Academic journal article Journal of Intercultural Disciplines

Cuba: Life on the Island through the Eyes of an Active Witness

Academic journal article Journal of Intercultural Disciplines

Cuba: Life on the Island through the Eyes of an Active Witness

Article excerpt

Cuba's government during President Fulgencio Batista's reign was fraught with corruption, but changes created by the 1959 revolution have resulted in repressive despotism (Wiarda, 1995). Implementing ethnographic techniques, this paper explores changes thrust upon the people of Cuba during and after the Cuban Revolution. According to Madden (2010), an ethnography is "an interpretative and explanatory story about a group of people and their sociality, culture and behaviours" (p. 16). This paper, therefore, investigates Cuba's history through the life of a Cuban American scholar, Ana, who lived and experienced the Cuban Revolution. Because Ana and her family lived comfortably and owned several sugar cane mills before the revolution, she and her bourgeois family experienced the most brutal hardships imposed by Castro and his regime. Ana contends, however, her experience is the norm for those on the Island during the revolution. She claims, "This is not one view of an exile who had a bad experience. This is the experience of a country."

This paper portrays the political environment of Cuba from 1952 until 1971, the period of time Ana lived on the Island. Throughout the revolution, Ana witnessed Human Rights abuses Castro and his dictatorial regime imposed on the people of Cuba. Seeking a just lifestyle with better opportunities, Ana and her mother sought refuge in the United States in 1971. Because Ana's family valued education and freedom, she fled her home country when she was merely 19 years old. In the United States, Ana pursued her education and earned her Ph.D. in Romance Languages and Literature. In order to protect her identity, the interviewee is referred by a pseudonym.

Cuba's Political Climate before the Revolution

Ana was bom in 1952 in Guantánamo, and she moved to Cuneira when she was just a baby. Ana's memories of her childhood are strained with distraught recollections of Cuba's turmoil. When asked about her childhood, Ana sadly responds, "I cannot say I was ever a child. I have always been a grown up." During the year Ana was bom, the people of Cuba had grown tired and restless of the country's decade-long political corruption and gangsterism (Babún & Triay, 2005). Attempts were made to hold a national election, but Cuba's former President Fulgencio Batista, who reigned from 1940 to 1944, used the military to initiate a coup d'état only months before Election Day (Argote-Freyre, 2011). While assuring elections would be held soon after his reign, Batista announced himself President with promise of bringing an end to Cuba's corruption (Babún & Triay, 2005; Argote-Freyre, 2011).

Although Ana recalls a time of political corruption during Batista's reign, she also remembers a prosperous Cuba before the revolution: a time where "there was no poverty, no misery." Ana further explains that the people of Cuba did not experience hunger because food was abundant in the country's lavish natural habitat. According to Ana, the political environment was more stable before the revolution. Considered to be one of the most progressive governments in Latin America, Cuba adhered to a Constitution written in 1940 (Babún & Triay, 2005); and Ana's family was deeply connected to the drafting of the set of laws. Ana's paternal grandfather had assisted in the writing of the Constitution, had owned eight sugar cane mills, and was an influential man on the Island.

Ana's family was prosperous, but she remembers a childhood tainted and spoiled with horrific events when revolutionaries plotted to overthrow Batista and the government. Ana's memories are neither colorful nor gray: her recollections of the revolution are portrayed merely in black and white, where the people were either for or against a new government. The people of Cuba were polarized based on their political beliefs; and according to Ana, her family was divided between love and hate for the political environment. Ana's maternal family had grown increasingly involved with the emerging Cuban Revolution, and they held strong connections with Castro and his comrades. …

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