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The visit of President Barack Obama to Cuba: recalling a poem by Robert Frost *



The histories of the United States and Cuba are intertwined in many shapes and forms. Cubans and Americans have lived and learned a lot from each other. And so it has been not only in culture but also in politics, economy and society. It is a long story.


In 1953 the Cuban revolutionaries attacked the Moncada barracks in Santiago de Cuba. In those days, a school in Tennessee began classes to organize and train workers for civil rights, the black majority. Citizen mobilization in the Cuba of the 50s was an expression of the same and parallel struggle for civil rights in southern and northern United States. At the same time, social and political grassroots in Cuba and the United States struggles separadas- though, were, in turn, expression of the decolonization of Africa and Asia after World War II. The arguments used in defense Fidel Castro were very similar to the concepts of citizens’ rights that the Supreme Court of the United States recognized in Brown vs. Board of Education, prohibiting segregation in schools. These two traditions made reference to thinkers of the seventeenth and nineteenth century, part of a purely revolutionary culture.

Cubans, as Americans confront the authorities in their respective countries for violating their respective constitutions.

The action of a small group of revolutionaries in Cuba, like Rosa Parks and his companions in Montgomery, Alabama, encourages further action that would be considered radical, illegal and revolutionary. The Cuban revolutionary movement begins with lawsuits and adopted shortly after armed methods. In the United States the civil rights movement would use peaceful methods, even when the State violently assaulted. And gradually a greater number of social institutions, including churches, increasingly supported their respective movements in defense of the civil rights of the population. In both countries, leading figures of the judicial system came to identify with these movements increasingly popular. While in the United States the movement of civil and political rights is a constitutional and religious base as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, in the Cuban case is purely political although many participants were Catholics, Presbyterians and Baptists.

On the one hand, state governors in the southern United States-Arkansas and Mississippi, for example-and the FBI and secondly, the government of Fulgencio Batista try to dismantle by different means that growing opposition. Both used the same repressive military technology and the same methods. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the United States and Cuba Fidel Castro: And yet, in the two countries charismatic leaders who cohere the rising mass movement arise.

In Cuba, the movement triumphs and came to power in 1959, but not in the United States. The movement for civil and political rights first, and the student movement and against the then colonial wars, only manage some civil and political concessions. But the struggle continued in the United States and part of the reformist and radical youth population in the north was the Deep South to help gain social and political rights. The revolutionary triumph has a huge impact among civil rights fighters. And even if they used different methods-non-violence, they recognized the contributions and changes of Cubans.

The Cuban victory was assumed as own by the fighters and revolutionaries in the United States. In addition, fighters for civil rights in the United States pressured the government not to help the dictatorship, “The US government is a partner of the dictator of Cuba, Fulgencio Batista, the assassination of Cuban nearly 4,000 so far and it has time to get out and “he declared Adam Clayton Powell, American black congressman, March 20, 1958 before the House of United States Congress.

The triumph of the rebellion had a particular impact on the American black population. During the first months of 1959 many intellectuals, journalists, labor leaders, congressmen, actors and writers they went to Cuba blacks and defended the social process has just begun. These William Worthy and Richard Gilbson [journalists], James Baldwin, James Oliver, Julian Mayfield, Leroi Jones, Harold Cruse, [writers], John Henry Clarke [historian], Adam Clayton Powell, Malcolm X [politicians] were, among others.

In September 1960 Fidel Castro traveled to New York to represent the Cuban Revolution to the United Nations. Under pressure from the United States Department of State during the administration of Dwight Eisenhower the hotel establishment denied the Cuban delegation access to the hotels. But the black community of Harlem opened his heart and spaces to Cuban revolutionaries. It was not just the Teresa Hotel which took the initiative. The black community, which in those precise moments fought on many fronts against racism, social exclusion, poverty and exploitation, also understood that his black brothers, mulattos and whites of the island began a process of destruction of racist instruments , segregationist and operators were rooted in the “island of freedom.” Denying the white revolutionary leader access to hotel was similar to what confronted the black population in general in the United States act.

The struggle for civil rights, a long history in the United States, was reflected their hopes and dreams in the new Cuba. Although many do not remember or have wanted to forget or do not know, the irrefutable fact is that the movement for civil, political, cultural, economic and human rights that took place in the southern United States had many links and connections with what it was happening in Cuba. Even more illustrative it is that in September 1960 and the Cuban Revolution had nationalized a large proportion of corporate America. And yet, Malcolm X declared in Harlem: “The [Hotel] Teresa is now best known as the place where was Fidel Castro during his visit to the United Nations, and achieving a psychological victory against the State Department of the United States when he was confined to Manhattan. They never dreamed that Fidel would stay in “uptown” in Harlem, where would leave a huge and positive impression among blacks. ”

One author writes: “In addition, thousands were delighted to see the commander [black] Juan Almeida among revolutionaries. On September 22 around Harlem it was around the Hotel Teresa congratulating, waving, shouting Fidel, his companions and the revolution. Almeida and other members of the Rebel Army walked 20 blocks in Harlem whole. On September 22, Fidel Castro lunched with the hotel workers. And he met with Malcolm X in the Teresa Hotel. Malcolm wrote then: “The Teresa is now much better known as the place where Fidel Castro was during his visit to the United Nations, and achieved a psychological blow against the United States Department of State when he was confined to the to be alone in Manhattan. They never dreamed that he would absolutely stay in Harlem where a huge impression among Blacks. “[1]

Another writer informs us, “… Harlem activists suggested that the difficulties in finding where to stay is transformed into a unique opportunity to express cultural and political expressions of solidarity and anti-racism. When the Cuban delegation accepted the friendly welcome of the Hotel Teresa, Love B. Woods, ideological and political ties among African-American progressives and Cuban revolutionaries were cultured … owner. The meeting of Malcolm X and Fidel Castro in Harlem symbolized an era of post-World War II, the anticolonial movements and for the fight for human rights of black people and the Third World. A newspaper, the New York Citizen Call, declared in those days: “For the oppressed people of Harlem, Castro was the bearded revolutionary who had expelled the rascals and has told the US targets that go to hell.” [2]

The movement for civil and democratic rights of Americans, especially blacks, saw the revolutionary process in Cuba with good eyes. The same was true with the university student movement that was forming. An alliance of revolutionaries of the island with the revolutionaries and reformists of the United States became a huge concern for the structure of American power. And before long, both sides cooperated more.

In 1960 several US leftist set the Fair Play for Cuba Committee in favor of the Cuban Revolution and in opposition to the policy of the Eisenhower administration. Many of its members also belonged to the struggle for civil rights of blacks, whites and workers, among them the writer James Baldwin. Ralph Feathrstone, one of the leaders of the Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), considered Cuba a “liberated zone”. The black poet, left, LeRoi Jones wrote, “Cubans, and the other new towns (in Asia, Africa, South America) the world does not need us, and the best we can do is not to block their way.” [ Libre, 1960] Cuba. That is, a significant sector of the US black population recognized and supported self-determination, a concept that already also defended in the southern United States. The organization Fair Play for Cuba Solidarity Committee was against injustice, and in turn integrated to Americans of all colors. Itself the “fair play” is what the neediest sectors asking for himself and for the world.

But the relationship and cooperation between American progressive movements and the Cuban Revolution was attacked from the start. Both movements confronting the same enemy.

Gradually these two forces were isolated by the invasion organized by the US government on April 17, 1961 to Cuba. Also the systematic persecution of the left by Congress [House Un-American Activities Committee], the FBI and many other state institutions had its effects on that relationship. The Americans themselves liberals ran away from the revolutionary leadership. But the struggle for justice and equal democratic rights continued in the United States, although increasingly separated from the Cuban reality. The Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 was a turning point that opened a widening gap between the two movements. And the revolutionary Cuba was defined him as an enemy of the United States, while the US Democratic administration of John Kennedy identified with a reformist sector civil rights movement. However, the relationship continued unless known levels. But there is no doubt that the Cuban Revolution and the struggle for the rights of Americans have a long and close relationship.

That story, we have only touched briefly reveals that relations between the Cuban revolutionaries and progressive forces of the United States has a long history. José Martí lived for years in New York and Tampa. It explored how few the history of the United States and that of Cuba, separately and in relation to the two countries. He understood how few the real sense of what it means national independence. The black progressive movement in the United States also understood that struggle. Martin Luther King was ranked by the FBI as a “dangerous man”. The US government also gave the same rating to Fidel Castro. Both understood the close relationship between national independence and civil and political rights. An imperial country can not be respectful of human and civil rights. And not a colony respects.

On October 22, 1995 Fidel Castro revisited Harlem. He said: “Here in Harlem met Malcom X, I met many other personalities. They were difficult days, the days are always difficult, but ahead was a big fight: the great battles of Martin Luther King for civil rights; the great struggles of black, Hispanic, Latin American minorities everywhere to improve their living conditions; the struggle of the elderly, the sick, everyone. “[3]

The Congressional Black Caucus [CBC] United States has had a friendly and supportive position towards the Cuban political and social process. And he has represented the most progressive and favorable to the normalization of relations between the two countries sector. Since 1999 delegations and representatives of the CBC has visited Cuba and met with Fidel Castro. Cuba, in turn, has provided scholarships to American students with the support of Congressmen CBC. And Fidel Castro had stated that the circumstances were conducive to improving relations because “it was necessary to use this historic moment in that match a black President in the White House and a current favorable to the normalization of relations opinion.” [4 ]

How should speak the US President and former President Fidel Castro on the history of both countries. And one of them said, “on the goodwill and willingness of people constitute limitless resources that are not saved or fit in the vaults of a bank. Not only emanate from the policy of an empire “[5] Well worth recalling Robert Frost.:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, / I took the one less traveled by, / And that has made all the difference.


[1] See: Joy James Review: Harlem Hospitality and Political History: Malcolm X and Fidel Castro at the Hotel Theresa, Contributions in Black Studies, Vol 12 Article 12 1994 Article No. 12. [http. // scholarworks.umass.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi? article = 1088 & context = cibshttps: //youtu.be/UAcgbsPgCbo

[2] L. Ralph, Fidel Castro and Harlem: Political, Diplomatic, and Social Influences of the 1960 Visit to the Hotel Theresa, “Afro-Americans in New York Life and History. See: https://www.questia.com/library/journal/1P3-494766291/fidel-castro-and-harlem-political-diplomatic-

[3] http://www.cuba.cu/gobierno/discursos/1995/esp/f221095e.html

[4] 4 Fidel Castro, “The 7 congressmen who visit us,” CubaDebate (Havana), March 11, 2014. http://www.granma.cu/granmad/secciones/ref-fidel/art113.html

[5] http://www.granma.cu/granmad/secciones/ref-fidel/art20.html

Suggested reading:

Lisa Brock and Digna Castañeda Fuentes, Between Race and Empire: African-Americans and Cubans before the Cuban revolution, 1998.

* The text of the poem by Robert Frost – The Road Not Taken:

* The text of the poem by Robert Frost – The Road Not Taken:
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I Could not travel Both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And Looked down one as far as I Could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then Took the other, as just as fair,
And Having Perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
That though as for the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
That morning and Both Equally lay
In leaves no step HAD trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Knowing how way leads yet on to way,
I doubted if I Should ever come back.
Shall I be telling esta with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages HENCE:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And That has made all the difference

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not take the two
Being a solo traveler, long I stood
Looking down one as far as I could,
As far he lost in the thicket;

Then took the other, impartially,
And having perhaps the better choice,
As it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as to what I saw there
It would have chosen either.

And both that morning equally lay,
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Even knowing how things go on,
I doubted if I should ever come back steps.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
From here to eternity:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that made all the difference.