Category Archives: cuba

Hey kids, forget baseball cards! How about guerrilla cards instead?

Revolucion Cubana
Revolucion Cubana

Yeah, no. I don’t mean Gorillaz of “Feel Good Inc.” and “Clint Eastwood” fame.

And, for the those of us over forty: yeah, no. Not Sigourney Weaver crouching in an African jungle.

We’re talking Guerrillas. As in grenades and automatic weapons and bandanas. (may I interject by saying how much I love – especially when taking the pitch for a soccer match – wearing bandanas? and how my simple affectation confounds my teenage daughters to no end?)

1012-2Propaganda was just one factor in the success of the Cuban Revolution. But, man (the bandana made me say it), they were good at winning hearts and minds.

1012-5Shortly after the success of the revolution and consequent overthrow of Batista (1960), Felices, a distributor of sweets and marmalades based in Havana, began handing out these revolutionary albums. Each album contains 271 “slots” onto which a corresponding collectible card representing a person or event from the story of the revolution may be pasted. As the child (assuming, here) collected these cards, the album would be filled out to reveal the story of the “Glorioso Ejercito Rebelde” – glorious revolution.

1012-3Composed in a cartoonish manner, the cards are anything but cartoonish in their portrayal of violent scenes of war, bloodshed, and even (allusions to) rape (attributed of course to the pro-Batista forces). We begin, naturally, in 1952 with Batista’s coup to take power and continue to Fidel’s attack on Mocada in 1953, through the Granma expedition and to the war in the Sierra Maestra until the triumphal entry to Havana and the assumption of power by the revolutionary forces. The center spread includes all of the heroes of the revolution, including Fidel Castro, Raúl Castro, Camilo Cienfuegos, Ernesto (“Che”) Guevara, Hubert Matos (later tried for treason), and Humberto Sori Marín (also later a traitor).

Seriously, kids collected these.

1012-4This album is complete, with all 271 cards collected and affixed to the proper places, and is very good with just some bumping to the corners. A very rare find. You can purchase it here or on Biblio.com.

Get the vote out. No, really. Get the vote out.

It’s a fact often lamented in the U.S. – and rightfully so – about the dreadful turnout rates that many of our democratic elections receive. We’ve had a number of presidential elections with less than 50% turnout (think Clinton v. Dole v. Perot).

What I find astounding is that in the ratification of Fidel Castro’s first Declaracion de la Habana, Cuba achieved a turnout rate of at least 15% of the population of the country.

That’s so sad, you say.

Umm.

I meant turnout in the sense of turnout at a ballgame: physical bodies assembled in support of a team, a cause, a symbol, an idea.750782025.2.m

On September 2, 1960, over a million people gathered as the “National General Assembly of the People” in the square near José Marti’s statue to ratify Castro’s declaration against imperialism and poverty.

Only 7 million people lived in the entire nation at the time.

… Yet, despite one of the most powerful democratic actions in recorded history, try – just, try – to find contemporary Western media coverage that even acknowledges the event, much less describes its historical import.


 

Disclosure: The author of this post was raised – and still is – a red-blooded American,  largely raised in the U.S. South, with family roots trailing back almost two centuries into the American midwest, who finds himself continually disappointed in the agenda-driven media and educational system that he was raised.  (often wonders why, for example, we weren’t taught Wu Cheng’en’s Journey to the West alongside Homer’s Odyssey?)

Juxtaposition, or The Dumpling’s Fate by Photo

Life just isn’t fair. It seems some are just destined for greatness, and others for some kind of sad, Ignatius J Reilly existence. And there’s not much you can do about it, because it’s just flatly written across your face and your posture. You can almost see it as early as kindergarten photos. Winner, meet loser.

That’s what I love about this photo by reknowned Cuban photographer, Osvaldo Salas (signed by him, actually).

fide photo
Salas photo of Fidel Castro and fellow revolutionaries, 1959.

On the left, you have proud, heroic Captain José Ramón Fernández, and then you have a few people with at least passing historic significance, namely one Fidel Castro Ruiz accompanied by Osvaldo Dorticós Torrado (president of Cuba 1959-1976) and Augusto Martínez Sánchez (an early member of Castro’s regime, but ousted in 1964 by Castro). Then we have Humberto Sorí Marin on the far-right, looking for all the world like a dumpling that lost both its chicken and noodles.

Let’s reconstitute that paragraph this way.

Captain José Ramón Fernández …. blah, blah …. Humberto Sorí Marin.

Winner? Loser? Care to take a guess?

See Sorí Marin was a part of Castro’s revolution and early government, but left after just a few months and defected to the U.S. with help from the CIA in October 1959.  In 1961, he returned.

As a member of the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion.

Four guesses which guy in the photo was sent by Castro to repel the invasion. Right. Ramón Fernández.

Sorí Marin was captured in the invasion and executed by firing squad a few weeks later.

Meanwhile, Ramón Fernández, victorious in repelling the invasion, went on to be a General, garner titles like Hero of the Republic of Cuba, and is currently a Vice President of the council of ministers at the spry age of 91.

Full disclosure: the author himself was a lost little dumpling in his kindergarten photograph.