Monday, May 2, 2016

Miami Invades Havana

On Friendly Terms
{Wednesday, May 4th, 2016}
      This already iconic AFP photo shows Carnival's Adonia cruise ship entering Havana Harbor Monday after sailing from Miami Sunday. For many years, historians will use this photo to depict the new era in U.S.-Cuban relations, highlighted by the first cruise ship to sail from the U. S. to Cuba in over half-a-century.
Excited Cubans welcomed the Adonia.
The Adonia looms very large in Cuba.
      The Adonia will carry its excited, money-ladened 700 passengers around the entire island of Cuba in the next seven days. After docking in Havana, the luxury liner will next drop anchor at Cienfuegos and then Santiago de Cuba before returning to Miami. Carnival Cruise Lines will take regular trips to Cuba from Miami every two weeks. But a dozen other large U.S.-to-Cuba cruise lines are now making plans to compete with the Adonia now that President Obama has defied the U. S. Congress and mellowed relations.
       With the arrival of the Adonia in Havana, Miami this week got a lot closer to Cuba even without warships, strong tailwinds or shifting sands in the Florida Straits. Prior to Obama's historic courage in the White House, Miami since 1959 had sent famed terrorists to Havana as opposed to friendly tourists.
Americans can now plan future visits to the nearby island.
      Prior to President Obama in 2016, no U. S. president had visited Cuba since Calvin Coolidge arrived on a warship in 1928. And since January of 1959, when the ousted leaders of the Batista-Mafia dictatorship in Cuba began to take over Miami's and the U. S. Congress's Cuban policy, everyday Americans had been the only people in the entire world without the freedom to visit Cuba. Mr. Obama has changed that with skill and guts his predecessors lacked. Because of the President, the United States and Cuba are better nations.
President Obama's unforgettable legacy: Cuba!!
And one more iconic photo:
       This one is courtesy of It was taken in Havana in January of 1959, shortly after the Cuban revolution had shocked the world by overthrowing the Batista dictatorship. The well-dressed woman in the high heels has just asked a Cuban female guerrilla fighter a question, which might have been: "How did you rebels do it? I mean, beating Batista's powerful army that was backed by the Mafia and the United States! Tell me, how?" The rebel then was answering something like this, "Well, it was, uh, like this. We, uh..." Most likely, that female rebel, like the rest of the world, was still trying to figure out how Cuba, in fact, had become the first little nation to overthrow a U.S.-backed dictatorship. A few years later, Celia Sanchez -- the all-time greatest female revolutionary -- perhaps answered it best. Study her answer below:
        Burt Glinn was born in Pittsburgh in 1925 and he died in 2008. He is one of America's all-time greatest photographers and his photos in Havana in the first week of January to this day best chronicle the victory of the Cuban Revolution. The Burt Glinn photo above shows Cuba's new leader, Fidel Castro, being thanked by Cuban females, including nuns, for saving the nation from the Batistiano and Mafiosi terror.
      Because Cuban women and their children were the primary victims of the Batista dictatorship, bold female marches in the streets of Havana and Santiago de Cuba launched the revolutionary war in which the greatest guerrilla fighters were young women like Celia Sanchez, Haydee Santamaria, and the teenage Tete Puebla. The Burt Glinn photo above was taken on January 1, 1959 on a street in Havana after the leaders of the Batista-Mafia dictatorship had fled the city, many regrouping in Miami. The female holding the rifle was one of the guerrilla fighters that chased the Batistianos-Mafiosi off the island but she thought some of them might still be around. Therefore, she was asking these young Cuban males what they knew as a journalist on the left took notes of the conversation. It was truly a female-powered revolution.
       The great Burt Glinn took this photo shortly after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution. It shows Fidel Castro hoisting a jubilant Cuban girl who had joined one of the celebratory throngs that euphorically embraced their new, very tired revolutionary hero throughout the historic first week of January, 1959.
         It actually took Fidel and Celia Sanchez seven days on the dilatory southeast-to-northwest trek from Santiago de Cuba to Havana in the first week of January, 1959. The above photo shows them a little over half-way there on January 4th in the southern coastal city of Cienfuegos. As this photo indicates, Fidel reveled in sharing the euphoria with Cubans along the way but the tired, pragmatic, and less flamboyant Celia was just anxious to get to Havana to replace the Batista-Mafia dictatorship. She would remain the island's prime decision-maker till the day she died of cancer on January 11, 1980. If that basic fact doesn't mesh with your knowledge of Cuban history, it is because the Batistiano-dictated Cuban narrative in the U. S. since 1959 has simply lied to you. In Fact, in 2005 a key close revolutionary associate of Fidel and Celia, the great journalist-author Marta Rojas, told me in a Cuba-to-Wyoming email: "Since the day Celia died of cancer in 1980, Fidel has continued to rule Cuba only as he precisely believes she would want him to rule it." 
       Marta Rojas was born in 1928 in Santiago de Cuba. She remains today a truly great writer and historian. Beyond doubt, there is no one alive today who knows as much about Celia Sanchez, Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution as Marta. Additionally, I can personally confirm that she is truly a sweet, sweet lady.
      For the first time in half-a-century, the U. S. is allowing cruise liners to take you to Cuba and this fall the first commercial flights to Cuba in over 50 years will be filling the skies. So, if you make it to Cuba and want to know more about the Cuban Revolution, Fidel, or Celia, be sure to see the adorable Marta Rojas. Danny Glover, the renowned American actor, made sure he met Marta when he recently visited the island.
      Even as a rebel himself, Fidel Castro had become a huge fan of Burt Glinn's photos in Life Magazine in the 1950s. In the early days of Revolutionary Cuba, two of Fidel's best friends were Burt Glinn and the great New York Times journalist Herbert L. Matthews. The photo above was taken in 2001 by Sam Glinn, the son of Burt and Elena Glinn. It shows Fidel Castro escorting Elena and Burt Glinn to his Havana office. 

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