Monday, November 4, 2013

Topical and Iconic Snapshots of Cuba

Sunday, November 10th, 2013

  For the most part, the mainstream U. S. media reports only on negative stories emanating from Cuba. However, Sarah Rainsford of the BBC {left} covers Cuba like a blanket and her bosses in England allow her to report on positive or negative aspects of everyday life on the island. Thus, if you want a fair, unbiased view of Cuba, google "Sarah Rainsford of the BBC." If you want a warped, distorted view, google "Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, etc., or hateful, revengeful blogs like "Capital Hill Cubans."
   For example, in one of her first BBC reports from Cuba in this month of Nov.-2013, Sarah Rainsford's video included the snapshot on the right to illustrate vast changes taking place within the Cuban economy. There are now some 440,000 new small businesses operating on the island. These ladies were checking Halloween costumes at one of those stores earlier this month because Halloween in the year 2013 was widely celebrated in Cuba! Did you know that? Probably not. But if you would ignore Talking Heads on Fox and instead rely on Sarah Rainsford to tell you what is happening in Cuba with everyday Cubans, then you would know some actual facts!
  The young Cuban woman on the left was featured in Sarah Rainsford's BBC report eagerly sorting through Halloween costumes at one of the new privately owned small businesses in Cuba. This, of course, is not earth-shaking news...except for the fact that Americans are not supposed to know about anything positive that might...just might!...be happening in Cuba. So, as Sarah Rainsford reports for the BBC, an enthusiastic young Cuban woman shopping for a Halloween costume is rather earth-shattering, after all. And that's because her shopping spree was real, not staged.
     Sarah Rainsford of the BBC reports that the Cuban man on the right was anxiously blowing up Halloween balloons to sell in his new entrepreneurial enterprise. By contrast, the U. S. media would have been interested in this man only if he was a dissident engaged in some enterprise designed to undermine or overthrow the Cuban government. Since he was not, we have to rely on Sarah Rainsford of the BBC to tell us what the hell this Cuban was doing blowing up all those balloons! After all, since the overthrow of the U.S.-backed Batista-Mafia dictatorship way back in 1959, Cuba says a lot more about the U. S. than it says about Cuba itself.
  Sarah Rainsford's BBC report featured this Cuban man eagerly cutting up gourds and pumpkins for his Halloween celebration. Heck, I didn't know Cubans even celebrated Halloween. Of course, by depending on Sarah Rainsford and not Bill O'Rielly to inform me about what's happening on the island of Cuba, now I know! But, of course, if I ever want a biased and distorted view of Cuba, I can always waste my time viewing the Talking Heads on Fox, CNN, and MSNBC where their Anchors are anchored to their desks instead of going out and actually covering news like Sarah Rainsford!
          This REUTERS/Desmond Boyland photo shows the start of a typical day in Cuba this month. It's the main highway leading into Havana. The truck carries bananas. The traffic increases as the day progresses.
       This AFP/Adalberto Roque photo shows a Cuban doctor teaching an anatomy class at the Latin American School of Medicine {ELAM} this month in Havana. ELAM is the largest medical school in the world and one of the most respected. It is a beacon for aspiring doctors who otherwise are stymied by expenses.
       13,000 poor students like these from around the world, including the United States of America, attend ELAM free of charge with all expenses, including room and board, paid for by the Cuban government. When they graduate they owe Cuba nothing except to keep their promise to return to their communities and practice medicine. Most of those promises are kept, improving the communities the students left.
The campus at Cuba's Latin American School of Medicine.
      In the United States -- headquartered, of course, in Miami -- there is a very large cottage industry that makes a lot of money and exacts a lot of revenge with its well-funded, sophisticated anti-Cuban Revolution fanaticism, a project that has been in existence since January of 1959 when the ousted Batista/Mafia dictatorship in Cuba immediately reconstituted itself in the U. S. with its new capital of Miami. The above photo {taken by Chris Hinkle} highlighted a major article in the New York Times on Tuesday, November 5th, 2013. It shows 21-year-old Cuban defector Adrianni Martin in a practice session with Ballet Arizona where she is the principle dancer in its production of "Cinderella" in Phoenix. Six months ago Ms. Martin defected from the prestigious National Ballet of Cuba along with her boyfriend Randy Crespo and five other premier Cuban ballet performers. Because Cuba trains better dancers than the U. S., all seven of the defectors are already well-paid American performers. Ms. Martin told the New York Times, "We knew we were leaving everything behind, and we didn't know what awaited us." Of course, what awaits ballet, baseball, and medical defectors from Cuba to the U. S. is a lushly funded and profitable pipeline greased with powerful doses of greed and revenge designed to make money and to hurt Revolutionary Cuba. Such defectors as Adrianni Martin are well-educated and lured into that pipeline -- currently via Mexico -- with ease. U. S. laws -- engineered by visceral Cuban exiles -- such as the Helms-Burton Act -- provide vast privileges to Cuban exiles that are totally unavailable to anyone else. The Wet Foot/Dry Foot U. S. law, for example, gives Cuban defectors, and only Cuban defectors, instant entree to America if they leave Cuba and touch dry soil. The soil between the U. S. and Mexico, of course, is quite dry. Once on dry soil, the Cuban defectors are immediately a part of that well-greased, revengeful, and profitable pipeline.
       Ramona de Saa is Cuba's master ballet teacher. She diligently trained Adrianni Martin and the other recent defectors, as well as international superstars such as Carlos Acosta, Daniel and Rolando Sarabia, Jose Manuel Carreno, Yosvani Ramos, etc. For the Nov. 5-2013 article, the New York Times asked Ramona de Saa how she felt about the latest defections of her superbly trained ballet stars. She replied: "We are privileged here. The world of ballet is difficult." She understands the well-greased anti-Cuban pipeline.
Hamid Ansari, the Vice President of India, visited Cuba last week.
            On the flight back to India, Hamid Ansari was effusive about having met Cuba's 87-year-old revolutionary icon Fidel Castro, calling it "the greatest moment and privilege of my political career." News agencies covering Ansari's on-flight news conference, including ndtv.com, quoted Ansari as saying: "The old rebel is fit and in good shape. When a man talks to you for 65 minutes, obviously he is fit. His health is well compared to his 87 years. He is frail, but his mental faculty is strong. I had hoped the meeting would be 20-25 minutes. But it lasted one hour and five minutes. It shows he is in good shape and aware of what is happening around the world. His views have been the same they were for the last five decades. He was concerned about the stockpiling of weapons and dangers faced by the world due to accidents in such a situation. We also talked about other things on his mind, such as gardening and horticulture." Ansari said on the flight home that he had longed to meet Fidel Castro "one more time." He said back in 1983 when he was India's Chief of Protocol, he had met Fidel at the NAM Summit of non-aligned nations in Delhi and "I've admired his life."
     On September 18-2006 {Photo above} India's Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh flew to Cuba to be with Fidel Castro shortly after the revolutionary leader had nearly died from an intestinal problem in late July and August of that year. On his return flight to India, Prime Minister Singh famously said, "Meeting Fidel Castro is the greatest honor of my life. During my lifetime, he has been a giant and the world has few giants." 
In September-2013 Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa flew to Cuba {left} to meet Fidel Castro, whom President Correa idolizes. Between the October, 31st, 2013, visit by Vice President Ansari of India and the September 18th, 2013 visit by President Correa of Ecuador, a span of 43 days, Fidel had not entertained any important visitors nor had Cuba released any updated photos of him. Such intervals spawn rumors, especially by his legion of enemies, about Fidel being dead or on his deathbed. One day, of course, the rumor will be true. 
     This photo, taken by Fidel's son Alexander, shows Fidel welcoming President Rafael Correa of Ecuador into his Havana home on September 18, 2013. After he left, President Correa told a news conference, "I'll say two things about him. One, I was surprised how healthy he is considering what he has been through but not surprised at his mental acumen. He remains the greatest person I have known and, I believe, the greatest on this planet." When 43 days go by without proven, updated photos of Fidel, rumors are rampant outside of Cuba that he has died or is dying. Insiders, notably one of his sons, had informed friends in Paris via phone calls that his mother, Fidel's wife Dalia, had restricted visitors to their home "for several weeks" because Fidel had "a cold." Obviously the cold and Dalia's meticulous dictates fueled the rumors between President Correa's Sept. 18-2013 visit and Vice President Ansari's visit on October 31st, 2013.



        Dalia Soto del Valle married Fidel Castro in 1980 shortly after the death of his revolutionary soul-mate Celia Sanchez and the marriage fulfilled Celia's last request. The photo at the right shows Dalia dining out with her son's girlfriend. She has had five very devoted sons with Fidel. Celia and Dalia became friends when Dalia was a teacher in the south-central colonial city of Trinidad. On her deathbed Celia told Dalia to marry Fidel "and take care of him. God knows, he needs a lot of caring." Dalia never forgot those words from her best friend.
     Celia would be very proud of the job Dalia has done taking care of Fidel since 1980. She persuaded him to give up smoking his famed cigars in 1983. Since his near-fatal illness in July of 2006, she has closely monitored and supervised his health-care. At age 87, Fidel's longevity surprises everyone. For five decades Fidel has said Celia was/is Cuba's greatest revolutionary fighter and leader. He now says, "I'm alive because of Dalia Soto del Valle Castro. She hates publicity but write down all five of her names just so you will know.." Celia was Cuba's prime decision-maker. Dalia was one of Celia's best and most lasting decisions.
And by the way.......................
      ....famed journalist and America's top television personality Ed Sullivan got the first interview {abovewith Fidel Castro as the new post-Batista leader of Cuba. It took place on Jan. 4-1959 when Fidel was half-way between Santiago de Cuba, on the island's eastern end, and Havana on the western end. The journey took him seven days after the ouster of the Batista regime verily shocked the world on Jan. 1-1959.
    The triumphant, dilatory journey from Santiago to Havana was delayed by the Ed Sullivan interview and by tumultuous greetings {above} along the way. In this photo a tired Fidel was reacting to the crowd while his soul-mate, Celia Sanchez, was more concerned with getting to Havana to begin the riveting post-Batista rule of Cuba.
    This photo shows Fidel and Celia {back to the camera} finally arriving in Havana on Jan. 7, 1959. The heavily bearded man on the left is Camilo Cienfuegos, who had brilliantly led the capture of Santa Clara the week before and then stormed to Havana hoping that Fulgencio Batista, Meyer Lansky, Rolando Masferrer and the other leaders of the ousted dictatorship would stand and fight. They didn't. When the above photo was snapped, the three most important revoluionary leaders and decision-makers were: Celia Sanchez, Fidel Castro, and Camilo Cienfuegos in that exact order. Camilo, however, died in an airplane accident. If those facts don't compute with what you have been told, it's because you have been successfully and conveniently lied to.
Camilo Cienfuegos died Oct. 28-1959. He was 27-years-old.
Fidel considered Camilo his best rebel commander.
Celia Sanchez considered Camilo almost on a par with Fidel.
      After the death of Camilo Cienfuegos, Cuba's BIG FOUR (in order of importance) was: #1 Celia Sanchez {on the right in the above photo}; #2 Fidel Castro; #3 Vilma Espin; and #4 Raul Castro. Again, if that doesn't compute with what you've been told, it's because you have been successfully and conveniently lied to.
Celia {above} gave Fidel his first anti-Batista rifle when he joined her revolution in the Sierra Maestra.
Fidel had begun to worship Celia the two years in was in prison before he ever laid eyes on her.
Fidel will worship Celia Sanchez till the day he dies.
     This photo shows Celia and Fidel on a typical night in the Sierra Maestra Mountains during the war year of 1958. Celia is holding a candle so Fidel can see to read a book and she can read the latest guerrilla update on the movement of a Batista army.
The next day Celia {above} would be the one to decide what to do about that Batista army.
     In Revolutionary Cuba the prime abode for Celia and Fidel was her small, neat, modest apartment on 11th Street in Havana. In the photo above Fidel is relaxing in his rocking chair with his slippers in the foreground. The always studious and pragmatic Celia, of course, is studying material related to the governing of Cuba. This photo is quite appropriate because Celia was the decision-maker for Cuba and Fidel's primary role was to completely support her decisions, which he did whether or not he fully agreed with them. The great photographer Roberto Salas, a true Cuban insider, wrote in his superb book "A Pictorial History of the Cuban Revolution" these exact words: "Celia made all the decisions for Cuba, the big ones and small ones. When she died of cancer in 1980, we all knew no one could ever replace her." Salas is a highly respected Cuban who would know such things. The remnants of the ousted Batista regime that predicate how Cuba has been perceived in the U. S. since 1959 prefer that you not know what Salas wrote.
      Because the Batista dictatorship was transferred from Cuba to the U. S. in the wee hours of Jan.1-1959 by the hasty departures of Batista, Lansky, Trafficante, Masferrer, etc., to their getaway airplanes, ships, and boats, Americans since 1959 have been successfully proselytized and propagandized to dismiss the significance of Celia Sanchez and Vilma Espin in the Cuban Revolution and in Revolutionary Cuba. The reason for this is quite obvious: It's a lot easier to demonize and vilify macho warriors like Fidel Castro and Che Guevara than petite, beautiful females like Celia and Vilma. Both Celia and Vilma, however, were fearless guerrilla fighters during the war and unchallenged leaders after the rebel victory. Both Celia and Vilma were from rich Cuban families -- Celia's dad was a rich doctor, Vilma's dad a rich lawyer -- but Celia and Vilma waged war on behalf of the Cuban peasants who, they believed, were being raped, robbed, abused, and murdered by the Batista regime. Significantly, after 1959 Celia and Vilma could have lived lavishly but they lived modestly till the day they died of cancer. In the seminal photo above, copyrighted by the Wisconsin Historical Society, Celia and Vilma are taking a break during a lull in the fighting in the Sierra Maestra in 1958. Vilma is smiling sweetly and cheerily for the camera. Around campfires at night Vilma sang and played the guitar and all the rebels were madly in love with her; Raul Castro married her right after the war ended. Beside the frivolous Vilma, Celia meticulously studied reports, as befitted a decision-maker.
By the way, Dickey Chapelle {above} took that iconic photo of Celia Sanchez and Vilma Espin.
Dickey Chapelle was/is the greatest war photojournalist that ever lived.
 But Dickey Chapelle died {above} on Nov. 4-1965 while covering the Vietnam War.
Note that her trademark bush hat is lying near her body.
Celia Sanchez died of cancer on Jan. 11-1980.
Celia's death left Cuba with a Big Three: #1 Fidel; #2 Vilma; and #3 Raul.
Vilma Espin died of cancer on June 18, 2007.
Vilma's death left Cuba with a Big Two: #1 Fidel and #2 Raul.
Cuba still has a Big Two: #1 Commander Fidel and #2 President Raul.
To fly from Miami to Havana to Santiago de Cuba and back to Miami, how many miles would you have flown?
Study this excellent National Geographic map to determine the answer.
Next question: After flying to Cuba's two largest cities, why would you want to fly back to Miami?
{P.S.: I hope the fine folks in Miami can, uh, take a joke.}
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