Diary of an American Girl’s Journeys to the Forbidden Land (Excerpt 15)

Cuba 2005

sylverblaque-cuba-museo-de-la-revolucion

Photo: Sylver Blaque/Museo de la Revolucion, Habana

11:14pm Karli  & Dana out at bar with a few others from group.

All quiet here in our room.

I don’t think they get my predilection to stay in with journal when there’s Cuba night life out there to experience. But I don’t drink, haven’t slept since I got here so no energy left in my hip-swivel, and I’d rather re-live each day in all detail here with you.

So, today was a tour of the Museo de la Revolution, which was captivating. I could have spent the entire day there, hours and hours just viewing and processing everything.

I took many bad photos because the lighting was awful and this new camera’s settings are a mystery to me, so I just spent the few hours we had at the museum clicking and hoping for a few decent shots.

sylverblaque-cuba-bullet-holes

Photo: Sylver Blaque/Museo de la Revolucion, Havana.

The moment you walk in, you’re greeted by a Gone With the Wind / Tara plantation dramatically wide marble staircase leading up to a bust of Jose Marti.

Above his marble bust are clearly visible bullet holes in the wall.

Wow.

I’ve never seen actual bullet holes in modern-day structures connected to notorious history-making events.

Armando explained to us that this museo was the presidential palace of Fulgencio Batista. During the Cuban Revolution, university students stormed Batista’s palace in an attempt to assassinate their murderous, U.S.-supported dictator president who’s army had been rampaging the country killing everyone who spoke out against him.

The attack on the presidential palace failed, and Batista killed all the students except for the few who were able to escape to Florida.

sylverblaque-cuba-museo-de-la-revolucion

Photo: Sylver Blaque/Museo de la Revolucion, Havana

After hearing  this explanation of the bullet holes, one of the members of our group, Eleanor, stood in the center of the grand, marble staircase and jokingly announced to the rest of us that we were all at Tara.

Another lady in the group laughed, and turned to the nearest Cuban male. “Rhett? Is that you?

Armando looked confused. “Why is she calling him red?

Explanations from other group members answered Armando’s question, using descriptives such as “civil war era,” “beautiful Southern plantations,” and “greatest novel and movie in America.”

These explanations culminated in a wistful soliloquy from Eleanor: “It was a magical time in our history,” she sighed. “The South was Queen of the country. Every home was palatial…ladies were true southern belles…gentlemen were gallant and chivalrous…”

And they all owned slaves.”

It was a Cuban.

slaves-chained-togetherHe overheard the conversation, spoke good English, and chimed in.

Was it ‘magical’ for them, too? The slaves?” he inquired pleasantly.

Eleanor was visibly taken aback.

As were we all.

Wow! No one back home would ever voice such things publicly to a stranger. At least not that I’ve ever witnessed. But I’ve noticed, here, that Cubans speak openly. In fact, I was on the receiving end of such openness early this morning when a Cuban woman I passed on the street said to me, “You have a hangover.”

Yes,” nodded her companion.

After asking Armando to translate the word for ‘hangover,’ I thought at her, ‘Excuuuse you??’ But I said to her, “I don’t drink.”

Of course you do,” the woman laughed. “Look at your eyes. How can you see through those slits? Cuban coffee – fix you right up!” she called over her shoulder as she walked away.

Con torrejas!” her companion added.

I glanced at Armando to share my indignation, but he was grinning. Very frackin’ funny. I walked away, pulled a compact from my bag and peeked in.

Hmph.

I looked hungover.

cuban-mojito

“I don’t drink.” Cuban Mojito soon has me happily drinking my words! Yummm!

I know I’m not a morning person, but damn. If I looked any more hungover I’d give myself a breathalyzer.

My eyes & nose were swollen and red, like they wanted to pop off my face and crawl into a corner somewhere to sleep it off.

Armando caught up with me, still grinning. “You are insulted?”

No,” I lied.

Cubans speak their mind. We say what we think.”

I glanced at him, recalling how difficult it is to read his face at pivotal moments in conversation – moments when I’m dying to know just what Cubans think.

Not all Cubans,” I mumbled under my breath.

Cuban coffee?” he offered. Still grinning.

What are ‘torrejas’?” I asked, to change the subject, learn a new word, and hopefully wipe that stupid grin off his face.

Bread in batter,” he answered. “Cure for hangovers.”

I tuned out his laughter as I walked away, holding back a giggle myself.

Not funny!

Tonight, dear diary, I shall sleep more than 2 hrs. for fear of waking up each morn looking like a swollen drunk!

gone-with-the-wind-tara-plantation

Gone with the Wind Tara plantation.

De todos modos…(anyway)

Back to the museo, Eleanor, and her “magical” history…

Was it ‘magical’ for them, too? The slaves?” the Cuban man asked her.

Eleanor’s jaw tightened.

“Not everyone owned slaves,” she answered, a bit defensively.

There are brown people in your group,” the Cuban man pointed out. “You were speaking as if you all share the same history.”

side-glanceAll eyes rolled slowly toward the “brown people.”

No heads turned.

Just the eyes.

At the time, I didn’t see the humor but now, picturing it again, I am laughing my ass off as I write this.

I mean, the attempted surreptitiousness of the involuntary, slo-mo group eye roll is freakin’ hilarious!

But not to Eleanor.

Do you know our history?” she asked condescendingly.

Do you?” the Cuban man countered.

He spoke pleasantly, as if discussing the weather, but Eleanor’s blue eyes turned to flint and her posture stiffened.

This was going to get messy.

Karli & I leaned against the marble bannister to watch it play out.

Dana sidled away with a few other group members, some averting their eyes or shaking their head disdainfully at the Cuban man. The words “rude,” “inappropriate,” and “no sense of humor” floated back to those of us who stayed.

Which, along with Karli & I, were a few white group members, and all the “brown people” in our group.

I was very curious to learn what Cubans thought about our history.

Desafortunadamente, we learned more than we wanted to know…

us-cuba-slavery

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Diary of An American Girl’s Journeys to the Forbidden Land.”

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9 thoughts on “Diary of an American Girl’s Journeys to the Forbidden Land (Excerpt 15)

  1. Pingback: Diary of an American Girl’s Journeys to the Forbidden Land (Excerpt 26) | Sylver Blaque

  2. Pingback: Diary of an American Girl’s Journeys to the Forbidden Land (Excerpt 21) | Sylver Blaque

  3. Pingback: Diary of an American Girl’s Journeys to the Forbidden Land (Excerpt 20) | Sylver Blaque

  4. Pingback: Diary of an American Girl’s Journeys to the Forbidden Land (Excerpt 18) | Sylver Blaque

  5. Pingback: Diary of an American Girl’s Journeys to the Forbidden Land (Excerpt 16) | Sylver Blaque

  6. Well, truth is… I’m still mulling over about what to include and how to best put it in the post about US politics in Eastern Mediterranean that we discussed a few days ago…
    American history from another perspective is hard to swallow some times…
    But I like being fair to all sides, I assure you!

    • I’m looking forward to your contribution, Eleni! :)

      Yeah, I’m always surprised by how our history is seen when I’m in other countries. I think we get so used to our own version of history that it’s always a wake-up call to travel and learn ugly truths which our own history conveniently sidesteps or just plain lies about.

      I learn more about U.S. history during my travels to foreign countries than I ever could learn when I’m here, because the ugly chunks are left out here, or rewritten to frame us as heroes rather than agitators. At first, I was very defensive about such damning information – refused to believe it. But I always come back & do extensive research on what I’ve learned, and 9 times out of 10, I discover that the ugly things I learned were true. Here, the ugly information is buried so deeply beneath and between layers of ‘pretty’ information that finding it is nearly impossible. But it’s there. We’d just rather not see it.

      But I want to see it. I want to know. And I want my countrymen to know – which is why I blog about ugly chunks I discover which our media refuses to inform us about. We have a right to know. Once we get past the shock, we can handle it. And then we can fight to enact changes to prevent future ugly chunks. But we can’t change what we don’t acknowledge.

    • You should have gone! That would have been a great story to tell your kids & grandkids. :) Most Cubans I met there practiced Santaria (which, actually, incorporates some elements of Catholicism) & other Afro-Cuban religions. The Catholic churches I visited across the island were always pretty empty, but you could always find ongoing Santaria, Abakuá, or other Afro-Cuban worshipping ceremonies happening everywhere. I got the distinct impression that the Pope is not as popular there as he may have been in the past. In fact, I was told repeatedly by many Cubans that our popular U.S. religions were forced upon them in the 1898 U.S. invasion of their island, and that we are still trying to indoctrinate them today thru missionaries, etc. However, they prefer their own native forms of worship.

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