Cuba’s Revolt – an Historical Appraisal

Cuba’s Revolt – an Historical Appraisal

I went to Cuba at a time when, by the standards of the daily press, nothing important was taking place: there was only the buildup for the crisis expected after the November 1958 election. Not until later did the correspondents and TV characters begin to descend on Cuba. This sudden influx surprised the many Cubans who know English, since for months they had the peculiar feeling that they were living in limbo: most American papers simply ignored the revolution and the name of Cuba was never mentioned on the newscasts from American radio stations that are heard on the island. It was this silence which helped persuade many Cubans that the “Americans” were against the Castro revolt.

About the position of the U.S. government, the Cubans had no doubt. When I drove to small towns in the interior, where a car with U.S. plates was a rarity, a little crowd would quickly gather; after a few minutes of casual talk, some of the people, for mysterious reasons, would feel reassured that I was not a plant of the dreaded S.I.M. [secret police] and would dare ask the fatal question: “Why does the American government support Batista?”

For Cubans this was a painful question, since nowhere else in the world is there so much sympathy, at all social levels, for American ways and institutions. One does not hear those snide remarks about American barbarism that are dropped by European conservatives who have, at the same time, sold themselves body and soul to American foreign policy. Indeed, the Cuban revolution can be regarded as an outcome of a fifty-year-old “Americanization.” Many Cubans try to spend a year or two in the States as part of their training for business or a trade; wealthy Cubans send their children to American universities. Ninety percent of what is printed is either American or a translation from American. The impact is reflected even in the language where not only is one word in ten or twenty English but even the grammar and idioms are often modeled on American speech.

In their desire to be like Americans, the Cubans have made a great effort to become practical, efficient, businesslike; the Castro rebellion was a marvel of organization. Its leaders were men who learned American technical efficiency and tried to organize their movement in its spirit; whereas it is no accident that the drifters, scum or wretches, who comprised Batista’s army did not know what to do with their elaborate U.S. equipment. But the Cubans have learned not only about air conditioning and TV; they have come passionately to believe in the democracy American preaches.