Books on Cuba
The Autobiography of a
Bridges to Cuba/Puentes a Cuba
Africa to the New World: The Dead Sell Memories
Fidel Castro and
the Quest for a Revolutionary Culture in Cuba
Reyita: The Life of a Black Cuban Woman in the
Singular Like a Bird: The Art of Nancy Morejon
and Other Essays /
Pride of Havana: A History of Cuban Baseball
Aesthetics in Contemporary Latin America Art /
Customs of Cuba /
Man-making Words; Selected Poems
of Nicholas Guillen
Afro-Cuban Voices: On Race and Identity on
Contemporary Cuba /
Afro-Cuba: An Anthology of Cuban Writing
on Race, Politics, and Culture
Popular Poet of the Caribbean /
Selected Poetry by Nancy Morejon
Cuba: After the
* * *
Fidel Castro: My Early Years
By Michael Smith
Fidel Castro: My Early Years by Fidel
Castro, with an introductory essay by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
Edited by Deborah Shnookal and Pedro Alvarez Tabio. Ocean Press,
Hoboken, N.J., 1998. $14.95
This book is a compilation of interviews and
speeches by Fidel concerning his early childhood and youth.
Although most of the selections have been published previously
in other books and periodicals, they have never before been
brought together in one volume.
An interview with Fidel by Colombian
journalist Arturo Alape is published here in English for the
first time. The book also contains excerpts from a discussion
with a Brazilian priest, Frei Netto, which was previously
published by Ocean Press under the title "Fidel and
The time period explored in the book ranges
from Fidel's childhood to 1952, when Gen. Batista took over the
Cuban government in a coup and Castro launched the July 26
Movement, with plans to spark a popular uprising against the
dictator. Along the way, it deals with Fidel's university years,
his training in the liberation movement for the Dominican
Republic, his political activities in Colombia, and his first
study of Marxism.
Fidel's father, Angel, the son of a very poor
farmer from Galicia, Spain, was drafted to fight in Cuba in 1895
during its last war of independence. He then emigrated to the
island at the turn of the century. Penniless, he got himself a
job at a sugar mill; illiterate, he taught himself to read and
Later, he got a group of workers together in
a small enterprise that worked for a U.S. firm to clear land in
order to plant sugar cane and to fell trees to supply sugar
mills with firewood. He built an all-wooden house in the
Galician style, on stilts, in the north-central part of what
used to be Oriente Province on the eastern end of the island.
Fidel remembers his father as "a
extremely kind man" who "never said no to anyone who
asked for help." Fidel's mother, Lina, was Angel's cook.
Her parents had come to Oriente Province by oxcart, 600 miles
from the other side of Cuba. She became Angel's second wife; he
had had three children by his first wife and seven more with
Lina. Fidel was the third oldest of their union.
Lina, too, was illiterate and also taught
herself to read and write. She lived until three years after the
1959 revolution. Angel died in 1956 while Fidel was in Mexico
organizing the expedition that traveled to Cuba on the motor
yacht Granma and successfully took on the U.S.-armed Batista
Raised in rural poverty
The Castro family lived in the country on a
farm in an area with no cars, muddy roads, and no electricity.
The farm animals lived under the house-turkeys, geese, ducks,
pigs, guinea fowl, chickens, and 20 or 30 cows, which were tied
to the stilts.
A small slaughterhouse and a small smithy
were close to the house, as was a bakery. A small public
elementary school was 60 meters from the house, as was a general
store, telegraph office, and a post office. This was the set-up
in 1926 when Fidel Castro was born.
Fidel remembers summer vacation "when we
went swimming in the rivers, running through the woods, hunting
with slingshots, and riding horses. We lived in direct contact
with nature and were quite free during these times. That's what
my childhood was like."
The farm area where Fidel grew up was not
exactly a town; there was no church in the small population
center, and 15-20 children went to the tiny school, Fidel's
nursery school. He played indiscriminately with the children of
the rural farm workers, white and Black, Cuban and Haitian,
mostly poor. "They were my friends."
Because he was smart and had a talent for
learning, Fidel was sent to live with a family in Santiago de
Cuba when he was 4 1/2 years old. He had yet to receive any
religious training or to be baptized, a omission which caused
him to be called "the Jew."
His mother was a fervent believer who prayed
every day. Fidel's grandmother was also deeply religious,
believing fervently in Our Lady of Charity, Cuba's patron saint.
His mother and grandmother also believed "in several saints
who were not in the liturgy, including St. Lazarus, the
Fidel remembers that "the world I was
brought up in was quite primitive, with all kinds of beliefs and
superstitions, spirits, ghosts, and animals that were harbingers
of doom ... for example, if a rooster crowed three times without
getting an answer, that meant some tragedy might occur."
After the triumph of the revolution in 1959,
Fidel went to visit his family in Havana: "The room was
full of saints and prayer cards ... both my mother and
grandmother made all kinds of vows on behalf of our lives and
safety. The fact that we came out of the struggle alive must
have greatly increased their faith. ... I never argued with them
about these things because I could see the strength, courage,
and comfort they got from their religious feelings and
Fidel remembers that he was never religious.
He rejected the dogmas that were imposed on him, believing
instead that religion should be the product of thought and
He spent two years with the family in
Santiago, "just wasting my time." The family took the
money paid to them by Fidel's parents but little trickled down
to the young student. He went hungry and "was spanked every
Fidel found his experience of hardship
"useful" in the sense that he used it to
"launch" his "first act of rebellion" and
successfully argued with his parents to get himself sent to a
boarding school, where "I began to be happy."
The food improved and he got out on Thursdays
and Sundays for breaks. But some of the teachers sometimes hit
the students. A monitor in charge "hit me with a fair
amount of violence. He slapped both sides of my face. It was a
degrading and abusive thing." This was in the third grade.
In the fifth grade, a teacher hit Fidel in
the head twice. "A violent confrontation" ensued.
Fidel decided not to go back to that school and instead
convinced his parents to let him go to Dolores College, a Jesuit
school, as a day student.
He reflected that while he was not against
discipline, "children have a sense of personal
dignity" and hitting them "is monstrous and
Fidel was then tutored by a Black woman, who
was the first person to ever encourage him. She set goals for
him and got him interested in studying.
He was 10 years old and credits her as the
person in his life who came closest to being his mentor. He
began to get excellent grades.
Training with the Jesuits
The Jesuits were Spaniards, politically
reactionary supporters of the dictator Franco. "I think
that the traditions of the Jesuits and their military spirit and
organization go with the Spanish personality. They were
rigorous, demanding people, who were interested in their
students, their character and behavior," Fidel remembers.
Although he rejected the Jesuits' religious
teaching, he said that "later on I formed a belief and
faith in the political arena."
Fidel developed into an outstanding athlete,
particularly in basketball, soccer, and baseball. The Jesuits
encouraged hikes and mountain climbing, risky and difficult
activities, which they thought developed an enterprising,
tenacious spirit. They never dreamed they were training a
The school was an upper-class institution,
attended by children of professionals as well as those of the
very rich bourgeoisie, who had an aristocratic spirit. Fidel's
family, who lived in the country amongst poor people and who
worked every day, gave him a lesser social status.
Fidel thinks that this prevented "the
misfortune of acquiring that class culture, mentality, and
consciousness" that would have made it difficult for a
person to have "escaped bourgeois ideology. "
"Humans," Fidel concluded,
"are the product of struggles and difficulties. ...
Problems gradually mold a person in the same way that a lathe
shapes a piece of material-in this case, the matter and spirit
of a human being."
Castro developed a sense of justice-what is
fair and unfair-and as sense of personal dignity. The Jesuits,
he said, "valued character, rectitude , honesty, courage,
and the ability to make sacrifices."
First readings about socialism
Castro went to Belen College, the most
prestigious high school in Cuba. He studied capitalist political
economy and drew socialist conclusions, "imagining a
economy that would operate more nationally."
He was a supporter of Jose Marti's ideas in
high school and "always wholeheartedly identified with our
people's heroic struggle for independence in the past
Then, in his junior year, he read "The
Communist Manifesto." It "had a particularly
significant impact on me" because of the "simplicity,
clarity, and direct manner in which our world and society are
After all, Fidel noted, "you don't need
a microscope or a telescope to see class divisions that mean
that the poor go hungry while others have more than they
"Who could know this better than I, who
had experienced both realities and who had even been, in part, a
victim of the two? How could I fail to understand my
experiences, the situation of the landowner and of the landless,
Fidel became a popular student leader both in
college and in law school, where he was elected student body
president. In law school he read Lenin's "Imperialism: The
Highest Stage of Capitalism" and "State and
Revolution," and "had a full revolutionary outlook,
not just in terms of ideas, but in terms of how to implement
His main contribution to Cuba, he believes,
was figuring out how to combine Marx and Marti.
Before he organized the failed attack on the
Moncada barracks in 1953, Fidel had participated in two other
actions. He joined an expeditionary force in Cuba that was to
sail to the Dominican Republic to mount an offensive against the
dictatorship there. The plan failed but Castro was the only
soldier not captured. He opted to get away by undergoing a long
Next, at age 22, in 1948, he organized on the
international scene. He traveled to Panama, Venezuela, and
finally to Colombia, the site of the founding conference of the
Association of American States, in order to expose the OAS as an
instrument of American domination.
While he was in Colombia, the popular leader
and probable next president, Gaitan, was assassinated. Fidel
managed to get arms and to join the popular upsurge.
The masses were defeated, being leaderless
and without political education. He says that 11 years later, in
Cuba, things happened differently.
The U.S. government opposed Castro even
before the revolution. From the beginning and to date, they have
tried to assassinate him, physically and morally. According to
common wisdom, he is a cruel dictator, even worse than Qadaffi,
or the current demon, Saddam Hussein.
Others believe Fidel Castro to be a great
leader of humanity and a great humanitarian-an extraordinary
person, the likes of whom is rarely seen over the centuries.
It is thus of interest to read about Fidel's early
years, for surely, as the poet Milton understood,
"Childhood shows the man as morning shows the day."
* * * * *
My Early Years opens with a brief
biography and a "personal portrait" by Gabriel Garcia
Marquez. Editors Shnookal and Alvarez Tabio draw their first
selection, "Childhood and Youth," and fourth piece,
"Preparing for Moncada" (Castro's unsuccessful 1953
attack on the Moncada army garrison in Santiago de Cuba), from
Castro's May 1985 discussion with Brazilian priest Frei Betto.
In "University Days," Castro's September 1995 speech
at the University of Havana recollects the period when he
attended that law school and first became involved in politics.
Castro explained his experience in the April 1948 popular
uprising in Bogota, Colombia, in a September 1981 interview with
Colombian journalist Arturo Alape. Includes photographs of
Castro as a child and young man.
* * * * *
Talk by Dagoberto Rodriguez,
of the Cuban Interests Section.
March 26 at 6:30pm
Documentary film at
Charles Theater in Baltimore
Friday, March 28,
Evers College Film & Culture Series presents
Short Documentary - 'LEST WE FORGET'
Screening 'FIDEL' Directed by: Estela Bravo
community discussion lead by Scholar Activists:
Aamon - Author, Lecturer
Rosa Alicia Clemente - Organizer, Journalist
Reyes Rivera - Poet, Essayist
* * * *
Wednesday, March 26 at 6:30pm, CUBA TODAY
talk by Dagoberto Rodriguez, Chief of the Cuban Interests
Section. He will address our community at the Hodson
Hall 10 on the Johns Hopkins University Homewood Campus.
Mr. Rodriguez is the highest-ranking Cuban official in the
United States. The Institute for Global Studies in
Culture, Power and History is co-sponsoring this event with the
Baltimore-Matanzas Sister City Association, the Maryland-Cuba
Friendship Coalition and other organizations. The event is
free and open to the public. For more information, call
410-516-7794 or 410-381-4899.
OPENING FRIDAY MARCH 28TH premier showing of the documentary "FIDEL" at The
Charles Theater in Baltimore. For more information check: www.thecharles.com
2002 USA Dir. Estela Bravo. 91m In English. Unrated.
As Fidel Castro nears 44 years as the leader of Cuba, there
are many who see him as a champion of the poor and powerless and
others who say he is a ruthless dictator. Dismissed as a relic
or revered as a savior, all agree that Fidel Castro is one of
the most influential and controversial figures of our time.
Rarely are Americans given a chance to see inside the world of
this socialist leader. The new documentary film by Estela Bravo,
FIDEL, offers a unique opportunity to view the man through
exclusive interviews with Castro himself, historians, public
figures and close friends, with footage from the Cuban State
Alice Walker, Harry Belafonte, and Sydney Pollack discuss the
personality of the man. Former and current US government figures
including Arthur Schlesinger, Ramsey Clark, Wayne Smith,
Congressman Charles Rangel and a former CIA agent offer
political and historical perspectives on Castro and the
long-standing US embargo against Cuba. Family members and close
friends, including Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel Garcia
Marquez, offer a window into the personal life of Fidel. Bravo's
camera captures him swimming with bodyguards, visiting his
childhood home and school, joking with Nelson Mandela, Ted
Turner and Muhammad Ali, meeting Elian Gonzalez, and celebrating
his birthday with members of the Buena Vista Social Club.
Juxtaposing the personal anecdotal with the history of the Cuban
revolution and the fight to survive the post-Soviet period,
FIDEL tells a previously untold story and presents a new view of
this powerful and compelling figure.
Leslie P. Salgado, Chair
Howard County Friends of Latin America
P.O. Box 94
Columbia, MD 21045
Directed by: Estela Bravo
A documentary focusing on the political impact Cuban leader
has on the world, going into his relationship with Che Guavara
struggling for independence, such as Ho Chi Minh and Nelson
Starring: Fidel Castro, Harry Belafonte, Angela Davis, Muhammad
Followed by a community discussion lead by Scholar Activists:
Aamon - Author, Lecturer
Rosa Alicia Clemente - Organizer, Journalist
Reyes Rivera -
March 27, 2003
* * *
Cuba An African Odyssey is the previously untold
story of Cuba's support for African revolutions.
Cuba: An African Odyssey is the story of the Cold War
told through the prism of its least known arena: Africa. It is
the untold story of Cuba’s support for African revolutions. It
is the story of men like Patrice Lumumba, Amilcar Cabral,
Agosthino Neto and of course Che Guevara who have become icons,
mythical figures whose names are now synonymous with the word
revolution. This is the story of how these men, caught between
capitalism and communism, strove to create a third bloc that
would assert the simple principle of national independence. It
is the story of a whole dimension of world politics during the
last half of the 20th century, which has been hidden behind the
facade of a simplistic understanding of superpower conflict.
Cuba: An African Odyssey will tell the inside story of
only three of these Cuban escapades. We will start with the
Congo where Che Guevara personally spent seven months fighting
with the Pro-Lumumbist rebellion in the jungle of Eastern Congo.
Then to Guinea Bissau where Amilcar Cabral used the technical
support of Cuban advisors to bleed the Portuguese colonial war
machine thus toppling the regime in Europe. Finally, Angola
where in total 380,000 Cuban soldiers fought during the 27 years
of civil war. The Cuban withdrawal from Angola was finally
bartered against Namibia’s independence. With Namibia’s
independence came the fall of Apartheid… the last vestige of
colonialism on the African continent.
Cuba: An African Odyssey unravels episodes of the Cold
War long believed to be nothing but proxy wars. From the
tragicomic epic of Che Guevara in Congo to the triumph at the
battle of Cuito Carnavale in Angola, this film attempts to
understand the world today through the saga of these
internationalists who won every battle but finally lost the war.
directed and narrated by Jihan El-Tahri / Edited by
Gilles Bovon / Photography by Frank-Peter Lehmann
Sound Recordists: James Baker,
Graciela Barrault / Produced by Tancrède Ramonet, Benoît
Juster, Jihan El-Tahri
* * *
Che’s Afterlife: The Legacy of an
Illustrated. 388 pages. Vintage Books. $15.95
Aires bureau chief for Dow Jones Newswires, tap
dances across history— and the globe to examine
intellectual property and iconography through the
lens of the famous image of Che Guevara captured by
fashion photographer Alberto Korda. Some say that
only the famous photograph of Marilyn Monroe, her
skirt rising as she stands over a subway grate, has
been more reproduced, writes Casey. The author does
not neglect the relevant biographical details or
history, but his focus is Che as a brand. He wants
to understand why the Korda image remains so
compelling to such a wide variety of people and how
it continues to represent so many different (and
differing) causes; he suggests that the power of Che,
the brand, is in its ability to be anything to
anyone. The book can feel like a disorderly amalgam
of travelogue, visual criticism, biography and
reportage—fragments befitting a study of globalized
culture. Readers interested in the impact of visual
culture or in better understanding the elusiveness
of intellectual property rights, particularly in a
global marketplace, will find much food for thought.
Reminiscences of the Cuban Revolutionary War
* * *
* * * *
Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays
Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a
collection of fourteen essays by scholars and
creative writers from Africa and the Americas.
Called one of two significant critical works on
Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late
1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of
Carter G. Woodson and
Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as
well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations
were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early
essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish
medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an
historical context for understanding 20th-century
creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone
writers, such as Cuban
Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist,
Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the
significance of Negritude in Latin America. This
collaborative text set the tone for later
conferences in which writers and scholars worked
together to promote, disseminate, and critique the
literature of Spanish-speaking people of African
descent. . . .
Cited by a
literary critic in 2004 as "the seminal study in the
field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which
most scholars in the field 'cut their teeth'."
* * *
Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in
By Melissa V.
According to the
author, this society has historically exerted
considerable pressure on black females to fit into one
of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the
Matriarch or the Jezebel. The selfless
Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to
white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of
those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the
relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable
temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as
an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the
characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television
shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.
points out how the propagation of these harmful myths
have served the mainstream culture well. For instance,
the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for
black females to feel a maternal instinct towards
As for the source
of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their
own bodies during slavery given that they were being
auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless,
it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate
the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate
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The White Masters of the
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
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Ancient African Nations
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If you like this page consider making a donation
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Negro Digest /
Browse all issues
* * * * *
The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Only a Pawn in Their Game
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for
George Jackson /
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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of
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update 8 November 2008