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The first newspaper that Castro ordered shut out in 1959 was Zig-Zag, Cuba’s Mad Magazine. He next banned Cuba’s most beloved comedian, Leopoldo Fernandez because while performing on a stage with a large portrait of Fidel Castro, he had quibbled pointing to Castro’s picture: “And that one there, we have to hang him very high.”
In the next 50 years, there would be no more jokes told in public in Cuba. But the Cuban people did not lose their sense of humor, now steeped in pathos, but took it underground. Twenty years ago, a man living in Cuba began to compile these jokes about the Revolution and managed to smuggle his collection out of the country.
Laughter can be a cry of despair as much as tears can be an expression of joy. There are essentially two ways to deal with the predations and privations of tyrannical rule – to surrender to its authority and become its slave or accomplice; or to fight it with the only weapons at your disposal – contempt and ridicule sublimated into humor.