “Las Pulgas del Opus Dei Cubano.” And despite the support of the Jesuit priests in Oriente province, the home office of the Opus Dei in Spain disagreed. The devout fleas compromised among themselves and settled on “St. Augustine’s Eschatological Jumping Circus and Chamber Orchestra.”
This new demand vexed the souls of three Kierkegaardian fleas and they went scab. They took the leap of faith, switched allegiance, and joined the strike. The Phenomenologist fleas were flummoxed and remained on the job.
Without the strikers playing in the critically acclaimed and newly minted “Siphonaptera Symphony”—or performing on the high wire and flea trapeze—the Absurdist fleas resorted to playing Schoenberg’s latter day twelve tone compositions, and on occasion some improvisational jazz in the vein of Thelonious Monk.
The show now had to increase the frequency of the daredevil fleas fired out of the canon routine. The public demanded it, but the routine soon tired, and was noted as “one of the top ten ‘vapidities’ of 1956,” in the year end issue of Vanidades.
The public, as all “publics” are inclined to, favored popular music and entertainments that were easy to understand. They stayed away and attendance dropped precipitously. Two months after the strike began Horacio was forced to lay off the dancing cats. One week later the circus was bankrupt and disbanded near Santiago de Cuba.
The fleas were scattered in their wingless diaspora to all corners of the island that now convulsed in revolutionary fervor and had no time for confectionary entertainments.
Then in midyear of 1957, as the guerrillas gained a foothold in the Sierra Maestra mountains, the Marxist-Leninist contingent of the Absurdist fleas decamped and joined the rebel forces. This cadre eventually made their heroic way to Havana in Fidel Castro’s and Che Guevara’s beards one year later.
To this day some of those fleas remain as party functionaries and leaders in the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution — although naturally, at this date, most of those fleas have retired. Two of these aforementioned fleas reportedly coined the most iconic revolutionary slogans: “¡En cada barrio, Revolución!” and “¡Socialismo o Muerte!” (Research is currently underway as to the veracity of these claims. The provenance, at this time, seems promising.)
Meanwhile, Horacio became the chief propagandist for Radio Rebelde in 1960, and led a privileged life, but during the 1970 “Ten Million Ton Sugar Harvest” fiasco, he met with an untimely death at the sharp end of a comrade’s machete after a falling out with the party.
The Neoplatonist fleas did not fare well. They were last seen fleeing to Miami on New Years Day 1959, in the thick coat of Fulgencio Batista’s German Shepherd. A rumor emerged that some of these fleas were part of the expeditionary forces at the Bay of Pigs invasion, and that after their defeat on the beaches they went in search of said pigs for a blood meal or two. But upon not finding pigs, anywhere in or near the bay, in opprobrium, they set sail into the Florida Straits. They have not been seen or heard from again.
Dr. Clodomira Garcia-Borges Cienfuegos, PhD, was Chair Emeritus of History at the Public University of Angola in Luanda. She was born in Kuala Lumpur, into a family of diplomats; her father was the Cuban Ambassador to Malaysia. She was the author of numerous history books and hagiographies of renowned despots, insects and philosophers. Her book The Polemics of Ammianus Marcellinus, His Parasites, and the Cuban Revolution won the Pan Caribbean Book of the Year award in 1982. She died in May 2017, in Kankakee, Illinois. Her posthumous work, Che Guevara’s Cyrenaics and His Congolese Chiggers, will be published by Raw Manifold Press in the summer of 2018.
“Cram your head with characters and stories. Abuse your library privileges. Never stop looking at the world, and never stop reading to find out what sense other people have made of it.”
— Jennifer Weiner