Margarita Alarcón Perea
Photography is one of my passions. Black and white. I have only just recently found a certain something in color shots. The intensity of the chiaro oscuro has always provoked a certain feeling of intense peace which is, I guess, a paradox. Over the weekend and coffee I was enjoying the book The Photos of the Century, Marie-Monique Robin and amidst Robert Capa and Korda, on page 42 of the book, I found one with the copy write CIA. The photo is entitled The Cuban Missile Crisis and the historical timeline refers to the year 1962.
While reading the historical context it hit me that the reasons so many people confuse the time frame and establishment of the US Embargo against Cuba is precisely because of the Missile Crisis. On October 22 of 1962, Kennedy imposed a blockade on Cuba: “We have evidence that Soviet nuclear missiles are stationed there”, declared the President of the United States. This is all factual to the “t”. The only thing missing from the statement is a qualifier to the term “blockade”. The president did in fact impose a blockade and it was because of the stationing of the missiles by the USSR on the island and the photograph is real and not altered, the only thing missing is that the blockade was a navel one. This is to say, nothing could enter or leave the island and the US naval ships circumscribing the Capitol were visible from where the window I sit beside today, faces the ocean.
After the crisis concluded and the missiles were mercifully retired from Cuban soil, the US war ships retreated and that was the end of that, right? Nope.
The Blockade Cuba raves about year in and year out along with the rest of the world save for two nations (the US and Israel), has nothing to do with The Cuban Missile Crisis. The blockade the country refers to is one that was slowly put in place initially by President Eisenhower at the onset of the triumph of the revolution led by Fidel Castro.
Cuba was a mono-productive economy. Sugar cane was the sole strong commodity and 70% of its yearly production was bought by the US, distributed among the different companies in the nation. Upon the triumph of 1959 and shortly after Fidel’s visit in April of that same year to the US to speak to the president who blew him off to go play golf and left Fidel to meet with then VP Richard Nixon, Eisenhower cut our preferential sales status pretty much bringing the islands economy to its knees. His objective was to “annihilate the Cuban people by hunger and disease till they revolted against the revolutionary regime”. THAT and only that was the first step in what has become over 50 years the Economic, Cultural, Social and Political Embargo against the island. First came eliminating the sales status, then came the subversion and support of subversion on the island through the fomenting of counterrevolutionary groups inside and out of the island. The infamous School of the Americas was created in Honduras by the CIA to train paramilitary groups which later formed part of the Bay of Pigs invasion in April of 1961. Before that, a French cargo ship loaded with weapons bought by Cuba from Belgium was blown up in the Havana Port causing the death of 80 people and wounding 200. Declassified documents have shown that the explosion was orchestrated by the CIA. Bacteriological warfare followed and joined in with the subsequent explosions, bombings, “sudden” and “inexplicable” fires in a country with a year round humidity level over 97%. More directly affecting the people on the island, in early 1961 a plan was devised with the help of members of the Catholic Church in Florida and the CIA whereby a legal document on the island was falsified stating that the government was going to eliminate parental rights and the state was going to send all the children to the Soviet Union. Said operation was baptized “Operation Peter Pan”. Fourteen thousand children ranging in ages 2 to 17 were sent off on their own to the US after having been granted a visa waiver by the State Department. Most were reunited with their families but the trauma of the act is something that the victims are dealing with till this very day.
Cuba was slowly becoming a victim of constant aggression. Then, came 1962. Then came the missiles and then came Khrushchev agreeing to retreat from the island but under a very clear condition: the US could not touch Cuba. Obviously, this “touch” was let’s say very “touch & go” given that after Bay of Pigs they never have actually invaded openly but continued hampering the economy and undermining the nation in general.
So, setting the record straight, the embargo or blockade was not President Kennedy’s idea (although he never did anything to eliminate the animosity between both nations), it began way before his time when he was still a Senator.
Going back to the beginning of this diatribe which began with photography, Dino Brugioni said referring to the photograph that backed Kenndy: “Photography determined the course of the entire Missile Crisis”. We need someone to snap a shot of the current president determining the end of the backward course between Cuba and the US.