Saturday, August 09, 2008

Memory of Fire: Bringing Embers of Hiroshima to Cuba

Memory of Fire:
Bringing Embers of Hiroshima to Cuba


炎の記憶 − 原爆の残り火をキューバへ (Memory of Fire: Bringing Embers of Hiroshima to Cuba) was produced by 広島ホームテレビ(Hiroshima Home TV) and first broadcast in 2007.  The documentary tells the story of Ernesto Che Guevara's thoughts on Hiroshima and their relation to the Cuban Revolution's commitment to humanism, for example, its humanitarian aid and protection of the environment.  At the same time, it follows the delegates from アテナ・ジャパン (Atena Japan), a Japanese NGO, bringing the embers of Hiroshima to Cuba (which will be kept in a memorial designed by Nelson Domínguez in Cuba's John Lennon Park).

Che headed the Cuban delegation to Asia and Africa in 1959.  During the delegation's visit to Japan, Che requested that they be allowed to go to Hiroshima, the requested turned down by the Japanese government on the grounds that it wasn't listed on the delegation's itinerary.  (Omar Fernández, who was with Guevara on the delegation, wonders if the denial wasn't actually due to Tokyo's desire not to call attention to the US war crimes.1)  Undaunted, Che, with two other delegates, jumped on a night train and visited Hiroshima on 25 July 1959 without telling the Japanese government.  What Che saw, some of which was published in his article "Recuperase Japón de la tragedia atomica" (Verde Olivo, 19 October 1959), became part of the Cuban memory of Hiroshima.

Che also strongly recommended that Fidel Castro himself visit Hiroshima, which Fidel did in 2003.  Fidel's 2003 visit, too, is part of this fascinating documentary.

In May this year, Atena Japan, together with other activist NGOs, brought Aleida Guevara to Japan, to celebrate "小さな国の大きな奇跡" (A Little Country Working Great Miracles).  The people of Japan have much to learn from Cuban environmentalism as they confront their government bent on becoming a plutonium superpower.2


1  Former Defense Minister of Japan Kyuma Fumio memorably said in 2007 that the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were "shoganai" (couldn't have been helped), for the bombings were "necessary" to end the war before a Soviet invasion of Japan!


It's common for the power elites to defend their own war crimes or their predecessors', but rare are those who so openly defend a foreign power's war crimes against "their own people."   Only in Japan?

2 Gavan McCormack, "Japan as a Nuclear State" (Japan Focus, 1 August 2007); "Japan as a Plutonium Superpower" (Japan Focus, 9 December 2007); and "August Nuclear Thoughts: the New Proliferation" (Japan Focus, 4 August 2008).

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