26 de Julio!

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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….)

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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….

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For now, here’s what you get…

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11 Comments

  1. You misspelled Fascist, and Batista wasn’t a Fascist. He was an authoritarian strongman, which means you were allowed to party all you wanted to, just don’t mess with the folks in charge. Ironically, the authoriatrian statism of post-revolutionary Cuba is closer to Fascism than what was in place before. There you still can’t mess with the folks is charge and they are still corrupt, but in addition they feel qualified to decide if you can travel both within Cuba and outside the country, what you can study and where you will practice your profession, and free to take kids away from their parents to send them to state schools for indoctrination. All of that reflects the assumption that individuals are disposable resources of the State and its functionaries.

    Many people go to Cuba and love the people there and conflate that with the influence of the Revolution, whereas the Afro-Latin abiance persists in spite of the scarcity produced by the Revolution (not by the US embargo).

    Thanks for the Fela.

    Vince

  2. ok vince… I did get a little carried away with calling Batista a fascist. An authoritarian oppressive selfish elitist. How’s that? I hardly base a political system on wether or not you can party. That is what Batista is famous for. Partying with the wealthy foreigners, who happened to be making hand over fist in all the casinos, hotels, restaurants due to Batista. Cubans barely saw any of that money, and the few that did, were an incredibly small percentile. And yes, Fidel has been fascist in many ways. Many arguements can be made about that. The fact that you have to have permission to leave the country is one that I happen to think is extremely fascist. People are also afraid of speaking against the government in public. But when you get them in their homes, the majority, after making a few complaints all agree that for the most part the system has many benefits and in an ideal world (sin embargo) the system is superior in many ways. And no, the state does not treat people as disposable resources of the State… In the trade with Venezuela, where Cuba sent 500 doctors in exchange for oil, all were given the choice to go. They were also granted permission to stay in Venezuela and bring their families with them, and only 2 of the 500 did so. All I am saying is that many of Fidel’s ‘fascist’ actions do come from a necessity due to indigence, of which is caused by the embargo. I’m not saying he’s perfect, and I disagree with many things that he has done. I’m merely pointing out that he’s not this demonic figure the U.S. makes him out to be. He is certainly not any worse than our current leader. And Vince…what did you mean by abiance? I’m guessing you meant abience? That’s ok…I guess we all misspell occasionally.

  3. being french, I saw Orishas in Occitanie four years ago or so, and I must say they were not really good. I was expecting something better. You probably know Control Machete… That’s another style but I prefer them.

  4. Vince, Fidel is no fascist.; Cuba has done nothing but fight it. And much of your info on Cuba is simply wrong.

    Cuban students are being taught (#1 in Lat/Car) not indoctrinated – any less than we Americans are. No kids ae being “taken away.” The huge percentage of Cubans who get college degrees can study whatever they want, including the arts – and not have to worry about their marketability. Ditto with work… the job classifications in Cuba are so much more real and interesting than the USs. Most US jobs are 100% crap.

    Cuban officials are notoriously NOT corrupt. Steal a little extra off the top for themselves, sure, but not corrupt. And it is totally misleading to suggest the Cuban Govt. prevents travel between the country and outside. Tourism is 100% allowed (with 2 million Cubans staying at 4/5 star hotels/tourist villas in 2006 stats). And if they have a reason to go abroad or move, it is no more problem than most Latin countries For the exit visa you just need a passport, a letter of invite and having completed your national service…. pleny of foreign-merried (amongst others) Cubans leave every day. The problem is entry visas into other countries. Despite the proximit, automatic citizenship, the thousands of dollars in assistance we give (only) Cubans, fewer Cubans actually leave by illegal means than most other countries in the reigon (there are more Haitian and Dominican rafters most years).

  5. Guys,
    I am more on Vince’s side. I have been living in communism for 20 years in Hungary (it collapsed in 1989-90). I remember all the ideologies that meant to legitimize the system. They have included the successes (with no doubt about them then) in the health system and the education. These sectores are in big crisis currently, but the source of the crisis is originated in the paternalist system of the communist state.
    I was in Cuba in 2000 as a tourist. It was my best vacation ever. The people are marvellous. But I felt sorrow for them because the enormous ideological background of the life. This is a police-state. I smuggled out a letter of a woman and posted it from outside, to the US, for her son.
    Considering the many Cuban(-American)s with hard currency in Florida, the transition for the (Cuban-)Cubans will be tough and painful, really.
    Sorry for the imperfect English (not to mention the spelling).
    Peace,
    m

  6. I agree, it is hard to be objective. Probably impossible…because evidence can be found to prove just about anything. The best bet is doing the historical overview, and as you mentioned, actually traveling and getting to know the situation oneself. Of course, all of this takes time and money, so many of us are left with the arm-chair, 24-hr. news channel perspective, throw in an occasional book (read almost all the way), a couple of indie documentaries or bio-pics, a couple of Rage Against the Machine, and Antibalas singles, and of course, a blog or two, and voila…we try to maintain opinions, be informed, etc. Most of us, from living situations that usually are Royalty compared to the socio-economic situation we’re trying to interpret. Ah yes…the curse of living in the Western bubble (and yes, I include Western Europe in this…)

    I always cringe a bit whenever I hear Western European Social Democracy held up as a standard of a preferable way of life…I mean, how do we think most of Western Europe was able to afford such lavish, cradle-to-grave, social programs, breeding of course the inevitable sense of post-modern entitlement now ingrained in most of the post-war born generations? Why, by having the U.S. (whoops) I mean…NATO take care of alot things security-wise. How nice…allows economies to decrease military spending (because it’s all about growing up as a peaceful, modern, society…uh huh…) and instead focus on maintenance of welfare-states that foster eternal adolescence, where growing thai-stick, protesting all things G-8, becoming a laptop, “experimental” musician, while learning how to appreciate Kabuki opera, can take primary focus over such boring, old-world, ambitions, such as finding a trade, working hard, raising a family (which may presuppose…gulp…officialized, socio-civic, things like…arrrgh…Marriage?) So yeah.. we rant.

    Of course, this is just one slice now innit? I mean, OF COURSE, not everybody in Western Europe lives in s such a low-calorie, marx-as-fashion, mindset…but again, study the birth rates, and look at what the most popular baby boy names are in places like the Netherlands, and Great Britain, and you just may get a sense for where things might be headed. It’s so wierd…we’re going to have (and probably always have had), this top, fluffy, sparkly layer of national entities awareness of what’s going on in their own societies — always progressive, always techno-optimistic (“Because Scientists believe that one day we’ll be able to…”), always downplaying day-to-day realities…(“dude where’s my heritage?…oh…I guess I don’t need one…I’m a citizen of the world!….riiiggghhht) and then another layer…the day-to-day level of dealing with phenomena like Western universities losing the native population’s interest in things like technology degrees, engineering degrees, (Raise of hands…how many of comfy, cushy, eclectic-minded, westies settled with a major in “Communications”? ) etc. and instead—having another, usually foreign-born, demographic rise above and beyond in these areas…which of course, changes the demographic, causes social upheaval, and Paris is burning all over again. What?

    So yeah, revolution’s, like some folks entering the priesthood start with good intentions, but then usually end up becoming self-serving enterprises, where rather than helping the poor, the downtrodden, the main focus becomes to keep up “La Revolucion” going at all costs! I don’t think this is an ‘ism’ problem, so much as a human nature problem. No ideology is immune, much to the chagrin of many college professors, or aspiring mutli-culti’s.

    It’s hard to be objective. Great discussion though! nobody has the “right” answers…so best thing is to put all the ‘evidence’ for the historical and practical efficacy of any ‘movement’ or policy or ’cause’ and then go from there. Mistakes are unavoidable…the key though…the RARE THING I actually never, ever see from any movement, cause, or government…is an admittance of any wrong. Probably never will. Human nature 101 I guess.

  7. this discussion has ispired me to create a forum for many other discussions. Both political, and musical. Make sure you go and register. Just click on the little forum button underneath the fuel my blog flame on the left hand side. If you post requests, I will do my best to honor them. I will also be posting incentives, to get people to register, so I assure you there will be more than just a few people there in no time!

  8. Nice story on Santiago. I went there four years ago for July 26th and enjoyed the city and celebration immensely. Fidel gave a short but eloquent written speech, and while he was giving the speech, the media people were handing out the printed version, translated into English, for the folks in the media who were covering it, as I was.

    My father and his parents lived in Cuba during World War II and, though I was born in the U.S., Cuba’s been a part of me all my life.

    Cuba’s an endlessly-fascinating place. I go often and stay for long periods as a journalist, and have been operating a Yahoo news group for the last seven years, which you’re welcome to check out. There have been over 70,000 items sent out, from, about or related to Cuba in that time. I support the Cuban revolution strongly, but don’t think it’s a model we would want to copy elsewhere of course.

    Thanks for running a very lively and thoughtful blog!

    Walter Lippmann
    Los Angeles, California
    but often in Cuba, too.

  9. Hi,

    Sorry, didn’t mean to be a dick about the spelling thing. I forget that things sound a lot harsher written rather than spoken. I thought you would note the mistake and edit my comment.

    Anyway, let me point out that I was born in Miami in 1963 and my parents left Cuba in 1959 (which should give you an idea on where they stood on the revolution). By the way, they were and still are very working class people – to dispel any suggestion that the anyone who left was an upper-crust exploiter of “the people.” I consider myself a pretty left-leaning person and identify with left interpretations of Marx – meaning that I think capitalism is a basically rapacious system (though not the worst), but that I distrust any social system that goes about setting up centralized bureaucracies and authoritarian policies in the name of a universal class of workers whose interests are supposedly represented by a party elite.

    I agree that if you are going to live within a capitalist system, a strong welfare state like the Scandinavian model is the way to go. This model, it seems to me is the most developed form of the liberal tradition that is believe in – as represented by worker’s rights, access to health care, universal education, etc. I am continually surprised at how easily people are willing to trade away democratic institutions for various forms of authoritarianism (even if they receive nominal democratic assent) – the current situation in Venezuela being a good example. Mark my words, within a few years there will be an outright dictatorship in that country that subsists by selling oil on the commodities markets just like any market-economy, but goes about quashing any kind of dissent under the name on a leftist anti-imperialism.

    OK, no more rant. Left me just say that it is ludicrous to suggest that the right to travel (both within the country and internationally) is not severely restricted in Cuba as it was throughout the Soviet bloc. Also, I can tell anyone whose interested dozens of stories of my family and all the other Cuban families I grew up with sending care packages — ya, care packages — of basic supplies like soap, shoes, clothing (not designer goods) and above all prescription medications to Cuba because they were not readily available on the island.

    One last thing. I think it is canard to suggest that Cuba is in the situation it is in because of the U.S. embargo. Notice that there are countries that have an essentially free market relationship with the US that are desperately poor and countries that don’t trade much with the US that are wealthy. It’s lame to argue that a nominally Marxist revolution failed because it couldn’t maintain trade relations with a neighboring market economy.

    To me, the situation in Cuba has been created though the repression and centralized control exerted by a dictatorship. Such a system destroys the kinds of dissent, exchange of ideas, and innovation that are required to keep a society vibrant and innovative.

    This is a great blog. Thanks again for the music, especially the Fela.

    Vince

    Vince

  10. Randeee Akozta (Los paisanos): Jodido Protagonista
    http://www.pilla.keloide.net/?p=16

  11. thanx 4 all again … long live cuba…… cuban people…… cuban music…..


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