Cuba for the Misinformed: Facts from the Forbidden Island
by Mick Winter
(2013, Westsong Publishing, http://www.cubamisinformed.com/)
I got to know Fidel Castro back in 1997. You know the guy, that larger than life, Third World comic book hero, with the Michelangelo, Zeusian beard, the burnished, acacian savannah face, with his Groucho Marx cheroot, as big as a Coney Island footlong, protruding from his charismatic and wise-beyond-his-experiences smile. That is how alive and real Mr. Castro was to me, when I read Tad Szulc’s personal and gripping biography, Fidel: A Critical Portrait (1986, Avon Books). In 1997, I was leaving China after seven years of cultural intoxication as intense as Nate King Cole’s five pack a day nicotine addiction, a subject amply covered in my book, 44 Days Backpacking in China: The Middle Kingdom in the 21st Century, with the United States, Europe and the Fate of the World in Its Looking Glass (2013, 44 Days Publishing, www.44days.net). Szulc’s Fidel book and moving to France made for a nice cultural correlation of sorts. Thanks to Fidel, I began and continue to follow quite regularly the life and times of Fidel and his geopolitical id, The Republic of Cuba.
No, not that cigar, the other one. (image by wikipedia)
Over the ensuing years, I was always pining for a bookend to match Szulc’s wonderful, intimate and revealing book, and 16 years later, stumbled upon the perfect complement, the omega to my Cuba/Castro alpha.
Mick Winter’s informative, Cuban smorgasbord. (image by Mick Winter)
Cuba for the Misinformed: Facts from the Forbidden Island‘s perfect platform is the ebook. Its format and content are ideal for word searching anything and everything you might imagine or wonder about this defiant country and its proud, idealistic people. Cuba is a huge, interactive scrapbook, something I can fancy seeing on Tom Cruise’s transparent, illuminated, Minority Report TV screens, whipping, moving and arranging all the information with a flick of the wrist, in the shadows of a darkened, magical library. Much like an encyclopedia, Cuba is broken down by chapters according to subject or topic: History, Revolution, Relations with the US, etc.
Cuba for the Misinformed’s format is made for scenes right out of Steven Spielberg’s movie, The Minority Report (image by wikipedia)
Cuba is replete with photos and links to YouTube, Wikipedia and other resource-rich websites. So, you can be reading a chapter and then immediately watch dozens of germane videos, listen to archival recordings about that topic, or segue to more detailed articles and reports.
Fidel Castro, left and Che Guevara, center, during the La Coubre explosion march, 1960, very likely a CIA masterminded sabotage that caused 300 Cuban casualties. (image by wikipedia)
If Cuba is Castro’s id, then the United States is his dark and sinister, Old Testament seraph. I challenge any sentient American or friend of America to read Cuba and still be proud of what Uncle Sam has perpetrated on the Caribbean’s largest island. It is appalling, embarrassing and humiliating. My head was spinning in disgust by the time I turned the last page. The puerile, pompous and psychotic behavior of the United States will live in ignominy through the annals of human history, during the decades to come. How petty and pedantic is the world’s now reigning paper tiger? Uncle Sam fined Ry Cooder $25,000 because he traveled illegally to and spent money in Cuba, thus violating an American law unique to this tropical island, the Trading with Enemy Act. Doing what, you might ask? He went to this forbidden, tropical island to produce the internationally admired and best-selling music CD, Buena Vista Social Club. Like some comic book deus ex machina, then President Bill Clinton accorded Mr. Cooder an “act of clemency”, so he could return legally to Cuba for a further year of recording. But this multi-instrumental six-time Grammy award winning musical institution of all things American roots music did not have his hefty fine forborn. I guess Billy Jeff needed the money to pay the Department of Justice’s Gucci-shoed legal boys. After all, they needed to sew up his pardon of Marc Rich tighter than a late summer deer tick. It was accorded on his last day in office.
Ry Cooder knows all about “trading with the enemy”. (image by wikipedia)
You and your partner are Americans traveling somewhere in the world, outside the confines of the United States, and it’s time to kick back and chillax after a long day of work and sightseeing. You order a frosted daiquiri and your better half opts for an ice cold mojito, extra fresh mint please. It was a great day, so you tell the bartender to mix up the drinks with their best rum. You don’t normally smoke, but what the hell, it’s an outside table, so you each order a nice imported cigar to smoke and savor. The beautifully presented drinks are served, you toast each other, and while taking that first, well deserved sip, an immaculately dressed woman in a tuxedo comes to the table with a wooden humidor box for you to choose your cigars. She deftly clips the caps off your smokes with a fine cigar cutter, and lights them for you with a platinum Givenchy lighter. As you reminisce together about the day’s achievements, with the backdrop of a gorgeous sunset, suddenly, men in black come from out of nowhere, with wireless earpieces, dressed and looking eerily like Huge Weaving’s Agent Smith, in the movie franchise Matrix. Heavy firepower pistols surround you, glinting in the fading dusk. What’s all the Hollywoodesque crime scene drama about, you ask? Well, didn’t you know? You are Americans and no matter where you are on planet Earth, land, sea or air, your crime is drinking Cuban rum and smoking Cuban cigars. So, you are arrested for “trading with the enemy”. Also, if you are an American business person and import something – any product – that has content from Cuba, natural or artificial, then you are breaking American law for “trading with the enemy”.
“OK Neo”, says Agent Smith, “where are the Cuban cigars and rum”? (image by wikipedia)
As if heaping humiliation and hubris on the heads of Americans was not enough, what with 50 years of cruel and needless trade embargoes, the 1992 Torricelli Act was passed, that tightened the screws even further, by making it illegal for Americans to sell to Cubans any food or medicine, period.1 The 1996 Helms-Burton Act presaged W’s infamous, Hatfield-McCoy “you’re either with us or against us” temper tantrum, by making it illegal for any international company that does business with Cubans, to also do commerce with the United States, period. The first act was signed by Bush 41 and finally put into force by Bill “Triangulation” Clinton in 1996, who is what the Democratic wing of the 1%’s Corporate Party calls “America’s best president since FDR”. Great Goddess save our souls.
Korea and Southeast Asia were the clarion call of doom for the United States’ constitutional degradation and loss of liberties (at least if you were not dark skinned, or these days, Muslim). But there is a much more subtle canary in the coal mine, which is even more prophetic of America’s eventual decline. Cuba for the Misinformed scathingly and convincingly details America’s thin skinned, chip-on-the-shoulder, histrionics. As a result, Cuba has been besieged from the north militarily, economically and politically. It all started in 1959, when Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and their hardy, ragtag army of committed revolutionaries sent America’s corporate parasites and the Mafia’s Lansky and Luciano packing. Banana republics and tin pot tyrants are supposed behave the way America has towards Cuba for the last 54 years and counting, not the mythical beacon on the hill that it vaunts itself to be. When you are used to treating your hemisphere like an ATM resources machine, a tenaciously successful reprobate cannot be tolerated.
In the end, Mick Winter sums up this fascinating compendium of music, food, history, geography, geopolitics and social studies, by making an obvious point that I had never thought of before reading Cuba. Fidel and Cuba really have been and continue to be in a constant state of economic and political siege, what with the endless Yanqui stream of military invasions, sabotage, secret incursions, black ops, assassination attempts, Operation Northwoods, the CIA, brutally cruel trade and financial embargoes and derisory laws right out of the screenplay for Terry Gilliam’s absurdist, dystopian Brazil. This has made it very easy for the Cuban government to cry foul and claim the need to suppress personal liberties and the press, in the name of national security. Sound familiar? So, Mr. Winter makes a very eloquent and efficient proposal: stop all this hysterical bullying, treat Cuba just like any other trade partner, work with them, while chest thumping across the Tropic of Cancer for all the world to hear,
OK Fidel-o, brother Raul, the Ghost of Che and all you swarthy Cubanos down there in Sugarland, are you going to talk the Commie talk or walk the Western walk? Which is it gonna be, huh, punks?
Dammit, I just woke up. This last little bit of rational reasoning was nothing but a Wonderland, White Rabbit dream. Oh well, at least I have Mick Winter’s Cuba for the Misinformed to keep me hoping.
America is looking more and more like the inspiration for Terry Gilliam’s dystopian masterpiece, Brazil. (image by wikipedia)
1- The multi-bazillion dollar ag and food processing industries have much more money than the wingnut, neofascist Cubans in Florida. Ample bribes, oops, I mean campaign contributions got enough agro-food exemptions poked in the Torricelli Act that it now leaks Cargill, Archer Daniel Midland, Kraft and Nestle by the Panamax and 40-foot container load.
Want a fun, low cost honorary degree in Chinese Studies? Jeff’s book, 44 Days, will have you laughing while learning and becoming an expert on all things Middle Kingdom. If you live in China, buy it on the 44 Days website, clicking on either Print Book, Ebook or Color Ebook.