Monday, March 21, 2016

Cuban-Americans continue to perpetuate the myth of pre-Castro Cuba

Dan Le Batard in the Miami Herald attacked the “historic game in Cuba,” an exhibition between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national baseball team, claiming that it “ignores the pain so many people endured.” Like many right-wing Cuban expatriates, he views the island as an experiment in “affirmative action” on a national basis, but hypocritically couches racism in terms like “lost freedoms,” “lost families” and “lost land.” White Cuban-Americans believe, and more specifically through their “poor” grandparents and great grandparents—that their “blood” is on the hands of the current regime—and so apparently does Pres. Obama, who sanctioned the semi-normalization of relations with Cuba, having decided enough is enough with the kowtowing to the tender sensitivities of the right-wing elements of the Miami-Cuban community, with the U.S. having been mired in an out-dated cold war mentality toward the island for too long. Le Batard goes on and on, to the point where his accusations begin to throw credibility out the window from repeated clichés of woe. 

Enough of this historical hypocrisy. At the time of the Spanish conquest, the principle native population was the Taino; today, there is literally only a handful of people in Cuba who may be descended from them. More than half of the Cuban population today is mixed European and African heritage (“mulattoes”), and to a lesser extent black; most Africans were “imported” to fix the labor shortage caused by the mass die-off of the native Amerindian population. Interestingly, after the British began “interfering” with trans-Atlantic commerce in slaves, led to the importation of contract labor from China—many of whom soon left Cuba due to the horrible conditions they worked under. But it shouldn't be a surprise that in pre-revolution Cuba, Euro-elites entirely dominated the political, social and economic life of the country, as they did and do throughout Latin America. Racial discrimination was accepted practice in Cuban society; there was little or no effort to “integrate” non-whites politically, socially or economically, and little regard was given to education.

The subsequent history of the “republic” of Cuba after the Spanish-American war is one of uncontrolled graft, corruption and occasional assassination of political opponents. Fulgencio Batista was the typically corrupt ruler propped-up by the U.S. in Latin America, and ruled Cuba pre-revolution literally at his personal “pleasure.” While Cuba’s economy was based mainly on a virtual slave-wage plantation model, the “other half” was typified by vice-ridden Havana, a Las Vegas-style pleasure palace for the rich and criminal. Americans forget that the Castro-led revolution was one largely of junior army officers who could no longer suffer this corrupt and unprincipled regime. This pre-Castro Cuba was never a land of “freedom,” let alone “equality.”

What was the real reason the vast majority of Cubans fled the island? Sure, there are the recent cases of a few athletes looking for fortune and fame in the U.S., and those who have this “Good Housekeeping” idea of what America is about.  But the vast majority were white Cubans (and their descendants) whose lives of privilege, wealth and pleasure were no longer in keeping with a new vision of society that at least purported to be one in support of a more “level” society in which all would benefit. Whether or not that actually occurred is beside the point; the previous Cuban regimes represented a society that practiced the exact opposite.

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