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Posts Tagged ‘Castro’

Andrew Jackson and Fidel Castro

May 3, 2017 2 comments

I have been reading newspaper accounts of January 1959–refreshing my memory, not of the events, just their sequence–of the time when Fidel Castro gained power. There were lots of things that had to align just right for Fidel to succeed and for Batista to sneak away in the dead of night and it occurred to me that Fidel would have had no chance if Andrew Jackson had been president (instead of that wishy-washy Eisenhower who knew nothing of making war) Apparently Andrew Jackson was mad as hell when Castro won.

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Cuba, the embargo and politics

December 18, 2014 Leave a comment

I was born and raised in Cuba but in 1961, three months after the Bay of Pigs fiasco and thirty two months into the Castro regime, having experienced and suffered under a repressive, totalitarian, communist regime, I managed to escape and sought refuge in the USA. I was nineteen at the time.
So it may surprise you that I am in favor of re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba.
Why? The embargo, designed to isolate Cuba, has been going on for about 55 years. The Cuban government blames it for some of its shortcomings, like the lack of food. Cuba imports almost 80% of the food it consumes, which is peculiar because Cuba is a very fertile land capable of three crops a year. So obviously this failure underscores the collapse of the Castro system and we finally have them where we want them, right? Wrong! The USA is Cuba’s main food supplier and Cuba’s 5th largest trading partner.
How is that possible? Well, maybe we sell them food for humanitarian reasons, right? Well, not really. As long as they pay cash our Agro businesses will argue that if we don’t sell them the food, someone else will. Might as well be us.
So instead we should use the embargo to choke of their source of income, their economy, right? Wrong again. Cuba gets most of its money from perfectly legal remittances by Cuban exiles to their families in Cuba.
So what exactly does the embargo entail?
For one thing, Americans cannot officially travel to Cuba. But Cubans with close relatives in Cuba can, and do so, often, bringing jeans and electronics and everything that their ‘close relatives’ in Cuba ‘need’ or can make a living by selling. Apparently that is different from exporting goods to Cuba which is strictly prohibited under terms of the embargo.
In short, the embargo and the lack of diplomatic relations are a political farce. The same Cubans who ‘support’ their families—and hence the regime—oppose reconciliation and the politicians, whether the Republican Rubio in Florida or the Democrat Menendez in New Jersey, eager for Cuban votes, have kept this farce going. If you don’t believe me just consider that after fifty five years of embargo the Castro brothers remain in power—Fidel is 88 and Raul, the current president, 83. We all know the definition of insanity; doing the same thing but expecting different results.
And please lets not bring up human rights or the freedom of Cubans because the USA is friends and have diplomatic relations with some of the worst offenders in the world.
So lets stop the nonsense and get on with it. If we really want the Castro regime to fail, lets resume diplomatic relations, let Americans export goods to the island, let Americans travel to Cuba and let Cubans get a real taste of how we live, let them get a hold of jeans and Rock and Roll and flat TVs and cars that run and in no time Cubans will demand access to those items, free enterprise will get a foothold and the USA will regain a friendly neighbor. Cubans are clever people who have been making do as best they can since 1959. Take it from me; some of my best friends are Cuban.

El cañonazo de las nueve

July 21, 2013 3 comments

I fell into a pothole. One so large that the more I tried to get out, the deeper it got. I’m speaking figuratively, of course, about my writing. I definitely will complete my memoir spanning the couple years before and after Fidel’s ascent to power (1956-61), but after a few months of assiduous work, my enthusiasm has waned.
I decided to take a break and work on something more fun.
A few years ago I started “Entropy,” a thriller, but put it away because, after the very exciting beginning, (First chapter won a first prize at the 2011 Philly Writing Conference) I had no idea what happened next. Actually, I did, but it was boring.
So I dug it out, reviewed what I had, threw away most of it, and devised an exciting finish. I planned to write up a first draft in a month, put it away to flesh out later, and return to memoir writing. For these past three weeks, I woke up anxious to learn what manner of mishap awaited my heroes.
I haven’t progressed as far as I’d hoped. I’d read that Freddy Vargas, a French mystery writer, writes her first drafts in three weeks. In that same time I’ve only written about one sixth of the novel. Obviously she is fast, something I admire about French women.
It isn’t all my fault. It turns out that my main character isn’t quite who I thought he was. Kap’s plans keep backfiring and his relationship with Ellen, the woman who broke his heart ten years earlier, is not quite what I had envisioned. I’m concerned that if Kap and Ellen keep screwing up (not screwing around) they’ll compromise the exciting new ending. And then there is Millie.
She and Tico the cat have insinuated themselves as brand new characters. Not sure why, and that is a problem. I expect a visit from Chekhov any minute now, telling me I better make sure to fire that gun (or the cat, in this case), before the end. And Millie? Really? Is anyone called Millie any more? And is Kap having a thing with her? That’s what Ellen thinks. But it makes no sense: Millie is married, a ditz and not Kap’s type, ie., she doesn’t look like Ellen.

Nevertheless writing the thriller has been fun. A thriller allows me to make stuff up. The more stuff the better. And that is the fun of writing fiction. It is even more fun when the characters do it themselves. Not so for a memoir. It is only me. And the facts. “Just the facts ma’am.”
Part of the problem I’m having with the writing of the memoir is a two-fold lack of cooperation.
I have been reading copies of El Mundo, a Cuban newspaper of the time, to remind me what I knew back then, and to reorder events. I borrow El Mundo from the Library of Congress in microfiche form. But in spite of the full cooperation of the LOC, (the head of periodicals has given my requests priority), the Doylestown person in charge isn’t being helpful.
I can only hope that the next batch of El Mundo microfiche arrives soon and that it will rekindle my memoir writing. [Although reading from a microfiche machine gives me a headache]
The other source of spotty cooperation comes from my memory.
Remembering stuff from fifty plus years ago isn’t easy. Some of my friends, when asked about events they starred on, cannot even recall the event. But, to be fair, sometimes they remember events I do not, until they bring them up, like when Billy asked me if I remembered swimming with Fidel in Santa Maria del Mar.
Sometimes, events that are crystal clear in my mind’s eye lose clarity when I examine them in close detail.
Exploring those long ago remembrances is a little like stumbling inside a vaguely familiar building, and having to feel my way from room to room because most every room and hallway is dark. And when I’m encouraged by finding a brightly lit room, I often discover that the room isn’t as well lit as it seemed to be. Or that the light is uneven. And when I try to explore those murky recesses in my memory, I only have at my disposal a cranky flashlight, hardly enough to illuminate the dark corners where key details lurk.
And yet, sometimes it works. The flashlight glows bright and a completely forgotten event emerges from the shadows.
Writing a chapter on the pre-1959 period, when Batista was in power, Castro’s rebels on the hills and bombs went off every night, I wrote that the exploding bombs sounded like distant cannon. This image came to mind easily, but made me stop, to wonder how I knew back then, when I was fifteen, what distant cannon sounded like.
And then, unprompted, a brief flash reminded me that when I was a little kid living in La Habana Vieja, Old Havana, I heard a cannon fired every night.
Really?
Thanks to Google I learned that they still do. I even watched a recreation of the cannon being fired on You Tube.
My newly rediscovered old friend, classmate, and neighbor, Ernesto, confirmed it. When I asked him whether we could have heard it in Santos Suarez, our old suburban neighborhood, he claimed not to remember. But in Miramar, where he lives these days, sometimes he hears the distant rumble of the cañonazo de las nueve, the cannon fired since the 18th century—when Havana was protected by thick stone walls against pirates, privateers and buccaneers—to warn the city residents that it was nine o’clock and the city gates were about to close.