Father’s Day in Cuba

Father’s Day in Cuba can get a little tricky. After all, with infidelity rife and multiple family arrangements, just getting around to see all the kids can be time-consuming and complicated. On the other hand, Cubans seem to adopt an amazing sang-froid regarding these arrangements with couples getting divorced yet remaining under the same roof as new partners enter and leave. Father’s day does not have the same intensity as mother’s day but is still a time for Dad to get the day off!

I have always wondered why Father’s Day is celebrated with less effusiveness than Mother’s Day; why the hackneyed phrase of “mother can only be one” is complemented by the genetic absurdity that “father can be anyone.” Aren’t the many examples of good fathers throughout the history of mankind enough to stamp out this senselessness? But modernity cannot be blamed for this “sin” because although honoring mothers dates back almost to the dawn of civilization and celebrating Mother’s Day is the logical follow-up to this, paying tribute to fathers is of more recent origin. A vestige of matriarchal authority, perhaps?

The idea of celebrating Father’s Day goes back to 1909 and is attributed to Mrs. Sonora Smart Dodd. Listening to mass on one Mother’s Day, she thought of the possibility of paying tribute to fathers as well. With this, Sonora wished to recognize the noble attitude of her own father, Mr. William Jackson Smart, a veteran of the American Civil War who, having widowed, raised five children in a loving and exemplary manner.

The first Father’s Day was celebrated in Spokane, Washington, on June 19, 1910. In 1915, Harris C. Meek, president of the Lions’ Club of Chicago, revived the idea with new sponsorships, and masses and services were held in tribute to fathers in several American cities. In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge declared it a national celebration and then, in 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a proclamation designating the third Sunday of June as Father’s Day.

Some countries celebrate this day on March 19, which according to the Catholic tradition is celebrated as the feast day of St. Joseph, patron saint of carpenters and the father of Jesus. Other nations have adopted different dates, while Cuba followed the American custom of commemorating the third Sunday of June. On June 19, 1938 the idea materialized in Havana at the initiative of poetess Dulce Maria Borrero, daughter of the writer Esteban Borrero and sister of the famous poetess and painter Juana Borrero.

In Cuba, as well as in many other countries, the rate of divorce has increased alarmingly and celebrating Father’s Day may be a bit tricky. For instance, a father may have several children from different marriages and all of his children will get together that day to celebrate. Or several dads will join in the celebration of their day upon the request of their children’s mother—although I believe this is mostly improbable because I don’t know of many women who are brave enough to bring their ex-husbands together under the same roof. Also, children of divorced parents will congratulate with equal affection their biological fathers and their stepfathers.

In recent years, with increasing studies on masculinity insistently sponsored by feminists, there has been a manifest will to encourage the celebration of Father’s Day in Cuba with messages on television, postcards, etc. However, it is no secret to anyone that this day is still “low profile” and is not given the same weight as Mother’s Day. But whichever way dads are recognized by their children (whatever their ages may be) whether with a lunch at home with the family, or a day out at the beach, or enjoying a baseball game, Father’s Day is always remembered to celebrate fatherhood and honor fathers who, together with mothers, are indispensable beings in our lives.

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