Cuba Libre -- or, Fidel-dee-dee?
It has always struck me as odd and highly inconsistent how certain Canadians of decidedly left-wing principles love to take vacations in Cuba. I am not of their political persuasion and I tend to not want to luxuriate in the tropical beaches of a police state. Not as long as I am aware of the suffering of many folk in that socialist ‘paradise.’
I once said to an individual who was going on ad nauseam about how wonderful was their family vacation in Cuba, and how inexpensive it was. “Of course it’s inexpensive, you stupid fuck,” is what I thought. “The people there only earn a dollar a day!” No, I didn’t say that, but I did ask, “Don’t you ever wonder about exploiting people doing dog-work for a pittance so you can have a cheap vacation?”
Anyway, I’ve never chosen to spend my money to enhance the coffers of a nasty little dictatorship. I’m just not very big on tyrants.
Such thoughts come to mind with the new of the denouement of Fidel Castro as Cuban strongman after a half-century of wielding the reins of power. He’s a tired and haggard looking old man. A huge contrast to the dashing young guerrilla who entered Havana triumphantly shortly after New Year’s Day in 1959.This was after enduring a brutal life in the Sierra Maestre Mountains since 1955.
The entry was the culmination of a vicious four-year battle to liberate the country from unsavoury dictator Fulgencio Battista. And everybody loved the dash and flair of this swaggering, yet charming man who seemed to herald a new era. Yes, there was Fidel, and the charismatic Che – his dashing and romantic henchman who, despite retro and stupid lionization of the bastard, was a brutish psycho who was an extremely risky compadre for Fidel. Fidel was smart enough to know that and sent him off overseas to foment further revolution. In so fomenting, he got shot. Fidel probably didn't mourn so very much. And, there was little brother Raul. Raul, whom nobody heard much about post-1959, but was always there. And now he is to be boss. Hmm. Some argue that Raul has more to be ashamed of in the brutality and repression departments than does Fidel.
Anyway, they all marched triumphantly in, and everybody thought Fidel was so cool. Especially young people. Somewhere around the place I have an old poster distributed by some leftie cabal called the ‘Hands Off Cuba Committee.’ I was a kid. I stuck it up on the wall. My old man ordered me to take it down, and opined that he wasn’t going to have “that communist crap” covering his walls.
And then we know how it played out. Fidel had the audacity to ‘nationalize’ a whole bunch of US holdings in a country that lies a scant 90 miles off the coast of Florida. That did not go well. After all, there were huge ‘connections’ between the US and Cuba – all the way from Ernest Hemingway and his love of the place, to old Joe Kennedy, of whom it was once said that he owned half the whorehouses in Havana, to those fine cigars, to the Cubans’ love for Coca Cola. And, hey, Fidel was a dab-hand at America’s national sport, baseball, and was once considered a contender to make it into the majors should he have chosen to go in that direction.
But, he had other plans and in relatively short order he, in his anti-Americanism, embraced the other guys and hugged N.S. Kruschev. Bad move, and there was all sorts of ill blood since that time. Some of it stupid, like the Bay of Pigs, and some of it terrifying, like the Missile Crisis that brought us to the brink of World War III. That was a wide-awake moment in time.
Meanwhile, there were the exiles, and there were the stories of the notorious political prisons, and there was the reality that Cubans, despite a fine nationalized health system, still toil for a buck a day and the richest people in the place are the hookers and cabbies that get to lay their hands on tourist bucks. Tourists, including Americans, who filter into the place via Toronto.
And now he is gone. Oh, he’s still breathing, they say. But, he’s effectively left the building.
A lot of promise. Not much follow-through. I, for one, won’t miss him.
Labels: Passing of an era in a way