Posted by Lloyd Billingsley on Nov 25th, 2009 and filed under FrontPage.
New Castro, Same Cuba, a new report from Human Rights Watch, notes that
under Raul Castro, Fidel's brother, Cuba continues to harass and
imprison dissidents. The criminal code punishes "dangerousness," which
punishes such crimes as handing out the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights, or any behavior deemed contrary to "socialist morality."
One gets no clue of these conditions, or any history of Castro
repressions, from American political tourists, mostly educators, who
visit the island under the auspices of Cuba Education Tours, based in
"We have an amazing Cuba trip for teachers during New Years and we
warmly invite you to join us on the island," says an email from Marcel
Hatch, Education Director of Cuba Education Tours. This trip will
showcase "the real Cuba," and "you'll return having made new friends and
contacts abroad." The upbeat Marcel also links to some educators who
already took the trip. Their testimonies are indeed educational.
Norva Schapira and Abigail Cleary, high-school Spanish teachers from
Lansing, New York, mention "many stereotypes about the country" but do
not mention whether these include the stereotype that Cuba is a
one-party Communist dictatorship that represses all dissent, persecutes
homosexuals, and has reduced a once prosperous nation to sub-Haiti
levels of poverty.
"The experience was smooth from beginning to end," and "the orientation
information was thorough and useful." Further, "our guide, Tatiana
Rodriguez, as well as our driver, Angel always took very good care of
the group." The pair will return soon.
Amy DeCola, an early childhood education administrator with the South
Carolina State Department of Education, discovered that "Cubans are
passionate about life and it is evident in their music, dance and art.
They have overcome challenges with determination and a special
resilience. Americans can learn a great deal from the urban organic
gardens and sustainable communities." Amy saw "where Che Guevara set up
his headquarters," and peppered Tatiana with endless questions.
Ann Eskridge, African-American studies professor at the University of
Detroit, danced the salsa on a rooftop and testifies that "I came back
from my trip to Cuba with a deeper understanding of the issues affecting
that country and a newfound respect for the Cuban people. I attribute
this to the hard work Cuba Educations Tours staff put into making sure
that we had a well-rounded look at what Cuba is like today."
Dulce Maria Gray, professor of English, writing, literature and women's
studies at West Valley College in Saratoga, California, dropped off her
bags at the Hotel Habana Libre in La Rampa, a central neighborhood in
Vedado. "Until the revolution, this was the Hilton Hotel that had been
opened in March 1958 and had become a gambling casino and playground for
rich Americans," the professor explains. "But, the revolution triumphed
on 1 January 1959."
Sheila Scharmann, a high-school teacher at Greater St. Albert Catholic
Schools in Morinville, Alberta, says "We were treated royally from the
minute we stepped off the plane." Breakfast at the Habana Libre was
"excellent" and "Never once did we feel threatened or unsafe, even after
dark." Sheila advises tourists to bring a "very large notebook" because
"if you go, your eyes and hearts will be opened, and you'll come home
with different outlooks on many issues. This trip is was worthwhile,
That was the experience of Alexis P. Markowitz, of the UCLA Dept of
Humanities, Sciences, Social and Health Sciences. "I am changed forever
after such an amazing experience!" Alexis says. "Our guide Mildred was
awesome and goes the extra mile. She ensured we had the most complete,
authentic, and satisfying trip possible and saw the REAL Cuba."
And so on. None of the eager tourists, of course, saw anything
resembling the real Cuba. The faithful guides did not introduce them to
anyone imprisoned for "dangerousness" or violating "socialist morality."
On the other hand, the eager tourists probably showed no interest in
victims of the regime.
The visitors also appear unaware of the long history of Potemkin village
tours by Communist regimes, charted by Paul Hollander in Political
Pilgrims. That book recalls that New-Left icon Abbie Hoffman described
Fidel Castro standing erect among his people "like a great penis." The
outpourings of the recent political tourists may be less vivid but are
every bit as fatuous. Material about Cuban repression, meanwhile, is not
exactly in short supply.
In Improper Conduct, Nestor Almendros and Orlando Jimenez Leal document
Castro's persecution of homosexuals. In 8A, Jimenez Leal documents
Castro's show trial of General Arnaldo Ochoa, in which his
state-appointed lawyer pleads with the court that his client should be
executed. Armando Valladares charted Cuban prison conditions in Against
all Hope and in Heroes are Grazing in My Garden the poet Heberto Padilla
explained what it was like to be a writer in a Communist state.
The Cuba Education Tours crowd shows no familiarity with this body of
work. The various Amnesty International reports also offer other
insights on a regime so loathsome that, at the first opportunity, people
will flee in anything that floats, leaving loved ones behind.
When it comes to the worst dictatorship in the Americas, the pilgrims of
Cuba Education Tours combine willful ignorance with full cognitive
dissonance. They prop up the regime and perpetuate the stereotype of
happy peasants who love their massa. If they are so wrong on something
so basic, why should their students listen to them on anything else? And
now abides credulity, fatuity, and ignorance, but the greatest of these
New Castro, Same Cuba, Same Ignorant Apologists – Lloyd Billingsley |
FrontPage Magazine (25 November 2009)