The US does not celebrate or even welcome the independence of other nations; it only countenances servitude. Indeed, the nation that wins its sovereignty—only to prostitute its resources for the sake of American empire—is the nation that gets the green light from Washington. Yet, if America does not receive a warm, economic, post-independence welcome, its war hawks invariably circle. Sometimes they circle anyway! Then bombs drop. Or, embargos facilitate economic terrorism. Pick a country, any country. This blueprint gets redrawn everywhere, and this is precisely the protocol, the behavioral norm, for maintaining global hegemony 90 miles off the coast of Florida.
Despite the perpetual propagation of its oppressive, hegemonic antagonism around the globe, even a looming specter as carcinogenic as American empire cannot shore-up every possibility of a long-lived rogue power it might enterprise to relegate to the margins of global economy. Cuba, for centuries, has been quite the fly in America’s imperial ointment, and thus, a champion to oppressed peoples everywhere. This has especially been true in the last half-century. Cuba shamed Washington with its revolution some fifty years ago, warring against US-sponsored terrorism and oppression. But the saga is not over. Because Cuba threw off the yoke of subjugation in 1959, US aggression continues to seek retribution for its inability to indenture Cuba to this day.
Almost two centuries ago, the architects of US statecraft envisaged a sphere of influence whereby the entire American hemisphere submitted to total US domination. They named it the “American System.” John Quincy Adams, for one, specifically asserted Cuba’s preordained indenture to the US. He claimed there were “laws of political as well as of physical gravitation” that affected Cuba the same way that gravity pulls on an “apple severed from a tree.” Adams further predicted Cuba would be “incapable of self-support,” thus justifying US interest and its savage agenda there. The US then conquered half of Mexico in 1848, acquiring Cuba roughly fifty years later. It is perhaps no coincidence that these annexations took place within but a generation of Adam’s presidency. As further evidence of imperialist tendencies, the seizures of Mexican and Cuban property rested largely on the unbending belief that the US had not only the ability and the authority, but also the burden of determining economic and political order in ‘its’ hemisphere.
In one of his most famous chapters entitled “A Revolution Begins”, Ernesto “Che” Guevara, a most integral spoke in the Cuban revolutionary wheel, cited Adams in his own apologies for the historic events that took place in Cuba in the mid-to-late 1950s. Che noted how the reasons for Cuba’s revolution extend much further back in history, before Sumner Welles in 1933, before the 1901 Platt Amendment—all the way back to Narciso López, direct envoy of the US annexationists. Writes Che, “These are all links in a long chain of continental aggression that has not been aimed solely at Cuba.” Many years before the probability of Che’s leadership in Cuba’s 1959 Revolution would become a certainty, Simón Bolívar echoed similar sentiments gathered through his experience as a liberator in his own right. He noted how the United States appeared “to be determined by Providence to plague America with misery in the name of liberty.” No doubt he spoke of the US species of “liberty” sardonically. It would appear there was nothing new under the imperial sun for Cuba in the 50s.
Che’s acumen regarding the historic nature of Cuba’s oppression likewise proves poignant. To think that Cuba’s history invariably begins with all Cuban denizens baptized into colonization by the imperialistic Spanish crown, and then by the US is nightmarish. To think: Thousands of Cuban people were preordained to suffer the avarice of predatory and parasitic capitalism, a system with an enormous propensity towards the unfettered abuse near-invaluable Cuban resources. Even after throwing off Spanish fetters, the independent, fledgling Cuba faced pure adversity from its boorish neighbor. US-Cuban relations were henceforth founded under the aegis of sheer paternalism. Cuba’s state and military then became a Yankee Frankenstein; any social structures had already been neutered by Imperial Spain throughout the preceding centuries.
For the sake of ensuring success in the 1959 revolution, Che, Castro and the other guerrillas would need to concern themselves with creating absolute change. They knew this, and that is precisely why they were so widely accepted and supported by so many rural peasants. This kind of change would be entirely antithetical to the system originally espoused by the Spanish, and then prolonged by the numerous forms of US occupation and oppression of especially the poorest Cubans. Indeed, to be truly effective, the revolutionary response would need to address nothing short of every oppressive facet, every pre-existing despotic structure, and it would need to cleanse Cuba of imperialism. The revolution would have to do this both with, and for, the benefit of the people whom two foreign governments had systematically oppressed for centuries.
Cuba fought for, and won, its independence. By loosening and losing many of its oppressive fetters, in 1959, Cuba neither submitted to the caprice of US imperium after the fact, nor did it sell its soul to capitalism. Yet, for its sins of non-alignment, and for its stark opposition to oppressive entanglement with the US, the Cuban people have endured more than fifty years of an ill-conceived embargo, and more! Incredibly, mainstream media in the US continues to this day to treat the 1959 Cuban Revolution as little more than a misguided, adolescent anomaly in the history of non-aligned rebellion. The result for Cuba, however, has not been rosy whatsoever; every time some Yankee mouthpiece for moneyed interest perverts what the Cuban Revolution stood for, and what it achieved for all of Western Civilization, the US and its people inch a little further from the possibility of taking an earnest interest in their oppressed Caribbean—American—neighbors. And although this contrived distancing of the American people from the Cuban pueblo has become part of the hackneyed, widely disseminated paradigm in America, it nonetheless warrants a revolution all its own.
Mateo Pimentel lives on the Mexican-US border. You can follow him on Twitter @mateo_pimentel.