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The present volume ends with 26 remarkable letters written by Guevara, for the most part while he was

serving as a bureaucrat of the revolution after the seizure of power. I think it impossible to read those lettersdirect,

unassuming, austereand not know that one is in the presence of a rare being, a man of principle, deserving

of Castro's eulogy: "Immensely humane, immensely sensitive."



Books on Cuba

The Autobiography of a Slave  /  Bridges to Cuba/Puentes a Cuba Santeria from 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 Twentieth Century  


Singular Like a Bird: The Art of Nancy Morejon   / Caliban and Other Essays   /   The Pride of Havana: A History of Cuban Baseball


 Santeria Aesthetics in Contemporary Latin America Art   / Culture and 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 


 Nicolas Guillen: Popular Poet of the Caribbean   /    Selected Poetry by Nancy Morejon  /  Cuba: After the Revolution 


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Reminiscences of the Cuban Revolutionary War


By Che Guevara

Reviewed by Emile Capouya


Mr. James Reston has recorded his impressions of a recent visit to Cuba, and it appears that although he kept his guard up as a prudent journalist should, he was a little disarmed by the spectacle of a small nation gallantly and gaily coping with the essential problem of small nations--how to keep your self-respect and still eat. One thing, though, struck him as a very jarring note in the general symphony of a country making its way through life without the help of the United States. He found that the Cubans were concerned about the dangers of invasion. They imagined that the United States, the very country they were getting along without, might invade their island. Mr. Reston found their repeated expressions of alarm quite paranoid, and he attributed the disease to hysterical official propaganda.

Let us rub our eyes. we have been dreaming again. dreaming that Cuba was not invaded seven years ago by a force armed, trained, and financed by the united States; that president Kennedy was not severely criticized at home for failing to provide air cover for the invaders; that he had not pledged himself, while a candidate for office, to subdue the Cubans for force if necessary; that Richard Nixon, also a candidate, had not stimulated shock and horror at Kennedy's declaration even though, as Vice President, he had already participated in formulating the secret plan for the invasion. we have been dreaming of American benevolence, as usual, and no demonstration of presidential ruthlessness in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, or Vietnam can affect the pastoral innocence of that dream. James Reston, without question one of our most intelligent, best informed, most responsible journalists, is talking in his sleep--to a nation of dreamers.

But in order to arrive at a true estimate of men like Ernesto Guevara and his fellow-revolutionary, Fidel Castro, we should first of all have to wake up to the world in which we are living. in that world, there are two hundred million Latin Americans, most of whom are very hungry, and their hunger is a necessary feature of the political and economic arrangements that make us North Americans rich. They are ruled for the most part by armed degenerates whose brutality bears an exact proportion to the misery over which they preside, and the degenerate in question are subsidized out of the American treasury. In that waking world of hunger and hopelessness, Guevara and Castro took up the cause of the dispossessed. Most unfortunately--by our own standards of social decency, by our own ideals of freedom and personal dignity, by our own humane professions--they are in the right and we are in the wrong. That is what all the shooting is about.

Ernesto Guevara was, next to Fidel Castro, the most influential spirit and the best mind of the Cuban Revolution--both in its military phase and, after the overthrow of Batista, in the phase of intensive social reconstruction that still goes on an has earned James Reston's guarded approval. Guevara's classic work is Guerilla Warfare. Two translations have been published in this country, both of them technically and stylistically faulty. Guevara was, among other things, a first-rate writer, and no available translation of any of his works does him justice. Readers must be warned, accordingly, that the point and bearing of his ideas are misrepresented in English.

Guerilla Warfare  is more than a treatise of irregular military operations. it is a manual of political struggle in regions ruled as Latin American is ruled. For Guevara, guerrilla warfare is important because it is the most appropriate political instrument--and also the most effective instrument of political education--in countries like pre-revolutionary Cuba, where three general conditions exist: poverty, a predominantly rural economy, and no legal means of reform and redress. that insight, incidentally, is at the heart of Regis Debray's brilliant essay, Revolution in the Revolution?, published here in Bobbye Ortiz' excellent English version. For understandable reasons, neither the conservatives nor the adherents of the traditional leftist sects and parties in North and South America are willing to accept the thesis.

Reminiscences of the Cuban Revolutionary War is Guevara's unadorned memoirs of his own service in that struggle. They suffer somewhat from having been set down as occasion offered, and because the author confined himself strictly to what he himself had done or observed. Guevara hoped that other participants in the revolution would write their own accounts in the same sober spirit, and produce collectively an accurate report of that turning-point in the history of the Western Hemisphere. The most interesting sections of the present book are concerned with the hand-to-mouth stage of the revolution, when, after the rout of the Gramma expedition, the 12 survivors, including Guevara, Fidel Castro, and Camilio Cienfuegos, were fugitives rather than soldiers. 

Semi-starved, often bivouacking without shelter, for a long time, their object was mere survival and their immediate enemies were the climate and the terrain. Whether we are concerned with political and military history or with the history of particular souls, the transition from the stages of survivors in flight to the phase of effectual rebellion is the highest interest. Despite the circumstantial character of Guevara's narrative, unfortunately, that transition accomplishes itself offstage, for there is a hiatus in the account precisely at the point where the material and moral current must have shifted to permit the first forays upon Batista's troops.

What does emerge clearly enough is Guevara's personal development in the course of the fighting. When it began, he was an enthusiast for revolution and the next thing to an invalid (he suffered all his life from incapacitating attacks of asthma), and, for all his spirit, hardly a likely soldier, one would think. but he fought along on sheer nerve, bearing severe physical hardship with his comrades, and showing reserves of will that marked him as a natural leader in difficult undertakings. Fidel Castro says of him that his failing as a soldier was excessive disregard of danger, and coming from that authority the judgment is one we had better accept. Yet there is no doubt that Guevara was one of the master tacticians of recent military history.

In that respect, Guerilla Warfare is his witness; it is the only significant work on the subject written in the West--for the good reason that no other writers have had clear strategic notions in the light of which their tactics might be developed. The strategic aims of Western commentators tend to be, as it were, subconscious, and in any case unavowable. But in Guevara's writings, strategy is always conceived in terms of political evolution, and is necessarily more ample, more adequate in terms of reality, than the abstract geo-politics plus games theory that passes for military thought in other places.

For an example of his astuteness as a political analyst, the reader is referred to the epilogue to guerilla warfare, in which, writing in 1959, he predicts the manner and means of the invasion of Cuba that was to take place in 1961. Another classic of analysis and polemic is his speech at the Punta del Este conference (reproduced in Che Guevara Speaks, Merit Publishers), called for the purpose of quarantining Cuba and containing the Latin-American revolution by means of the Alliance for Progress. Guevara's exposition of the program's defects, had they been heeded, might have saved Mr. Moscoso from resigning his directorship in despair when time had made clear to everyone what was clear only to the Cuban delegation at Punta del Este.

The present volume ends with 26 remarkable letters written by Guevara, for the most part while he was serving as a bureaucrat of the revolution after the seizure of power. I think it impossible to read those lettersdirect, unassuming, austereand not know that one is in the presence of a rare being, a man of principle, deserving of Castro's eulogy: "Immensely humane, immensely sensitive."

Ernesto Guevara was wounded in the Bolivian mountains, captured, and apparently shot after capture. Then his body was exhibited to photographers by relieved officials. From his point of view, fair enoughhe had sought out just such a fate. But our perspective must be different. He was a very great man. He died at 39. In terms of the political evolution of Latin America in this century, the loss cannot be made up.

Source: Commonweal (12 April 1968)

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Ernesto "Che' Guevara (1928-67), Latin American guerrilla leader and revolutionary theorist, who became a hero to the New Left radicals of the 1960s, was born into a middle-class family in Rosario, Argentina. Guevara received a medical degree from the University of Buenos Aires in 1953.

Convinced that revolution was the only remedy for Latin America's social inequities, in 1954, Che went to Mexico, where he joined exiled Cuban revolutionaries under Fidel Castro. In the late 1950s, he played an important role in Castro's guerrilla war against Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, and when Castro came to power, he served as Cuba's Minister of Industry (1961-65). A strong opponent of U.S. influence in the Third World, he helped guide the Castro regime on its leftward and pro-Communist path.The author of two books on guerrilla warfare, Guevara advocated peasant-based revolutionary movements in the developing countries. He disappeared from Cuba in 1965, reappearing the following year as an insurgent leader in Bolivia. He was captured by the Bolivian army and shot near Vallegrande on Oct. 9, 1967.

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Che’s Afterlife: The Legacy of an Image (2009)

By Michael Casey

Illustrated. 388 pages. Vintage Books. $15.95

Casey, Buenos 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. Publishers Weekly

Brand Che: Revolutionary as Marketer’s Dream—As Michael Casey, the Buenos Aires bureau chief for Dow Jones Newswires, observes in his fascinating new book, “Che’s Afterlife,” the image of Ernesto Guevara most frequently used by politicians, demonstrators and merchants alike is based on the famous 1960 picture of the guerrilla leader taken by the Cuban photographer Alberto Díaz Gutiérrez, known as Korda. It’s the familiar, ubiquitous close-up, often rendered in high-contrast blacks and whites, which features the handsome 31-year-old Argentine-born revolutionary looking off into the distance as if he had his eyes on the future, his gaze — described, variously, as pensive, determined, defiant, meditative or implacable — as difficult, in Mr. Casey’s words, “to put a finger on” as the Mona Lisa’s smile. . .

Mr. Casey has written a book that is not only a cultural history of an image, but also a sociopolitical study of the mechanisms of fame. It is a book about how ideas travel and mutate in this age of globalization, how concepts of political ideology have increasingly come to be trumped by notions of commerce and cool and chic, and how the historical Che Guevara gave way, post-mortem, to a host of other Ches: St. Che, said to possess the ability to perform miracles; Chesucristo, a Christ-like figure revered for his ideals, not his advocacy of violence; an entrepreneurial Che, promoting the lesson “that individuals should honestly strive to produce their utmost for the good of all”; and the Rock ’n’ Roll Che, more representative of youthful anti-authoritarianism than of any political dogma.

Korda’s famous photograph of Che was taken in 1960, at a state funeral for victims killed by an explosion aboard a freighter docked in Havana’s harbor. By radically cropping the shot, snipping out a palm tree and the profile of another man, Korda gave the portrait an ageless quality, divorced from the specifics of time and place. . . .

Although Korda’s original photograph was not widely distributed for years, Mr. Casey says, Fidel Castro began using the image as a branding symbol for Cuba in 1967, months before Che’s death. It was a clever marketing plan on Mr. Castro’s part: Che’s denunciations of the Soviet Union made him popular among “thinkers and artists of the Western European left, many of whom had lost faith in the Soviet Union,” while his condemnation of imperialism “sat well with young radical students in the United States and Europe, who were impatient for societal change and for whom the very word revolution was inspiring.”

After Che was killed in Bolivia in October 1967 at 39, at the end of a disastrous guerrilla campaign, his fame and popularity — as a martyr now — spread even more rapidly around the world: red and black posters based on Korda’s photograph became symbols of the resistance movement during the 1968 student protests in Paris, and they surfaced, too, in America, where the revolutionary was embraced by both the Black Power movement and by hippies and antiwar activists. NYTimes

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Cuba An African Odyssey,  the previously untold story of Cuba's support for African revolutions,  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.

Written, 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

Source: Snagfilms

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



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The Brilliant Disaster

JFK, Castro, and America's Doomed Invasion of Cuba's Bay of Pigs

By Jim Rasenberger

My telling of the Bay of Pigs thing will certainly not be the first. On the contrary, thousands of pages of official reports, journalism, memoir, and scholarship have been devoted to the invasion, including at least two exceptional books: Haynes Johnson’s emotionally charged account published in 1964 and Peter Wyden’s deeply reported account from 1979. This book owes a debt to both of those, and to many others, as well as to thousands of pages of once-classified documents that have become available over the past fifteen years, thanks in part to the efforts of the National Security Archives, an organization affiliated with George Washington University that seeks to declassify and publish government files. These newer sources, including a CIA inspector general’s report, written shortly after the invasion and hidden away in a vault for decades, and a once-secret CIA history compiled in the 1970s, add depth and clarity to our understanding of the event and of the men who planned it and took part in it. . . .

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The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

By Michele Alexander

Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama's political success and Oprah Winfrey's financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today... than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don't know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.—Publishers Weekly

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

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Related files: Fidel My Early Years  Fidel Bio  Reminiscences of the Cuban Revolutionary War  Jimmy Carter on Cuban-American Relations  Cuba Photo-Exhibit    Herbert Rogers on Cuba  Cuban BookList 

Nicohola Guillen  Ajiaco Christianity  Santeria The Beliefs and Rituals   Inside the Caribbean   The Quest for the Cuban Christ  Pedro Pérez Sarduy