Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Batista Before Castro

The man who ruled Cuba before Fidel Castro took power, was named Fulgencio Batista. Batista was mulatto, meaning he had some African in him, and most historians say he got it from both sides of his family. When he came to power by winning the presidency, Batista became the first nonwhite to govern the Island.
Batista and Eisenhower

Although he was completely backed by the powerful United States, government officials, rich Americans, as well as American mafioso, who partied in Cuba, never hesitated to apply the “one drop rule” to even Batista himself, despite his position as head of a nation.

So, in his own country, when dealing with the Americans on any level, Batista was relegated to second class or no class societal position. And no where was that more apparent than the country club in Miramar.

Because he was Black, Fulgencio Batista could not be a member of the club. A club whose membership included The Kennedy Clan, JFK and Jackie honeymooned and regularly vacationed there, as did many criminal mafioso types like Lucky and Meyer Lansky the American gangsters. The Kennedys and Lucianos and their ilk were good for the Cuban economy despite their very visible bigotry. Batista laughed all the way to the bank, while looking the other way as his people struggled to make ends meet.
Batista talking to Richard Nixon

Under Batista, the average industrial Cuban salary was the eighth highest in the world despite rampant corruption, prejudice and inequality. The country's GDP (gross domestic product) was equal to Italy's at the time, thanks to the massive influx of US dollars and industry, both legitimate and illegitimate. The illegitimate consisted of prostitution, drugs and gambling controlled mainly by Americans, who based their operations out of the Hotel Nacionel de Cuba. In the year before John Kennedy became president he said about Cuba;,

at the beginning of 1959 United States companies owned nearly 40% of the Cuban sugar lands, almost all of the cattle ranches, 90% of all mines and mineral concessions, 80% of all utilities, 100% of the oil industry and provided two thirds of all imports to Cuba.”

Russian Embassy
There are many foreign embassies in Miramar. Probably the most visually dominating is the Russian Embassy. It is the only one that really sticks in my mind with its cross-like architecture.

The country club frequented by JFK and the mafia guys is there too, however it is no longer a country club. Castro turned the club in a school. It is now the premier art school in Cuba. The education is free for Cubans and only $500 per year for foreign students and there is a waiting list to get in. The curriculum spans 5 years of study before obtaining a degree.

To accommodate the growing student body, newer buildings were constructed on the grounds, near the famous golf course, which, while still pristinely maintained, is no longer used for golf. 

Where JFK and Jackie stayed

One of newer buildings

 The newer buildings are also an homage, if you will, to womanhood and birth according t the architect. The domes on top were purposely built to resemble female breasts, hallways and corridors shaped to mirror fallopian tubes leading to a central courtyard called Vagina Square. The entire design is tribute to the Orisha, Afro-Cuban deities of Santeria.
The old golf course at Miramar Country Club

Driving through the area reminded me of many American upscale suburban neighborhoods. It felt very comfortable to me. The differences to me appeared to be the number of people on the streets walking or waiting for public transportation. US suburbs don't have that as even poor people have cars here.

More to come...

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