(Originally posted 3/21/17 on Read With The Gringa)
While Obama was still in office, he opened doorways to Cuba that had been closed for a very long time. One would think that such a policy would be welcomed by Americans and Cubans, alike. After all, we are such close neighbors. However, Obama’s decision was rife with controversy and, considering how Trump seems bent on destroying any policy legacy Obama may have left our country, this door may close now that he is in office.
But what, exactly, is up with Cuba policy? All the gringa learned in her public school education was that Cuba was friends with Soviet Russia, both countries have communism in common, Cuba aimed Russian missiles at US shores, and all are considered horrible things if you are a good, little patriot. But is public school history of American-Cuban relations and history fair? Is there more to the story that a good, little American child won’t learn in a public school classroom?
At the end of the 1800s, Americans were positioning themselves to be the saviours of Cubans. For about three decades Cuba had been battling against Spain’s imperial aggression, colonizing and effectively ruling the island nation. And, like typical European imperialists, the Europeans were a privileged class who oppressed the indigenous islanders. Once American soldiers arrived to provide that extra little “oomph” needed to turn the tide in favor of freedom seeking Cubans, it wasn’t long before everyone was enjoying a victory party Havana style.
New Year’s Day, 1899, began a week of festivities, organized by what were called “revolutionary patriotic committees”. Dances, grand balls, speeches, fireworks, boat races, feasts, you name it, everyone, Cuban and American alike, indulged. As Cuban soldiers enjoyed victory marches around the island, they were beloved by all.
Then the Americans had to go and spoil the party. American General John Brooke stunned Cuban allies and officials by proclaiming himself the military governor of the island. So, while Cuba was innocently thinking the Americans were arriving as allies to help them regain their independence, US were actually a Trojan Horse. The idea of being liberating allies was a farce, a ruse, to trick Cuba into welcoming new invaders, armed to the teeth, into their arms. Then, when their guard was down, thinking the war was over, the Americans lowered the boom. Cuba’s so-called “saviours” they were fighting beside were actually Judas in disguise.
General Brooke made it clear that the Cubans were considered rebel armies and to be subjugated accordingly. Imagine that! Cubans, on their own patch of land in the world, driving out European invaders, were called rebels by the new Euro-American invaders. The gringa would like to know who, exactly they were rebelling against? Themselves? Their countrymen? I mean, after all, they owed no allegiance to America anymore than they owed allegiance to Spain. Aahh, the treachery and arrogance of America.
Armed Cuban forces were prevented from entering the capital city, Havana, where General Brooke set-up headquarters. And that is the beginning of generations of Cubans eyeing the US with suspicion and considering words like “tyrant” as synonymous with “America”.
Now, the US already had two centuries of history as a frontier nation. Taking land away from indigenous people was nothing new. General Brooke didn’t bat an eye at such orders as to lay claim to Cuba, snatching it from the hands of its own people who had just fought for their independence for thirty long years. Americans had been snatching land away from the Cherokee Nation, the Apache, Mexico, and countless others. They had no conscience about appropriating an entire continent that belonged to other nations. What was a tiny little island?
The success the European invaders had at expanding the borders of the new country they had formed gradually created an ideology that became contaminated by their own religious beliefs. The Christian faith of many of America’s founding fathers believed in dominion theology. They believed that their god’s command to go out and take dominion over the land meant that their god wanted them to rule the world. In some preserved historical documents, official as well as personal, this doctrine, philosophy, ideology, whatever, you want to call it, is often referred to as “manifest destiny”.
Once political leaders saw how lucrative such an idea was, they began to craft the propaganda necessary to cultivate a society that would be conditioned to accept a government that would habitually practice the art of invasion and take-over of other lands, exploitation of its natural resources and subjugation of the indigenous people. Americans believed that it was their god ordained duty to occupy the lands of Canada, Mexico and every patch between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. And once they reached the edge of the ocean, they must take to their ships and take dominion over the rest of the world. And Cuba was the first port of call on that journey.
Once America filled up from sea to shining sea, the greed and desire for material and land-based wealth needed an outlet. Consider the intellectuals that were churning out what every American was thinking at the turn of that century. Listen to the entitlement contained in the words of Frederick Jackson Turner in 1893, bemoaning the indications of the nation’s 1890 Census revealing that there was, in effect, no longer an American frontier to be taken advantage of by the land-hungry descendants of European invaders:
“For nearly three centuries the dominant fact in American life has been expansion. With the settlement of the Pacific Coast and the occupation of the free lands, this movement has come to a check. That these energies of expansion will no longer operate would be a rash prediction; and the demands for a vigorous foreign policy, for an inter-oceanic canal, for a revival of our power upon the seas, and for the extension of American influence to outlying islands and adjoining countries, are indications that the movement will continue.”
Um, the gringa’s got news for Turner. His so-called “movement”, well, that’s just a polite word for “aggressive invasions” with regard to neighboring countries and outlying islands. You see how that works, dear reader? And it is still going on today. Now it’s called “spreading democracy”. And those are the roots of the relationship between Cuba and America.
America continued to aggressively bring Cuba to heel. The US installed their own puppet dictator, Fulgencia Batista Zaldivar. Yet Cuba continued to struggle for freedom and independence, always straining against the yoke of foreign invaders. Eventually they would find a champion in Fidel Castro who would lead a revolution that would overthrow this regime propped up by the US. Although Castro is demonized in American history, the reality is that it was America who took the first mis-step. The gringa does not blame Castro for rejecting America and turning to Russia, whom he believed to be the only nation powerful enough to protect his island nation from an imperial invasion and take-over from the US. You see, when American saw that Castro had a backbone and could not be controlled as their puppet, once again, they chose to resort to invasion and hostile take-over of a patch of dirt they considered was theirs by divine right, duty and obligation. You know, that whole “Bay of Pigs” debacle?
Eventually, Castro would sever all diplomatic ties with the US in 1961. This is the reason the US has generated decades of propaganda to make Castro the “bad guy” and the US the “good guy”.
By opening the door, uniting our people, US citizens will now be able to have personal contact and learn a different perspective of this history. For a country like the US, that carefully cultivates their “good guy” image, re-writing history to always depict national policy as benign and justifying aggression in the interest of national security because we have been “victimized”, the gringa will watch with interest to see how this new Cuba policy develops.
Video Sources: Council on Foreign Relations