International News

Pánfilo Takes on "Raulita" and Fidel

Pánfilo is back.

A Cuban with a major drinking problem, Pánfilo stumbled onto a video interview with a Cuban rapper earlier this year and became an overnight sensation, logging nearly 750,000 hits on YouTube and becoming a hot topic of debate across Miami's Cuban community.

In his latest video appearance -- aired Wednesday night on Channel 41's Cuban talk show A Mano Limpia -- Pánfilo launches into a drunken rant, calling Raul Castro ("Raulita") a "faggot" and saying he "shits on Fidel's mother." He also says he'll leave Cuba in a bucket if he has to.

The video was fodder for lofty debate:

Is Pánfilo the embodiment of the Cuban dilemma?

Does he illustrate "el problema negro" on the communist island? (Would a white drunk have been treated any different, we wonder.)

What was obvious, the pundits said, was that the government's alcohol treatment -- i.e. "electroshock" -- didn't work, and that Pánfilo was back to the drunken binges that got him locked up in the first place after his first video aired this spring.

"Jama," Panfilo says on the video, using the Cuban slang for food and pointing to his mouth.

"What we need is jama. The hunger is great."

Had Pánfilo been one of the ranting homeless in Wynwood, he would likely have slept the night in the drunk tank and been back on the street the next morning begging for change. But Panfilo's rant landed him in a Havana prison.

In June, a chastened Pánfilo made a retraction on videotape -- "I don't want to have problems because I don't want anything to do with politics," he said, sitting instead of stumbling. He was released.

Since the postings, Pánfilo has inspired a cult of sorts. On local TV, one of the recently aired clips is titled Pánfilo the Super Hero. In Cuba, a young man launched a "Keeping Panfilo Alive Campaign,"and there is a Pánfilo ode being sung in the coffee club circuit in La Habana.

There's even a remix of his "Jama" rant and a fast-motion version with an operatic soundtrack.

Meanwhile the talking heads keep speculating about the impact Pánfilo might have in a country where his videos are almost impossible to see.

"If all the Pánfilos on every block think that they can say anything because they're drunk, the government has a problem," said Enrique Patterson, a Cuban journalist, essayist and teacher.

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Jorge Casuso
Contact: Jorge Casuso