"True Intentions": Brief Sketch of a Long Relationship / 14ymedio,
Posted on May 26, 2015
14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 14 May 2015 — Few sentences of the
Cuban official discourse have been as well-worn as one that refers to
"the true intentions" hiding behind the actions of the US government.
This explains the discomfort that the "Paused General*" feels about the
American Interests Section in Havana teaching courses to independent
journalists or when they hold teleconferences about digital journalism,
among other activities. These "illegal activities" that the US
government promotes through its Havana Section even award certificates
of studies to its graduates. Because "the true intentions" of the
government of that country is for these journalists to undermine the
strength and ideological unity of our people, piercing it with the
intimidating US influence.
Beyond the blatant disregard of those studying under the auspices of the
US government, the "Emerging President*", a graduate of who-knows-where,
does not seem to rely too much on the strength of his media monopoly or
in its capacity to influence the masses despite the proven loyalty of
its hired scribes. For this reason he "is worried" – his own words –
about this exchange of journalism courses and conferences that run
outside the classrooms, so strictly controlled by the government, where
many graduates get more credit for their demonstrations of loyalty to
the regime than for their academic achievements or their talents.
An article appearing on the last page of the newsaper Granma (The
Teachers' Lessons, Ronald Suárez Rivas, Wednesday May 13, 2015) supports
what is already emerging as a new ideological crusade against American
"penetration," so crucial at this time when the government of the Island
strives to make peace with its historic enemy.
The work in question goes back more than 115 years ago when, as part of
the US intervention in Cuba, after the end of the war of independence
from 1895 to 1898, the US government took the initiative to "contribute
to training a group of Cuban teachers, and, as if it had been against
their will, they "were taken" to the United States.
But, of course, collaborating in the field of education was not "the
true intentions" of the northern government, but "one of Washington's
first concrete actions in the ideological field, intended to directly
influence the Cuban people" according to the words of a local historian,
quoted by the Granma scribe.
Obviously, in their wish to rewrite Cuba's history according to the
Castro-ocracy's taste, both the journalist and the official historian
omit some important details recorded by renowned writers and other
personalities of the time, documented in the Cuban National Archives,
showing that the US influence on the Island had already penetrated
deeply, long before the military intervention in the
Spanish-Cuban-American war took place. Documents, that, in addition,
show that the US intervention was not an absolutely negative event.
An event should be mentioned that, at the time, marked the sensibility
of the Cuban people in a special way, and earned the gratitude and
affection of the poorest sectors: the assistance provided by the US
government to the victims of the Reconcentración de Weyler** (1896-1898).
In early January 1898, at the request of the then president William
McKinley, Clara Barton, president of the American Red Cross arrived in
Cuba to organize the relief to the reconcentrados. She and the US consul
in Havana, with the help of Bishop Santander, toured various towns and
cities on the Island and were responsible for the coordination and
distribution of food, clothing and medicine that began arriving by sea
at the port of Havana, thanks to the solidarity bridge established by a
Central Committee on Relief, spontaneously organized by the American people.
The philanthropy demonstrated by the Americans had the additional
benefit of raising the awareness of the wealthy sectors on the Island of
Cuba, which until then had remained indifferent to the scenes of death
and desolation caused by the colonial government and intensified by the
incendiary torch of the mambises***, both of which had ruined the Cuban
countryside, seriously damaging food production.
It was then that some societies and leading Cuban personalities of the
era began organizing fund raisers through dances, opera and theater
events, raffles, bullfights, book sales and other activities in order to
help the reconcentrados and charitable institutions responsible for
helping the poorer sectors, suffering from hunger and epidemics due to
their lack of resources.
It is true that the US naval blockade, which began on April 22,1898 and
ended on August 14th of that year, temporarily worsened the shortages
and general poverty. However, just two months after the war's end, the
tireless Clara Barton was able to restart the bridge of essential help –
interrupted since the beginning of the naval blockade — which this time
would also be enough to provide help to the insurgent mambises, still
camped out in rural villages.
The previous month, a flotilla from the US had already been established,
responsible for at least partially supplying food to the markets. Though
not enough, the aid from the US was the assistance that reached the
Cuban people when they needed it the most.
Later on, the work of Clara Barton in Cuba were aimed at creating the
basis for what eventually became the Cuban Red Cross and the first
health system through the Casas de Socorro (Free emergency clinics)
caring for the poor sectors. Also under the hand of the occupying
American army, important sanitation work took place, the engineering
work of planning the new sewer and paving systems were started (its
construction began in 1908 and ended in 1913), sanitary facilities were
established, and the improvement of the aqueduct commenced.
The list of benefits derived from the relationship between Cuba and the
United States, going back to the history of our nation, would be too
long to finish in one article. Suffice it to note that many poor
families in Cuba in recent decades would not be able to survive
shortages or escape extreme poverty if it were not for the remittances
and aid arriving from that country, to which most Cubans looking for a
promising future emigrate.
Beyond "the true intentions" of our powerful Northern neighbor, the
"Paused General's" concern over the danger of the biasing effect of the
United States on Cuba through independent journalism is, at the very
least, untimely. In reality, Cuba and the US never had more mutual
interaction than in the last half a century, and perhaps never before
did Cubans count on, with so much hope the prosperity that has always
arrived from that country, and now, even more than ever, with over two
million Cubans living on its soil. And it can be said, without a doubt,
that this all took place thanks to the Cuban Revolution.
*"Without haste, but without pause" has been a catch phrase for Raul
Castro, in speaking of economic reforms in Cuba. "Emerging President" is
a reference to a former program to fill classrooms lacking 'regular'
teachers with "emerging teachers" – teenagers with hardly any training.
**Valeriano Weyler y Nicolau, Marquis of Tenerife, Duke of Rubí, Grandee
of Spain was a Spanish general and Governor General of the Philippines
and Cuba whose Weyler Reconcentration policy was responsible for the
deaths of hundreds of thousands of Cubans and for the almost complete
destruction of the countryside.
***Mambises (plural of mambí) refers to Cuban independence and Filipino
guerrillas, who in the nineteenth century took part in the wars for the
independence of Cuba and the Philippines against Spain.
Translated by Norma Whiting
Source: "True Intentions": Brief Sketch of a Long Relationship /
14ymedio, Miriam Celaya | Translating Cuba -