Diary of an American Girl’s Journeys to the Forbidden Land (Excerpt 19)

slaves-in-chainsAs Victor talked, the list of oppressed brown people kept getting longer.

And we learned that Cuba’s colonial history is directly intertwined with Haitian colonial history.

In the 1600’s, France jumped on the let’s-find-some-brown-people-to-enslave bandwagon by invading Haiti. But brown Haitians weren’t enough; the French also stole Africans & brought them to Haiti to add to their slave holdings.

Then in the 1700’s, all the slaves – Haitians & Africans (and presumably, Haitian-Africans, because, well, they had to fall into bed together at some point, right?) rose up against French colonial rule, and fought for their freedom in a bloody Haitian Revolution.

haitian-revolutionThe Haitians won.

This victory was the shot heard ‘round the world of slave owners.

It was the first time in the history of oppressed brown people that they fought back & won.

It blew the minds of White colonists everywhere, especially in America because our entire economy was based on slavery.

Slaveholders became terrified that if slaves could unite like they did for the Haitian Revolution, they might do it again.

Moreover, it was a very public slap in the face to Western world Whites, to have Blacks rise up & smite them. It was just unheard of. Continue reading

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 13)

sylverblaque-cuban-mercado

Photo: Sylver Blaque/Havana, Cuba

There was a show going on in the mercado.

People wearing bright colors and headwraps, pointed hats, cowboy hats, Cat-in-the-Hat style hats.

Faces decorated with painted designs. Piercing calls from day-glo lips.

Walking on stilts, dancing on stilts, slapping stilt-mounted bongo drums, effortless twirls on stilts while swirling large sections of brightly colored fabric.

A colossal fuschia dragon head with bulging yellow eyes, cavernous black nostrils, and knashing white fangs.

All eyes, we sauntered through the cobblestone streets of the mercado, passing all manner of Cuban life…

Boys playing a boisterous game of soccer with a deflated basketball and tattered, homemade goal net with more holes than net…

Women leaning out of high apartment windows hanging laundry…

Jineteros aggressively hassling tourists…. Continue reading

Diary of an American Girl’s Journeys to the Forbidden Land (Excerpt 12)

cuba-maleconOur next stop was along the Malecón, an impossibly long, low cement wall separating the Gulf of Mex from a broad Havana boulevard.

The ocean was incredible! Shades of aquamarine and turquoise to rival any ocean I’ve seen.

And everywhere, people.

People walking up and down the Malecón boulevard. People walking atop the wide seawall, stepping around those sitting or laying. People in bathing suits or snorkel gear climbing over the wall, carrying fishing poles or nets. People leaning, eating, kissing, reading, napping, dancing, talking, daydreaming over the rolling azure Gulf…all atop the expansive Malecón seawall.

I wanted to jump out of the bus window, and join that wall activity!

Thankfully, the bus stopped and we were let out to experience the Malecón for ourselves.

¡Que fantastico!

Cuban music greeted us, different songs at once from an old portable radio to the left, a harmonizing group of street singers to the right. The music was infectious; I couldn’t help rolling my hips a little bit to the rhythms. ¡Adoro la música Cubana! (I adore Cuban music!)

At the wall, I hopped up and sat facing the ocean. The salty, wet spray felt heavenly and coated me with cool defense against the heat of the day.  Overhead, the whitest, fluffiest clouds I’ve ever seen hung motionless in an ultramarine sky. Below, rollicking whitecaps crashed against moss-covered boulders below my dangling legs. Continue reading

Diary of an American Girl’s Journeys to the Forbidden Land (Excerpt 11)

Cuba 2005

cuban-soldiersOct. 9 (cont.)

There were 4 or 5 small guard houses at different points around the cement lot, each with 1 or 2 olive-uniformed, gun-toting guards standing before them.

This was the Cuba I had learned about in the States.

Olive-clad soldiers with guns…intense, intimidating, threatening expressions portending torture to come.

Feeling brave (and safe, because I was in a group with a Cuban at the helm), I decided to approach one of the scary guards for a photo. As I got closer, the soulless expression on his face made me hesitate. He looked deadly. The gun on his hip looked more deadly.

Especially when he put his hand on it.

And eyed me like a target.

evil-eyesThose eyes transmitted an unmistakable warning. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an aggressively threatening expression outside of actors in movies. And in movies, of course, those expressions are always directed at someone else.

Not me.

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Diary of an American Girl’s Journeys to the Forbidden Land (Excerpt 10)

Cuba 2005

sylverblaque-cuba

Photo: Sylver Blaque / Habana, Cuba

 Oct. 9 (cont.)

From our bus, the group leaders & Armando pointed out sites, and narrated interesting tidbits of info.

But really, I saw most of Havana blur by peeking thru the open top window of a bumping yellow school bus – sans shock absorbers, which accounts for most of the blurred, misaligned photos I took today.

Frustrating!

But still exciting!

When we were finally belched out of the big yellow belly, it was in the center of an enormous parking lot with nothing much to see. We were at the Plaza de la Revolución, and the only noteworthy things in sight were two large buildings on each side of an endless expanse of cement baking under the tropical sun.

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Photo: Sylver Blaque / Habana, Cuba

One of the buildings had a 6+ story, black wire image of Che Guevara on it with a quote scripted across the bottom in his handwriting: “Hasta Victoria. Siempre,” (“Until victory. Always, Che.” This was his closing signature on letters he wrote during and after the Revolution. It’s also the name of a song about him.)

Armando informed us that this building, the Ministry of the Interior, was where Che ruled as Interior Minister after the 1959 Revolution victory. Across from the Ministry building was an enormous white statue of Jose Martí sitting before the most sky-reaching structure I’ve ever seen (other than the Twin Towers before they fell).

Armando explained that this huge, empty cement lot was Revolution Plaza – the very place where thousands of civilian Cubans celebrated with Fidelistas (Fidel Castro’s revolution army guys) on that long ago day in 1959 when the Cuban Revolution toppled Batista.

Wow.

fidel-victory-speech-plaza-de-la-revolutionI looked around with new eyes.

I could almost hear the cheering, see the throngs of Cubans past… hugging each other, pumping fists into the air, waving arms, not bothering to wipe away tears of joy, intense relief, gratitude, hope for the future.

Victory for the oppressed. This is where it happened.

It felt good standing there, soaking that in. Continue reading

Diary of an American Girl’s Journeys to the Forbidden Land (Excerpt 8)

Cuba 2005

Oct. 9 (cont.)

De todos moods (anyway), that night (post toilet tissue forage) laying contorted on sunken springs, Karli, Dana and I babbled excitedly about being in Cuba – as only novice Americans-in-Cuba can do.

get-smart-spyWe wondered what it would be like out there. Would see all the things we’ve heard about in the U.S?

Olive-clad, AK-toting soldiers on the streets watching every move of Cuban people…?

Communist Party spies eavesdropping on our conversations in order to report back to Fidel what was said…?

Cubans who would blatantly lie to us about how wonderful Cuba is because telling the truth about the horrors of their country might land them in one of Fidel’s torture-prisons…?

And what about this Martin Luther King church?

Is it a secret church operating beneath Castro’s radar?

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Diary of an American Girl’s Journeys to the Forbidden Land (Excerpt 5)

U.S. 2005

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Photo: Sylver Blaque / En route to Cuba

Oct. 8

On plane – a connector in Nassau en route to Cancun. From Cancun, on to Cuba.

How thoughtful of Bush to make flying to Cuba so expensive & difficult for Americans. 👿

I could have taken a direct flight from Miami but God only knows what Americans are subjected to there.

I’ve heard horror stories about Americans with legal licenses to travel to Cuba departing from Miami and being interrogated, intimidated and detained for hours while their stories & licenses were ‘verified.’

Sounds fun, but no thank you, President Bushwack.

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Diary of an American Girl’s Journeys to the Forbidden Land (Excerpt 4)

U.S. 2005

airport-securityOct. 8

Sitting here at gate, waiting to board the first leg of my first trip to Cuba.

Survived airport security shakedown. Had to practically disrobe. Was surprised they didn’t turn me upside down and shake me. One lady wore flip flops and they still made her remove them.

Flip flops.

What micro-bomb could she possibly have been stashing between her toes? I am in complete agreement with my government that we need airport security, but this is ridiculous.

When the poor woman refused to stand on the dirty airport floor in her bare feet, she and her things were pulled out of line and taken away to who-knows-where. She looked frightened beneath her indignation as they led her away…

The rest of us on line just stood there with our mouths open, stunned. One brave soul tried to speak up for her, but was ordered by one of the security guards to remain quiet or leave the airport.

And so, like good sheep,  we all glanced furtively at one another, acted as if nothing had happened, and proceeded forward to suffer our own over-the-top invasions of person.

I reminded myself that I wasn’t in Cuba yet.

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Diary of an American Girl’s Journeys to the Forbidden Land (Excerpt 3)

U.S. 2005

eisenhower-and-batista

Cuban President Fulgencio Batista with American President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

August 31

Going over some history about Fulgencio Batista, Castro’s U.S. puppet predecessor.

I keep catching myself trying to justify our government’s endorsement, nee full support, of Batista – whose vicious human rights abuses far surpassed Castro’s.

 

I mean, we’re demonizing Castro for jailing political dissidents, but fully backed Batista for jailing, torturing and executing political dissidents – and their family members.

Somebody please explain this to me.

Cuz I don’t understand.

Our anti-Communist cry against Cuba doesn’t hold enough water to smother the leaping flames of our own embargo hypocrisy. I mean really, it’s only too obvious that there must be so much more behind the dogged vehemence with which we lash out specifically at Cuba’s Communism.

bush-shaking-hands-with-hu-jintao

U.S. President George W. Bush with China President Hu Jintao.

China is the largest Communist nation in the world with horrifying and current torture practices on citizens who defy government rules.

But there is no U.S. Constitution-defying travel ban to China, nor demonizing campaign against Hu Jintao. In fact, we’re conducting hearty trade with Communist China.

No embargo there.

kim_jong_il_and_madeleine_albright

North Korea President Kim Jong Il with U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright.

Neither do we embargo against Communist North Korea’s underground death chambers in which Kim Jong II inflicts documented torture and all manner of human rights abuses, daily, on citizens.

Nope, no embargo there either.

Strangely, our media seems to notice only Cubans in the Gulf rafting desperately toward democracy. And our government, as if to justify its own incongruous words and actions, goes to great lengths to make sure that any Gulf-dripping Cubans jailed or harmed by Castro are brought to our immediate, nation-wide attention.

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