Diary of an American Girl’s Journeys to the Forbidden Land (Excerpt 20)

rusty-chain-linkBut what does all this Haiti stuff have to do with Cuba?” I asked.

Victor connected the historical link.

He explained that Haiti had been the major island for sugar production – which made it the richest colony on the planet.

In fact, Haiti produced more than half of France’s Gross National Product, making gigundo fortunes for France, who dubbed Haiti their “Jewel of the Antilles.” Which, of course, was accomplished on the backs of brown slaves whose emotional, familial, and cultural devastation, and back-breaking labor in creating the wealth of White supremacist nations would be reduced to a mere footnote by Western historians.

This really pisses me off.

I mean, weren’t colonists, like, Christian-love-God-and-your-fellow-man type deals? Were brown people not fellow men? Then, okay, what were they exactly?

Animals? Aliens? Aberrations?

Talk about do as we say, not as we do… 😐

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Diary of an American Girl’s Journeys to the Forbidden Land (Excerpt 18)

sylverblaque-cuba-museo

Photo: Sylver Blaque / Habana, Cuba
Museo de la Revolucion

As he talked, Victor led us around the museo to relevant exhibits – even to a bust of Christopher Columbus.

Victor said there were a few places on the island in which Columbus was depicted, but that they had been erected by colonists.

Why hasn’t the Columbus stuff been taken down?” I asked.

Victor answered soberly, “As with Americans, some Cubans still believe the lie.”

This did not sit well with a particular member of our group, Jennifer, who folded her arms and fixed Victor with a piercing look.

You call Columbus a murderer, but everyone kills during war,” she said.

War?” Victor raised his eyebrows. “This man initiated unprovoked massacres, Madame. Indians fought back. Against a documented mass murderer, rapist, and thief. Columbus did not ‘discover.’ He invaded. He did not ‘defend.’ He attacked. He did not ‘settle.’ He conquered.”

Jennifer eyeballed Victor. “That may be your history but it’s not ours.”

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Diary of an American Girl’s Journeys to the Forbidden Land (Excerpt 17)

Victor the historian did not amuse us (well, some of us) any further.

He started off with some Cuban history a few of us already knew.

Or thought we did.

We knew it the way it was taught to us in the States…

columbus-in-cuba

…which becomes unrecognizable with all the holes filled in

cuba-slaves

…and uncomfortably reminiscent of our own whitewashed but still celebrated Columbus-discovers-America fairy tales.

Turns out, Columbus ‘discovered‘ Cuba, too. 🙄

Poor Cuba.

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Diary of an American Girl’s Journeys to the Forbidden Land (Excerpt 16)

man-and-woman-arm-wrestlingThe man politely introduced himself to our group. His name was Victor, and he was an historian.

With his white temples and beard, he certainly looked the part.

Eleanor was just as gray. But not as pleasant.

Are you asking me if I know the history of my own country?” she asked indignantly.

Exactly!” Victor punctuated this pronouncement with a finger in the air. He was so comical and personable, you couldn’t help but like him.

Unless you were Eleanor.

Well, that’s insulting,” she informed him. “How would you feel if I asked if you know the history of your own country?

I would feel that you are not one to make ignorant assumptions based on citizenship,” he answered.

Eleanor looked as if she might vomit on him. Intentionally. Continue reading

Diary of an American Girl’s Journeys to the Forbidden Land (Excerpt 6)

Cuba 2005

luggage-jose-marti-airport-cubaOct. 9

9:46pm (cont.)

I couldn’t wait to set foot on Forbidden Land.

Even through the blackness of night, I was going to see Cuba!

The first thing I saw were uniformed guards.

Right off the pages of textbook American-View-of-Cuba 101.

The uniforms were brown, not olive green as I expected. And there were no AK’s being pointed at us just to remind us we were in communist Cuba. But the airport guards’ facial expressions were deadly serious, semi-threatening, wholly intimidating – sin duda (without doubt).

It made me feel like being really, really careful.

About everything.

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Diary of an American Girl’s Journeys to the Forbidden Land (Excerpt 1)

U.S. 2005

July 28 

cuba-scenery

Photo: Sylver Blaque / Pinar del Rio, Cuba

I’m going to Cuba!

Even after our government has (once again) tightened the stranglehold of the embargo.

Even after Bush has issued the order for all Americans to leave Cuba and return to the United States by midnight on July 31st under threat of unaffordable fines, and implied jail time.

And even after every American who knows I’m going has warned me that I’ll be arrested and tortured by Castro, or arrested and punished by our own government. Hmm…’tortured’ by Communists, or ‘punished’ by Homeland Security.

Both sound deadly.

Neither threat deters me.

I’m going to Cuba!

I’m not exactly sure why I’m going. But I am sure it has something to do with being ordered not to. In a democracy, there’s something blatantly un-democratic about being ordered by your government not to travel somewhere.

With a handful of exceptions, Americans haven’t been allowed – by our own government – to travel to Cuba for almost half a century. But this latest tightening of the embargo vise – this dictatorial presidential overriding of my constitutional right to travel freely – has me suddenly curious about why.

Why can’t I go to Cuba if I want to?

And why is this bothering me now?

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