"Ideology Colors Interpretation"

Excerpt From: The Cuba Reader: History, Culture, Politics 

Edited by Aviva Chomsky, Barry Carr, and Pamela Maria Smorkaloff

Pope John Paul II clasps hands with Cuban President Fidel Castro in Havana on Jan. 25, 1998, at the end of his five-day visit to the island. Image Credit: Ruth Fremson / Associated Press

Pope John Paul II clasps hands with Cuban President Fidel Castro in Havana on Jan. 25, 1998, at the end of his five-day visit to the island.

Image Credit: Ruth Fremson / Associated Press

"The following joke, circulating in Cuba at the end of the 1990s, pokes fun at the ways that ideology colors interpretations of events on the island:

When Pope John Paul visited Havana in 1998, he was personally welcomed by Fidel Castro, who invited him to tour the city.  They rode in the Popemobile, and since it was a warm day, they opened the roof.  Everything was fine until they reached the Malecón, when suddenly a gust of wind blew up and swept the Pope's zuchetto off his head and out into the sea.  There it floated, bobbing on the waves.

"Don't worry, your Holiness," exclaimed Fidel, "I'll get it for you!"  He jumped over the side of the Popemobile, leaped over the seawall, and sped out over the water.  Yes, he actually walked on top of the water, all the way out to where the zuchetto lay floating on the waves.  Then he turned and dashed back, still skimming over the surface, leaped over the seawall, and jumped back into the Popemobile, without getting a drop of water on his clothes.  "Here, your Holiness," he panted.

The next day, newspapers all over the world reported this amazing incident.

In Granma, the Cuban Communist Party newspaper, the headline read "Fidel is God; He Walks on Water."

In L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, the headline read "Pope Performs a Miracle: Makes Fidel Castro Walk on Water."

And in the Miami Herald, read by the Cuban exile community in Miami, the headline read "Castro Doesn't Know How to Swim."