Wednesday, April 13, 2016


Enchanted Air by Margarita Engle and Countdown by Deborah Wiles both have Cuba in the 60's as a backdrop when the threat of nuclear war seemed imminent.

Enchanted Air is a beautifully written poetic memoir as the author shares her difficult childhood growing up as a Cuban-American when revolution breaks out in Cuba. Countdown is a fascinating "documentary novel" about 12-year-old air force kid Franny navigating her life in school and at home through the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Serena, share with us what you've learnt about this period in history?

After the Treaty of Paris between the U.S. and Spain, Cuba set up its first local government. Fulgencio Batista came to power as a democratic president for his first term. He decided to run for presidency again, but when he realized he was destined to lose he used his military force to get himself in. He became a dictator, turning Cuba into a military state. He executed his enemies, promoted organized crime and personal power and wealth.

Photo Credit:

Cubans were tired of Batista and supported rebels such as Fidel Castro and his brother Raul. The U.S. finally said they couldn't support Batista any longer and suggested he flee the country. He did. After Batista was gone Fidel Castro took power once he ousted the original government. He first served as prime minister then president, promising every citizen a job and promoting health care. He also made Cuba the first communist state in the Western hemisphere.

Photo Credit:
Why the estranged ties between the U.S. and Cuba? Cuba was annoyed that the U.S. supported their former dictator during the Cuban revolution. The U.S. was leery that a communist state was so close and could affect other Caribbean countries. There was also the factor of Cuba's friendship with the USSR. That meant that during the Cold War Cuba sided with an enemy of U.S.  The U.S. retaliated by putting a trade embargo on Cuba, letting nothing in or out but food and medicine. The embargo made Cuba's economy deteriorate, making it lean even more heavily on the USSR.
Photo Credit:

Then there was the Bay of Pigs invasion, a disastrous attempt by the U.S. to overthrow Castro's government.  The embarrassing episode increased tensions and led to the U.S. having to pay $53-million in food and supplies to Cuba for the release of the 1,113 U.S. prisoners captured during the fighting. Then came the tensest thirteen days possibly in the history of the world - the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.  Everyone knows of the USSR missiles that were placed in Cuba but not many people know of the missiles the U.S. put in Italy and Turkey at that time. Khrushchev (then leader of the USSR) and Kennedy sweated and waited, both of their fingers poised to launch their missiles. At the last second an agreement was made between the USSR and the U.S. where all missiles would be removed and the U.S. promised never to invade Cuba without provocation.

Photo Credit:
The missile crisis was over, but the relations between the U.S. and Cuba continue to be tense for 50 more years until recently. In 2014 Obama started what is known as "the Cuban thaw" to normalize the relations. The leaders of the two countries had secret discussions in countries such as the Vatican and Canada. This year Obama made a historic visit to Cuba, the first sitting U.S. president to do so in 88 years. Slowly, the ties between the U.S. and Cuba are hopefully getting better even though current reactions are mixed.

"We and you ought not to pull on the ends of a rope in which you have tied the knots of war. Because the more the two of us pull, the tighter the knot will be tied." Nikita Khrushchev, First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, to U.S. President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, October 1962

1 comment:

  1. Nice history lesson.Well done !! Love Nanny & Papa