Whatever the excuses the leaders of the United States may come up with about why they opposed Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution over the past sixty years, the issue that divided our country and Cuba was always about Cuba’s defiance of a superpower.
It was never about our concern for democracy.
In 2000 I joined a group of educators on an approved trip to the island. After spending some time in Havana, visiting schools, meeting with teachers and observing classrooms, we boarded a bus that took us on a 700 mile journey to Santiago de Cuba where I could see the lights of Port au Prince at night.
Santiago is where the Cuban Revolution began. It is where Fidel led a small band of revolutionaries in an attack on the Moncada Barracks on July 26th, 1953.
The raid failed. Fidel and his group were arrested and jailed. But July 26th is still celebrated in Cuba as a national holiday.
Our guides took us to the Moncada Barracks and pointed to the bullet holes in the wall.
Of course, the bullet holes were recreations.
The government of the U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista had repaired the original bullet holes in hopes of quelling thoughts of resistance.
It was while Fidel was in prison for the Moncada attack that he wrote, History Will Absolve Me, his vision for a Cuba free of American colonial rule.
Our educators trip to Cuba in 2000 coincided with the fall of the Soviet Union and the Cuban people were suffering greatly from the American embargo.
Yet Cuba’s defiance of the demands of United States superpower continued.
Remembering Fidel this morning, my thoughts went back to a conversation with my Dad that I had as a young political activist.
The conversation seems relevant for today when politics seem so degraded and it seems so dark for so many.
“If in 1955 someone had predicted,” said Dad, “that the little island – a colony of the United States – 90 miles off our coast, could win its independence from the most powerful military giant in the world, they would have been dismissed with a laugh.”