Today marks the end of Carnival in Santiago de Cuba. It is hands down the most celebrated event in Cuba, and definately the best party. (We have inside sources here at ¿Revolucion, No? that have seen first hand in 2003, during the 50th anniversary). This date marks the beginning of the movement simply called El Movimiento de la 26 de Julio. This movement, led by Fidel Castro, brother Raul, and Che Guevara, originated from the failed attack on the Moncada Barracks, an army facility in the city of Santiago de Cuba in 1953. Fidel was then sentenced to 15 years in prison, but after serving less than 2 years he was released by Batista, who recieved a tremendous amount of pressure from the public to release him. Fidel reformed the movement in Mexico, which is where he met Che Guevara. Under this movement they overthrew the fascist Batista regime in 1959 and the Cuban Revolucion was born.
What happened after that is complicated, and the views vary drastically. Either way you look at it, the goal that the 26th of July movement had was admirable. It was to overthrow a conservative regime that only benefitted the rich and foreign investment (many straight out gangsters). The majority of the actual people in Cuba at the time suffered greatly from poverty. Who can disagree with taking over a regime like this? It’s a Movement of the People! The wealthy cuban-americans certainly can. Just go to Miami and start talking politics. But the fact of the matter is, the education system is better, the health care is renowned throughout the world (think about it there are no corrupt insurance-drug company scams), and noone is homeless. Unfortunately the embargo has caused a huge amount of suffering and the country is extremely poor because of it. At this point, I’m not sure what is worse. To be stubborn and fight the imperialism, or to open it up and have it look like Miami and Puerto Rico. At least the people would have more opportunities, right? I’m only saying that in theory the Cuban Revolution was an incredible thing. The embargo definately threw a wrench in the system, and corruption is always present. It’s difficult to be objective for many here in the states…we’ve got over 50 years of propaganda engrained in us, and not to mention all the angry ex-Cubans who had all their land and multiple homes taken away. (I for one, don’t think that one person should own 5 homes when there are millions of people homeless…but try saying that to people in Florida). I’m not saying that socialism is the way to go…I do feel it takes away peoples drive and therefore productivity. But I do believe a mix is good. Europe is a perfect example. National health care, education, getting rid of tax breaks on the rich… does that sound like a bad thing? Anyways, I’m ranting…I highly suggest going to Cuba right now, before it does open up. (I mean, uh….from what people tell me….)
If you do go, (it’s simple, I hear you just go to another country close by and buy a ticket from Cubana in cash, and when you get there ask them not to stamp your passport. When you do go, bring lots of cash. Don’t use your credit card…otherwise they have proof that you’ve been there…so I hear) you will hear an incredible amount of music. The whole buena vista social club son thing is everywhere. Sundays, there are rhumba’s everywhere. Santeria rituals everywhere (especially in Santiago), and live salsa bands performing outdoors, and in clubs all the time. Los Van Van, Grupo NG, etc… There is also a big underground hip hop movement there. Granted some of them unfortunately listen to lil jon, and 50 cent, but most are into the conscious thing (i.e. Common, Talib Kweli, Dead Prez, etc…) Most of you know the Orishas, who just put out a new record Antidiotico which is kind of a greatest hits record with a couple of new singles/re-works. They’ve since moved to France though, so you won’t see them there. You should, however look for Anonimo Consejo, Aldeanos, Danay, Explosion Suprema amongst many many more. I’ve put together a collection of unreleased material that I got directly from them while…um…someone from the ¿Revolucion, No? office while he was there 2 years ago. He was there for a few weeks working with Danay y Aldo, after an introduction from Pablo Herrera. It is given to me in good faith, so I’ve just included one song from each artist as an introduction to them. So if you like what you here go out and support them. I’m actually working on original material with them right now, so look out in the future….
For now, here’s what you get…