Transcript: Louis A. Perez, Jr. on Cuban culture and revolution | Apr 08, 2006

(Upbeat instrumental music)

Louis Perez stands behind a lectern, in front of an audience. He is in his late fifties, clean-shaven and with short wavy brown hair. HE wears a dark gray suit, a lilac shirt and a patterned tie.

He says I LEFT
CHAPEL HILL THIS MORNING.
DAFFODILS ARE OUT.
(Laughter)
Chuckling)
PEAR TREES ARE BEGINNING TO
BLOSSOM.
AND WHEN I ARRIVED, I REALIZED
THAT LATITUDE DOES MATTER.
(Chuckling)
MY COMMENTS THIS EVENING ARE
SAID WITHIN A REALM OF
IMAGINATION, SPECIFICALLY AS A
MEDITATION ON THE PLACE THAT
CUBANS AND AMERICANS OCCUPY IN
EACH OTHER'S IMAGINATION FOR THE
LAST 100, 150 YEARS, AND HOW
THOSE IMAGES AND THOSE
IMAGINATIONS AFFECTED THE COURSE
AND THE CHARACTER OF THE CUBAN
REVOLUTION AND THE U.S. RESPONSE
TO THE CUBAN REVOLUTION.

A caption reads "Louis Perez. Historian, University of North Carolina."

The caption changes to "Politics of Culture and the Origins of the Cuban Revolution. University of Toronto. March 1, 2006."

Louis says AMERICAN
POLICYMAKERS OFTEN USE THE WORD
"SHOCK" TO DESCRIBE THEIR
REACTION TO THE CUBAN
REVOLUTION, ESPECIALLY AS THE
CUBAN REVOLUTION TURNED
MARXIST-LENINIST IN THE
EARLY '60s.
THERE IS NO QUESTION...
THERE'S NO
REASON TO QUESTION THE
AUTHENTICITY OF THIS RESPONSE.
IT WAS INDEED A SHOCK.
CERTAINLY THE CUBAN REVOLUTION
CHALLENGED U.S. INTERESTS
DIRECTLY AND IMMEDIATELY, AND
THE COLD WAR GAVE THESE CONCERNS
A DIMENSION OF URGENCY.
THESE FACTORS ALONE BY
THEMSELVES WOULD HAVE BEEN
SUFFICIENT CAUSE FOR ALARM IN
THE UNITED STATES, BUT MORE WAS
INVOLVED.
AMERICANS WERE FAMILIAR WITH
CUBANS AND VICE VERSA.
CUBANS WERE SO NEAR, SO
WELL-KNOWN, FOR SO LONG...
CUBANS IN WEST TAMPA, CUBANS IN
NEWPORT CITY, CUBANS IN THE
UPPER WEST SIDE OF NEW YORK.
AMERICAN CULTURE, BOTH HIGHBROW
AND LOW, IS RICH WITH IMAGES OF
CUBA, AND QUINTO MAGANINI WROTE
AND COMPOSED "CUBAN RHAPSODY."
AARON COPELAND FOUND IN CUBA
INSPIRATION FOR HIS
DANZON CUBANO,
AND
GEORGE GERSHWIN INTERPRETED THE
ISLAND THROUGH HIS "CUBAN
OVERTURE."
IRVING BERLIN PROVIDED A
DIFFERENT VERSION IN HIS
COMPOSITION "I WILL SEE YOU IN
C-U-B-A," AND MAE WEST HAD STILL
A DIFFERENT VERSION IN HER SONG
"HAVANA FOR A NIGHT."
AMERICAN CHOREOGRAPHERS
INTERPRETED CUBA IN DANCE FORMS.
DANCER KATHERINE DUNHAM PRODUCED
SUCH NUMBERS AS "CUBAN SLAVE
LAMENT" AND "HAVANA PROMENADE,"
AND CHOREOGRAPHER CHARLES
WEIDMAN CREATED A THEATRICAL
NUMBER OF "RUMBA TO THE MOON."
CUBAN RHYTHMS WORKED THEIR WAY
INTO AMERICAN POPULAR MUSIC IN
NO WAY WITH GREATER EFFECT OR
MORE LASTING IMPACT THAN IN
JAZZ, THE MUSIC OF CAB CALLOWAY,
DIZZY GILLESPIE, CHARLIE PARKER,
STAN KENTON, GEORGE RUSSELL,
CAL TJADER, AMONG MANY OTHERS.
CUBAN MELODIES PASSED DIRECTLY
INTO AND ONTO THE POPULAR CHARTS
OF AMERICAN MUSIC.
WHAT THE HIT TUNES -- AND I SEE
HERE THERE ARE PEOPLE IN THIS
AUDIENCE WHO WILL RECOGNIZE SOME
OF THESE -- "THE BREEZE AND I,"
"YOURS," "ALWAYS IN MY HEART,"
"GREEN EYES," "COME CLOSER TO
ME," "TIME WAS," "WHAT A
DIFFERENCE A DAY MAKES."
WHAT THEY ALL HAVE IN COMMON IS
THAT THEY WERE CUBAN
COMPOSITIONS TO WHICH ENGLISH
LYRICS WERE PUT.
THE HISTORY OF POPULAR MUSIC IS
REPLETE WITH THEMES OF CUBA.
A SAMPLING OF THIS MUSIC
INCLUDES SUCH TITLES AS "ONE
NIGHT IN HAVANA," "WEEKEND IN
HAVANA," "UNDER A CUBAN SKY,"
"UNDER A CUBAN MOON," "IN A
CUBAN GARDEN," "AT A CUBAN
CABARET," "MY CUBAN DREAM," "MY
CUBAN PEARL," "THE MOON OVER
CUBA WAS HIGH, AND SO WAS I."
(Laughter)
CUBAN MUSIC KEPT
THREE GENERATIONS OF AMERICANS
ON THE DANCE FLOORS AND WAS THE
OBLIGATORY INCLUSION IN THE
PLAYBOOK OF EVERY SUCCESSFUL
DANCE BAND IN THE UNITED STATES.
DURING THE 1930s, THE RUMBA
INSPIRED "RUMBA ON A CLOUD,"
"DOING THE RUMBA," "BLAME IT ON
THE RUMBA," AND "WHEN YUBA
PLAYED THE RUMBA ON THE TUBA."
(Laughter)
IN THE 1940s, IT
WAS THE CONGA THAT GAINED
POPULARITY, SUCH COMPOSITIONS AS
"THE CAN-CAN CONGA,"
"THE BOOGIE-WOOGIE CONGA,"
"THE HAPPY CONGA," "GO AND
CONGA," AND "I CAME, I SAW, AND
I CONGA-ED."
(Laughter)
IN THE 1950s,
THE MAMBO SWEPT ACROSS DANCE
FLOORS IN THE UNITED STATES.
PERRY COMO PROCLAIMED THAT "PAPA
LOVES MAMBO."
ROSEMARY CLOONEY WROTE ABOUT
THAT CURIOUS "MAMBO ITALIANO."
SOPHIE TUCKER HAD A MODEST HIT
WITH "MIDDLE-AGED MAMBO."
RUTH BROWN REACHED THE TOP OF
THE RHYTHM AND BLUES CHARTS WITH
"MAMBO BABY."
BILL HALEY AND THE COMETS TRIED
WITH "MAMBO ROCK," AND COUNTRY
AND WESTERN SINGER SHEB WOOLEY
RECORDED "HILLBILLY MAMBO."
WOODY HERMAN REVIVED HIS 1939
HIT AS "WOODCHOPPER'S MAMBO."
(Laughter)
CLASSICAL MUSIC
WAS REPRESENTED BY "BACH MAMBO."
AND
MAMBO A LA STRAUSS.
TO THE STOCK OF THE 1954
CHRISTMAS RELEASES WAS ADDED
"JINGLE BELL MAMBO," "WE WANT TO
SEE SANTA DO THE MAMBO," AND
"RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED MAMBO."
(Laughter)
IN 1955, LEONARD
BERNSTEIN INCLUDED A MAMBO
SEQUENCE IN "WEST SIDE STORY,"
BY WHICH TIME ALSO THE RINGLING
BROTHERS AND BARNUM AND BAILEY
CIRCUS HAD INTRODUCED A MAMBO
NUMBER FOR DANCING ELEPHANTS.
NOT LONG THEREAFTER, THE
"CHA-CHA-CHA" ARRIVED.
THE "CHA-CHA-CHA" WAS SOMETHING
OF A PHENOMENON OF POPULAR
CULTURE.
IT CROSSED LINES OF CLASS, OF
RACE AND ETHNICITY.
IT CROSSED LINES OF AGE.
IT CROSSED
SPATIAL LINES.
FROM THE BORSCHT BELT TO SPANISH
HARLEM, FROM THE NEW YORK
PALLADIUM TO THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL,
SAM COOKE WAS ABSOLUTELY
RIGHT -- "EVERYBODY LOVES THE
CHA-CHA-CHA."
BY THE 1950s,
THE ONE-TWO, ONE-TWO-THREE,
SYNCOPATED BEAT OF THE MAMBO HAD
INSINUATED ITSELF INTO VIRTUALLY
ALL GENRES OF POPULAR MUSIC.
THE TOMMY DORSEY ORCHESTRA WITH
WARREN COVINGTON LED THE WAY IN
1958 WITH THE HIT, "TEA FOR TWO,
CHA-CHA-CHA," AFTER WHICH IT WAS
A VERITABLE AVALANCHE OF
"CHA-CHA-CHA," "OLD MAN RIVER,
CHA-CHA-CHA..."
(Laughter)
"THREE COINS IN
THE FOUNTAIN, CHA-CHA-CHA,"
"LOVE IS A MANY SPLENDOURED
THING, CHA-CHA-CHA."
(Quiet laughter)
THE SIGHTS AND
SOUNDS OF CUBA, REAL AND
IMAGINED, SERVED HOLLYWOOD WELL
FOR DECADES.
BETWEEN THE 1920s AND THE 1950s,
SCORES OF FILMS USED CUBA AS
SOURCE AND SETTING OF PLOTS, AS
ATMOSPHERE, AS CONTEXT, SUCH
MOVIES AS "WEEKEND IN HAVANA,"
"HOLIDAY IN HAVANA," "AFFAIR IN
HAVANA," "MOONLIGHT IN HAVANA,"
"CUBAN PETE," "HAVANA ROSE,"
"CUBAN LOVE STORY,"
"CUBAN FIREBALL, "SANTIAGO,"
"GIRL FROM HAVANA" AND, OF
COURSE, "OUR MAN IN HAVANA."
CUBA AND CUBANS APPEARED IN THE
POPULAR FICTION OF A SCORE OF
AMERICAN NOVELISTS...
ERNEST HEMINGWAY, GRANT GREEN,
LEON URIS, JOSEPHINE (Unclear),
JAMES STREET, PAULA FOX, NORMAN
LEWIS.
CUBA INSPIRED POEMS BY ROBERT
FROST, ART CRANE AND LANGSTON
HUGHES.
IN THE WORLD OF BOXING, ALL
THOSE CUBAN KIDS...
KID CHOCOLATE, KID GAVILAN AND
BENNY "KID" PARET.
AND IN THE WORLD OF BASEBALL,
CAMILO PASCUAL, MINNIE MINOSO,
SANDY AMOROS.
WHAT LONG-SUFFERING BROOKLYN
DODGER FAN CAN EVER FORGET THE
SIXTH INNING OF THE SEVENTH GAME
OF THE 1955 WORLD SERIES AND THE
CATCH THAT SANDY AMOROS MADE OFF
YOGI BERRA WITH NO OUTS AND THEN
TYING RUNS ON BASE AND THEN
DOUBLING GIL McDOUGALD OFF
FIRST, CLINCHING THE WINNING
GAME FOR THE FIRST EVER WORLD
SERIES VICTORIES FOR THE
BROOKLYN DODGERS -- A CUBAN.

Now music plays as a different part of the lecture rolls.

Louis says A CUBAN
IDIOSYNCRASY REALLY HAS TO DO
WITH THE SENSE OF CIVILIZATION,
AND IT GOES BACK TO THE
19th CENTURY, THIS IDEA THAT...
AND IT'S THE WAY THEY DREW
DISTINCTIONS BETWEEN THEMSELVES
AND SPAIN, THAT CUBANS WERE
CIVILIZED.
AND ONE REASON THAT BASEBALL
TAKES ROOT IN CUBA IN THE
19th CENTURY IS BECAUSE IT IS
SEEN AS A GAME OF A CIVILIZED
PEOPLE.
IT'S MODERATE, AS COMPARED TO
BULLFIGHTING, OKAY, WHICH IS
BRUTAL, BARBARIC, BLOODY.
AND THEN THERE WERE THESE KIND
OF POINT-COUNTERPOINT, YOU KNOW,
DISCOURSES THAT WERE CONSTANTLY
INSINUATING THEMSELVES IN CUBAN
CONVERSATION AND IN CUBAN
NARRATIVES.

Now music plays as a different part of the lecture rolls.

Louis says NOW, I RECOGNIZE
THE ANECDOTAL AND PERHAPS
INTANGIBLE QUALITY OF MY OPENING
COMMENTS, BUT I OFFER THEM TO
YOU TO SUGGEST THE CHARACTER AND
THE RESONANCE OF THINGS CUBAN IN
AMERICAN POPULAR CULTURE.
TOGETHER IN THE AGGREGATE, THEY
FORM THE BASIS UPON WHICH
AMERICANS COULD PRESUME TO
POSSESS FAMILIARITY WITH CUBA
AND CUBANS, AND THIS FORMS ONE
OF THE CENTRAL ELEMENTS OF MY
COMMENTS TONIGHT.
THE SOURCES OF CUBAN FAMILIARITY
WITH THE UNITED STATES REACH
DEEPLY INTO THE 19th CENTURY.
PROXIMITY ALONE EXPLAINS MUCH,
AND A GREAT DEAL CAN BE
UNDERSTOOD BY GEOGRAPHY, FROM
WHICH DEVELOPED AN EASE OF
CONTACT, A FLUIDITY OF MOVEMENT,
A FACILITY OF COMMUNICATION,
UNLIKE ANY COUNTRY WITH THE
UNITED STATES.
19th CENTURY CUBAN IMMIGRATION
TO THE UNITED STATES ASSUMED
FULLY THE PROPORTIONS OF A
DIASPORA IN BOSTON, IN NEW YORK,
IN PHILADELPHIA, IN BALTIMORE,
IN NEW ORLEANS.
THEIR PRESENCE TRANSFORMED THE
ECONOMIC DEMOGRAPHY OF KEY WEST,
TAMPA AND JACKSONVILLE,
ANTICIPATING NEARLY BY A CENTURY
THE CUBAN IMPACT IN MIAMI AFTER
1959.
THEY CAME INTO CLOSE AND
PROLONGED CONTACT WITH AMERICAN
CULTURE, AND THESE EXPERIENCES
GUARANTEED THAT U.S. INFLUENCE
WOULD REACH DEEPLY INTO CUBAN
SENSIBILITIES AT ABOUT THE
PRECISE MOMENT, THE EXACT TIME,
THAT CUBANS WERE MOBILIZING TO
GIVE CONTENT AND FORM TO A SENSE
OF NATIONALITY.
CUBANS WERE
PRESENT BOTH AS OBSERVERS AND
PARTICIPANTS DURING THE
EXPANSION OF AMERICAN MARKET
CULTURE.
THE EMERGING U.S. ECONOMY IN THE
LATE 19th CENTURY, WITH ITS
EMPHASIS ON CONSUMER GOODS,
CONVENIENCE AND COMFORT, WERE
TRANSFORMING AMERICAN LIFE
PRECISELY DURING THE YEARS OF
CUBAN IMMIGRATION, DURING THE
TIME OF TRANSITION, AS EMIGRATES
IN VAST NUMBERS WERE
SELF-CONSCIOUSLY ENGAGED IN WAYS
TO GIVE SOME CONTENT TO THE IDEA
OF WHAT IT MEANT TO BE CUBAN IN
THE SPANISH COLONIAL SYSTEM.
THEY EXPERIENCED
LIFE IN THE UNITED STATES AT A
TIME OF REMARKABLE ECONOMIC
DEVELOPMENT, WHEN SUCCESS AND
WELL-BEING WERE INCREASINGLY
MEASURED IN TERMS OF MATERIAL
PROGRESS AND CONSUMPTION.
THEY RETURNED HOME CLOTHED IN
AMERICAN ATTIRE, WITH PREFERENCE
FOR U.S. PRODUCTS, IMBUED WITH
NOTIONS OF PROGRESS AND
MODERNITY DERIVED PRINCIPALLY
FROM AMERICAN PARADIGMS, WITH A
NEW SENSE OF PURPOSE AND
NEWFOUND EXPECTATIONS, COMMITTED
TO INTRODUCING THESE NEW IDEAS
BY MEANS AND TO WHAT ENDS THEY
HAD ACQUIRED IN THE NORTH.
THEY TOOK TO NEW METHODS.
THEY LEARNED NEW TECHNIQUES,
WHICH IMPLIED, OF COURSE, A NEW
HIERARCHY OF VALUES AND A NEW
FRAME OF REFERENCE TO TAKE
MEASURE OF THEIR WORLD, ALL OF
WHICH SERVED TO ADD AND TO
DEEPEN THE DISCONTENT WITH THE
COLONIAL SYSTEM.
THE POWER OF AMERICAN FORMS WAS
REGISTERED EARLY, AS SOURCES AND
STRUCTURES AROUND WHICH
NATIONALITY AND CUBA ASSUMED
FORM, AS WAYS THROUGH WHICH
IDENTITY ITSELF BECAME GENERALLY
IDENTIFIABLE.
CUBANS MASTERED THE SKILLS
THROUGH WHICH TO NEGOTIATE THEIR
ENCOUNTER WITH THE
UNITED STATES, WHICH MEANT, TOO,
THAT THEY DEVELOPED AN
EXTRAORDINARY CAPACITY TO
APPROPRIATE AMERICAN CULTURAL
FORMS AS THEIR OWN.
CUBA IN THE 20th CENTURY, WITH
THE INAUGURATION OF THE
REPUBLIC, WAS A COUNTRY IN WHICH
VAST NUMBERS OF CITIZENS
POSSESSED KNOWLEDGE OF THE WORLD
OF AMERICAN MAJOR LEAGUE
BASEBALL AND PROFESSIONAL
BOXING.
THEY WERE FANS OF HOLLYWOOD, ITS
MOVIES, ITS MOVIE STARS, TO
WHICH THEY WERE UNABASHEDLY
DEVOTED.
CUBANS PARTICIPATED EAGERLY IN
AMERICAN CONSUMER CULTURE AND
DEVELOPED LOYALTIES TO
U.S. BRAND NAMES.
BY MID-CENTURY, THEY WERE DEEPLY
IMPLICATED IN THE AMERICAN
MARKET SYSTEM, AS CONSUMERS OF
AMERICAN ENTERTAINMENT FORMS, AS
SHOPPERS IN U.S. SUPERMARKETS,
AS CUSTOMERS OF U.S. AUTOMOBILES
AND APPLIANCES.
IN REMOTE COUNTRY STORES ACROSS
THE ISLAND, IT WAS NOT UNCOMMON
FOR RURAL SHOPPERS TO HAVE
DIRECT ACCESS TO CANNED FOODS
AND READY-MADE CLOTHING, AS WELL
AS MODERN TOOLS AND
STATE-OF-THE-ART EQUIPMENT
MANUFACTURED IN THE
UNITED STATES, NOT AS
INSTRUMENTS OF OPPRESSION, BUT
AS MATERIAL GOODS EAGERLY
ADOPTED TO MAKE LIFE EASIER.
THINGS AND WAYS AMERICAN
EXPANDED RAPIDLY ACROSS THE
ISLAND AND EMERGED AS ONE OF THE
MOST ACCESSIBLE MEANS BY WHICH
TO ASPIRE TO WELL-BEING AND THUS
WORK TO ATTAIN CUBAN
ACQUIESCENCE TO NEW SOCIAL NORMS
AND ACCEPTANCE OF NEW COGNITIVE
CATEGORIES.
CONTACT WITH WAYS AND AMERICANS
ON THIS SCALE OVER SUCH A
SUSTAINED PERIOD OF TIME
INFLUENCED CUBAN ATTITUDES AND
BEHAVIOURS IN WAYS LARGE AND
SMALL.
PATTERNS OF SOCIALIZATION,
MODALITIES OF PUBLIC
COMMUNICATION AND LANGUAGE,
CANONS OF STYLE AND
SELF-REPRESENTATION, RELIGION
AND RECREATION, DRESS AND
DEMEANOUR, TASTE AND TOYS, WERE
INFLUENCED, OFTEN DECISIVELY, BY
AMERICAN CUSTOMS AND
CONVENTIONS.
THE INFLUENCE OF AMERICAN MODELS
TOOK OLD, NOT THROUGH COMPULSION
AND NOT THROUGH COERCION, BUT BY
WAY OF CONSENSUS AND COMPLIANCE.
VAST NUMBERS OF CUBANS
PARTICIPATED WILLINGLY IN THE
VERY TRANSACTIONS BY WHICH
AMERICAN HEGEMONY WAS EXERCISED
AND EXPERIENCED.
CUBAN PARTICIPATION WAS
INDISPENSABLE FOR U.S. SUCCESS,
AND INDEED, CUBANS BEAR SOME
COMPLICITY IN THEIR OWN
DOMINATION, ALTHOUGH I WOULD
HASTEN TO ADD THAT FEW AT THE
TIME WOULD HAVE REMOTELY
CONSTRUED THEIR CONDITION AS ONE
OF SUBJUGATION.
THAT THESE WERE NOT COMMONLY
INTENDED AS INSTRUMENTS OF
HEGEMONY DOES NOT MAKE THEM ANY
LESS CENTRAL A FACTOR TO AN
UNDERSTANDING OF THE WORKINGS OF
SYSTEMS OF DOMINATION IN THE
WAYS THEY ACQUIRED LOGIC AND IN
THE WAYS THEY ACQUIRED
LEGITIMACY.
U.S. INFLUENCE
IN CUBA EXPANDING FROM WITHIN,
USUALLY THROUGH NON-COERCIVE
TRANSACTIONS INTRODUCED AS OFTEN
BY CUBANS THEMSELVES AS OFTEN AS
AMERICANS DID, VOLUNTARILY,
WITHOUT DURESS, OFTEN JOYFULLY,
AS PART OF AN EVERYDAY AND
COMMONPLACE EXPERIENCE,
SOMETIMES WITH THE BEST OF
INTENTIONS AND ALMOST ALWAYS
WITH THE EXPECTATIONS THAT THESE
WAYS HELD A PROMISE TO A BETTER
LIFE.
AMERICAN WAYS
PASSED IN UNREMARKABLE AND OFTEN
UNNOTICED FASHION INTO EVERYDAY
LIFE.
NEW RECREATION FORMS, NEW
PASTIME ACTIVITIES, GAMES AND
NOVELTIES FILLED CUBAN LEISURE
TIME.
THESE ACTIVITIES EXUDED MOTION
AND MOBILITY.
THEY CREATED PLACES TO GO,
THINGS TO DO -- MOVIE THEATRES,
SKATING RINKS, BOWLING ALLEYS,
AMUSEMENT PARKS.
NEW HABITS AND NEW PREFERENCES
DEVELOPED.
PRODUCTS ACQUIRED STATUS, AND
THEIR USES ASPIRED TO STANDING
SIMPLY FOR THEIR ASSOCIATION
WITH THE NORTH.
THE SMOKING OF U.S. BRANDS OF
CIGARETTES, FOR EXAMPLE
(SPECIALTY, LUCKY STRIKE, CAMEL
AND CHESTERFIELD), BECAME THE
SIGN AND SYMBOL OF CHIC, OF
COURSE, MADE ALL THE MORE
REMARKABLE IN A COUNTRY SO
WELL-KNOWN FOR ITS TOBACCO.
ADULTS IN CUBA IN THE '40s AND
'50s WERE READING
LIFE, "EN ESPAÑOL" (IN SPANISH)
READER'S DIGEST,
OR MORE
CORRECTLY, "SELECCIONES" DEL
READER'S DIGEST.
WHILE THEIR CHILDREN WERE
PLAYING WITH THE IDENTICAL TOYS
AND READ THE IDENTICAL
COMIC BOOKS AS THEIR AMERICAN
COUNTERPARTS, IT MAY WELL BE
IMPOSSIBLE TO DETERMINE WITH ANY
PRECISION THE RELATIONSHIP
BETWEEN TOYS AND PERSONALITY
FORMATION OR FOR THAT MATTER,
THE MULTIPLE DIMENSIONS BY WHICH
GAMES AND TOYS SERVE TO TRANSMIT
VALUE SYSTEMS.
WHAT IS CERTAIN, HOWEVER, IS
THAT MANY TENS OF THOUSANDS OF
CUBAN CHILDREN OVER THREE
GENERATIONS WERE DEEPLY
IMPLICATED IN PRECISELY THE SAME
REALMS OF PLAY AND RECREATION AS
AMERICAN CHILDREN.
RETAIL SHOPS AND DEPARTMENT
STORES FILLED WITH A WIDE
ASSORTMENT OF AMERICAN TOYS AND
PLAYTHINGS.
GAMES AND TOYS ARRIVED TO CUBA
ALMOST AS QUICKLY AS THEY
ARRIVED INTO THE DEPARTMENT
STORES IN NEW YORK CITY. "FIN DEL
SIGLO," A DEPARTMENT
STORE IN HAVANA, SOLD U.S. ARMY
JEEPS AND NAVY SHEEPS... SHIPS,
REVOLVERS, RIFLES, BOWS AND
ARROWS, ELECTRIC TRAINS,
CHEVROLET AND LINCOLN TOY CARS,
BONNY BRAIDS DOLLS.
SHIRLEY TEMPLE DOLLS WERE VERY
POPULAR IN THE '30s AND '40s.
ONE RETAILER SOLD AMERICAN TOYS
SUCH AS "FORT APACHE," COMPLETE
WITH INDIANS CAVALRY MEN,
COVERED WAGONS AND, OF COURSE,
THE OBLIGATORY FORT.
PERHAPS THE MOST POPULAR ITEMS
WERE COWBOY AND COWGIRL SUITS,
COMPLETE WITH GUNS AND HOLSTERS
AND FRINGED VESTS AND HATS AND
BOOTS.
CUBAN BOYS AND CUBAN GIRLS COULD
MAKE-BELIEVE AND BE HOPALONG
CASSIDY, ROY ROGERS, DALE EVANS.
ONE TOY RETAILER ADVERTISED A
PERFECT REPRODUCTION OF THE
FAMOUS COWBOY, HOPALONG CASSIDY,
WHILE SEARS IN HAVANA OFFERED
ROY ROGERS PANTS, SHIRTS AND
BOOTS AND DALE EVANS BLOUSES AND
SKIRTS.
"FIN DEL SIGLO" PROCLAIMED ITSELF
TO BE THE FIRST STORE IN CUBA TO
OFFER CHILDREN, AND I QUOTE,
"COLLECTIONS INSPIRED BY THE
IMAGE OF THE GREAT AMERICA HERO,
DAVY CROCKETT, THE KING OF THE
WILD FRONTIER," INCLUDING
OUTFITS FOR BOYS AND GIRLS,
HANDKERCHIEFS WITH SCENES OF THE
WEST, DAVY CROCKETT BEDSHEETS,
PYJAMAS, BOOKS, COMICS AND THE
HISTORY OF THE GREAT AMERICAN
HERO.
ALL THE WHILE, CHILDREN ARE
WATCHING ON TELEVISION IN CUBA
"LAS AVENTURAS DE RIN TIN TIN."
(Laughter)
"EL SARGENTO PRESTON,"
"LA VIDA LEGENDARIA DE WYATT EARP."

Now music plays as a different part of the lecture rolls.

Louis says CUBA DID NOT
ABSORB WHAT WOULD BE AMERICAN
MARGINALIZED CULTURE, ALL RIGHT?
CUBANS WERE EDUCATED IN THE
UNITED STATES.
THE CUBAN MIDDLE CLASS AND THE
CUBAN WORKING CLASS TRIED TO
SEND THEIR KIDS TO...
THOSE WHO COULD SENT THEIR KIDS
TO PRIVATE EDUCATION IN CUBA,
AND THOSE WHO COULD DO BETTER
WOULD SEND THEM TO STUDY IN THE
UNITED STATES.
THE OVERRIDING PREOCCUPATION
AMONG CUBAN FAMILIES WHO WERE
TRYING TO ANTICIPATE A FUTURE
FOR THEIR CHILDREN FROM THE TURN
OF THE CENTURY THROUGH 1959,
1960, WAS LEARNING ENGLISH,
OKAY?
I CAN'T OVEREMPHASIZE THE
IMPORTANCE OF LEARNING ENGLISH
IN CUBA BEFORE 1959.
WHAT IS IRONIC AND TO THE
QUESTION EARLIER ABOUT HOW
CUBA'S CHANGING, BEFORE 1990,
ANYONE WHO WANTED TO LEARN
ENGLISH IN CUBA WOULD BE
SUSPECT, OKAY?
NO ONE, NO ONE TAUGHT ENGLISH
EXCEPT ON THE SLY IN PRIVATE
HOMES.
EVERYBODY'S LEARNING ENGLISH
TODAY IN CUBA, ALL RIGHT?
IT IS A...
NEED I SAY THAT NO ONE STUDIES
RUSSIAN.

Now music plays as a different part of the lecture rolls.

Louis says NORMS OF BEAUTY
AND GLAMOUR DERIVE DIRECTLY FROM
U.S. SOURCES, MOSTLY IN THE FORM
OF HOLLYWOOD ICONOGRAPHY.
IN 1958, A SURVEY IN HAVANA
ASKED CUBAN MEN TO DESCRIBE
THEIR VERSION OF "THE IDEAL
WOMAN."
RESPONDED ONE INFORMANT, AND I
QUOTE, "THE EYES OF JOAN
CRAWFORD" -- THIS IS A CUBAN...
"THE EYES OF JOAN CRAWFORD, THE
FACE OF AVA GARDNER" -- IF I
LOOK AROUND, I SEE A LOT OF
PEOPLE HERE WHO PROBABLY HAVE NO
IDEA WHO I'M TALKING ABOUT.
(Laughter)
"THE FACE OF
AVA GARDENER, THE BUST OF
JAYNE RUSSELL" -- I'M STILL
QUOTING.
(Laughter)
"THE LEGS OF
CYD CHARISSE, THE CHARM OF
LESLIE CARON, THE CULTURE OF
DEBORAH KERR, AND THE SEX APPEAL
OF SOPHIA LOREN," CLOSE QUOTE.
THESE WERE POWERFUL IMAGES
INSCRIBED WITH COMPLEX MESSAGES
AND POSSESSED OF A CAPACITY TO
INDUCE DISCONTENT WITH THE CUBAN
CONDITION AND FOSTER THOSE
YEARNINGS FOR AFFILIATION WITH
WAYS AND THINGS AMERICAN.
THE POWER OF HOLLYWOOD LAY IN
ITS CAPACITY TO IMPLICATE CUBAN
SENSIBILITIES IN THE MYTHICAL
NARRATIVES OF THE AMERICAN
EXPERIENCE.
WRITER PABLO MEDINA REMEMBERED
HIS YOUTH IN CUBA AND OFFERED
INSIGHT INTO THE WAYS THAT
AMERICAN MOTION PICTURES AND
TELEVISION ACTED TO FOSTER
AMBIGUITIES AND AMBIVALENCES, NO
LESS THAN A SENSE OF INADEQUACY
IF NOT INFERIORITY.
WROTE MEDINA,
AND I QUOTE, "WHAT DID WE CUBANS
HAVE THAT COULD POSSIBLY RIVAL
THE GLITTER OF MARILYN MONROE'S
LIPS, THE INNOCENCE OF DEBBIE
REYNOLDS, THE PURPOSEFUL SWAGGER
OF JOHN WAYNE?"
MEDINA REMEMBERED MORE THAN
ANYTHING ELSE, "I WANTED TO BE
AMERICAN AND LIVE IN THE SUBURBS
AND HAVE A PRETTY BLONDE WIFE
WHO WAITED ON ME AS DORIS DAY
WAITED ON ROCK HUDSON," CLOSE
QUOTE.
CARLOS EIRE IN
HIS BOOK,
CONFESSIONS OF A
CUBAN BOY, ALSO REMEMBERED
GROWING UP IN PRE-REVOLUTIONARY
CUBA, AND I QUOTE, "EVERYTHING
WAS PERFECT IN THE
UNITED STATES.
THEY MADE GREAT MOVIES, DIDN'T
THEY, AND THEY MADE THE BEST
CARS, TOO, AND COKE AND PEPSI
AND ALL THE GOOD COMIC BOOKS,
LIKE BATMAN AND SUPERMAN.
BY 1959, AT THE AGE OF EIGHT...
EIGHT, ALL RIGHT -- I KNEW I
WANTED TO MARRY AN AMERICAN
WOMAN, PREFERABLY ONE WHO LOOKED
EITHER LIKE MARILYN MONROE OR
KIM NOVAK," CLOSE QUOTE.
THE POWER OF AMERICAN FORMS IN
CUBA RESIDED PRECISELY IN THEIR
CAPACITY TO ASSUME THE
APPEARANCE OF NORMAL AND
ORDINARY, ESPECIALLY THE EASE
WITH WHICH THEY INFLUENCED THE
STANDARDS TO WHICH CUBANS
ASPIRED AS A MEANS OF
CONSTRUCTION OF SELF.
THEY CONSTITUTED THE MORAL
UNIVERSE AND THE MATERIAL
CONSTELLATION BY WHICH MEN AND
WOMEN OF ALL CLASSES TOOK
MEASURE OF SELF-WORTH AND
SUGGESTED THE CATEGORIES FROM
WHICH TO CONTEMPLATE THE
POSSIBILITIES OF FULFILLMENT AND
WELL-BEING.
CUBANS IN THE END COULD CHOOSE
ONLY FROM WHAT WAS AVAILABLE,
FROM WHAT WAS AT HAND, FROM WHAT
WAS WITHIN REACH, AS THE MEANS
BY WHICH TO MAKE A PLACE FOR
THEMSELVES IN THEIR OWN COUNTRY.
SO THOROUGHLY HAD U.S. FORMS
PENETRATED THE STRUCTURAL ORDER
OF DAILY LIFE AS TO MAKE THE
SHARP DISTINCTION BETWEEN WHAT
WAS PROPERLY "CUBAN" AND WHAT
WAS "AMERICAN" ALL BUT
IMPOSSIBLE.
IT IS NOT AT ALL CLEAR, EVEN
TODAY, TO WHAT DEGREE CUBANS
DISCERNED FULLY THE SOURCES OF
THEIR OWN FORMATION.
WHAT IS APPARENT, HOWEVER, IS
THAT THESE WAYS PENETRATED
DEEPLY IN USAGE SO HABITUAL, SO
MUCH A NORMAL PART OF DAILY
LIFE, AS TO BE INDISTINGUISHABLE
FROM WHAT PASSED AS COMMONPLACE
BUT MOST OF ALL, FROM WHAT
PASSED AS CUBAN.
IN THE END, WHEN THE CUBAN
REVOLUTION TRIUMPHED AFTER 1959,
TO CHALLENGE "LO AMERICANO,"
WHAT WAS AMERICAN, SIGNIFIED
ALSO AND AT THE SAME TIME TO
CHALLENGE "LO CUBANO" WHAT
WAS CUBAN.
CUBA HAD DEVELOPED A CONSUMER
CULTURE ALMOST WITHOUT
COUNTERPART ANYWHERE ELSE IN
LATIN AMERICA, UNDERWRITTEN
LARGELY BY IMPORTS FROM THE
UNITED STATES.
CUBA DID INDEED BOAST OF ONE OF
THE HIGHEST STANDARDS OF LIVING
IN ALL OF LATIN AMERICA, BUT
APPEARANCES, LOOKING BACK AND
LOOKING THROUGH THE EYES OF
CUBANS IN THE 1950s, APPEARANCES
WERE DECEPTIVE AND CONCEALED
TENSIONS AND STRESS FRACTURES
THAT EXTENDED WIDELY AND DEEPLY
IN CUBAN DAILY LIFE.
WHILE CUBANS ENJOYED A HIGHER
PER CAPITA INCOME IN LATIN
AMERICAN TERMS, THEY LIVED WITH
A NORTH AMERICAN OR AMERICAN
COST OF LIVING INDEX.
WHAT MADE THE CUBAN HIGH PER
CAPITA OF INCOME COMPARED TO
LATIN AMERICA SO UNSATISFACTORY
WAS THAT IT WAS LOW BY AMERICAN
STANDARDS, AND THAT'S THE
STANDARD THAT MATTERED MOST.
THE UNITED STATES, NOT LATIN
AMERICA, SERVED AS THE STANDARD
AGAINST WHICH CUBANS TOOK A
MEASURE OF THEIR WELL-BEING, AND
AGAINST THIS MEASURE, THE CUBA
PER CAPITA INCOME OF THE 1950s,
OF 375 DOLLARS OR SO, PALED AGAINST THE
U.S. PER CAPITA INCOME OF 2,000 DOLLARS
A YEAR OR EVEN THAT IN
MISSISSIPPI, 1,000 DOLLARS A YEAR.
WHAT WAS ESPECIALLY REMARKABLE
ABOUT THE CUBAN CONDITION WAS
THE DEGREE TO WHICH AMERICAN
MARKET MODALITIES HAD TAKEN
HOLD, INDEPENDENT OF ECONOMIC
REALITIES.
AND THEREIN LIES THE SOURCE OF
THE CUBAN ANGST, FOR IN THE END,
CUBANS HAD EMBRACED STANDARDS
AND DEVELOPED EXPECTATIONS THAT
WERE AS UNREALISTIC AS THEY WERE
UNATTAINABLE.
THE PRESSURE TO
SUSTAIN LIVING STANDARDS TO
WHICH MANY HAD BECOME ACCUSTOMED
AND TO WHICH MANY ASPIRED
WEIGHED HEAVILY ON CUBANS ACROSS
THE ISLAND.
BY THE 1950s, CUBANS WERE LOSING
THE CAPACITY EVEN TO SUSTAIN THE
ILLUSION OF REACHING THE
STANDARD OF LIVING TO WHICH THEY
ASPIRED.
DISCONTENT RAN
WIDE AND DEEP.
AT THE HEIGHT OF PRESUMED
AFFLUENCE, AT THE HEIGHT OF
PRESUMED PROSPERITY IN THE
1950s, DURING THE YEARS THAT
NATIONAL PER CAPITA INCOME RACED
FAR AHEAD OF MOST OF ALL OF
LATIN AMERICA, CUBANS WERE
ACTUALLY EXPERIENCING A DECLINE
IN LIVING STANDARDS.
A CONSUMPTION NORM HAD TAKEN
HOLD OF CUBA AND SERVED AS A
REFERENCE OF WELL-BEING AND
COULD NOT BE MET.
THAT INCREASING NUMBERS OF
CUBANS WERE HAVING DIFFICULTY
MEETING THESE STANDARDS HAD
PORTENTOUS IMPLICATIONS.
THE APPEAL WAS IN THE PROMISE OF
A MORAL ORDER, AT THE HEART OF
WHICH WAS THE ETHIC OF HARD
WORK, DISCIPLINE AND SELF-DENIAL
AS A MEANS OF WELL-BEING.
CUBANS, POST-WORLD WAR TWO CUBANS
IN THE '40s AND THE '50s, DID
ALL THE RIGHT THINGS.
THEY SHOWED ENTERPRISE.
THEY STUDIED.
THEY RESISTED DISCOURAGEMENT.
THEY PERSEVERED WITH
DETERMINATION AND SPIRIT AND
STILL SAW THEMSELVES FAILING.
AT THE HEART OF THE DEEPENING
CRISIS IN CUBA IN THE 1950s WAS
THE COLLAPSE OF THE CENTRAL
FORMULATIONS BY WHICH CUBANS HAD
ASSEMBLED THE TERMS OF
SELF-REPRESENTATION AND
SELF-FULFILLMENT.
THIS WAS MORE THAN A CRISIS WITH
AN APOLOGY.
IT WAS A CRISIS OF NATIONALITY.
THE ASSUMPTIONS THAT HAD
INSINUATED THEMSELVES INTO EVERY
FACET OF A NARRATIVE ON THE
NATION WAS NOT WORKING, AND
DOUBT THAT THEY WERE RELEVANT
CREATED A MONUMENTAL CRISIS IN
CUBAN NATIONALITY, EVEN AS THE
POLITICAL CRISIS AND THE
STRUGGLE AGAINST BATISTA WAS
DEEPENING.
FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE
20th CENTURY, THE UNITED STATES
HAD SET OUT PURPOSEFULLY TO
AMERICANIZE CUBA BUT NEVER
CONSIDERED THE CONSEQUENCES OF
SUCCESS, A FIRST WORLD FRAME OF
REFERENCE WITHIN THIRD WORLD
STRUCTURES.
MANY CUBANS HAD INDEED BECOME
MORE OR LESS AMERICANIZED, BUT
IN WAYS, IN WAYS THAT AMERICANS
COULD NEVER EVER HAVE FORESEEN.
THEY MASTERED THE WAYS OF THE
NORTH SO FULLY THAT THEY WERE
PERFECTLY EQUIPPED TO UNDO THEM.
THEY ACQUIRED SUFFICIENTLY THE
VALUES AND THE METHOD AND THE
EXPECTATIONS -- EXCUSE ME –

He coughs.

He continues THAT ALLOWED THEM TO IDENTIFY
AND ARTICULATE THE MALAISE OF
DEPENDANT CAPITALISM IN WAYS
THAT MOST DIRECTLY CHALLENGED
THE PREMISE OF AMERICAN HEGEMONY
IN CUBA ON ITS OWN TERMS.

Now music plays as a different part of the lecture rolls.

Louis says CUBANS ARE THE
ONLY PEOPLE WHO I KNOW SPEAK OF
AMERICANS IN TERMS THAT THEY
KNOW THE AMERICAN SMELL.
THEY SMELL AMERICANS.
THEY'RE SO DEEPLY IMMERSED, SO
DEEPLY IMMERSED.
AS ONE NOVELIST SAYS, "WE LIVE
IN THEIR THROATS, WE LIVE IN
THEIR THROATS.
WE KNOW WHAT THEY SMELL LIKE."
OKAY?
CUBAN NOVELISTS AND WRITERS TALK
ABOUT AMERICAN SMELLS.
WHAT IS FASCINATING ABOUT WHAT
HAPPENS IN CUBA IN '58, '59 AND
'60 IS THAT THE MOST HOSTILE,
THE MOST HOSTILE...
I'M GOING TO USE MY WORDS
CAREFULLY HERE.
AMONG THE MOST HOSTILE, AMONG
THE MOST HOSTILE CUBANS TO THE
CONTINUED PRESENCE OF THE
UNITED STATES ON THE ISLAND
WASN'T REPRESENTATIVES OF THE
CUBAN COMMUNIST PARTY, WASN'T
AGENTS OF CUBAN NATIONALISM.
THE MOST HOSTILE
REPRESENTATIVES, THE MOST
HOSTILE FORCES IN CUBA TO THE
AMERICAN PRESENCE WERE THE
PEOPLE WHO WORKED MOST CLOSELY
WITH THE AMERICANS, THE PEOPLE
WHO WERE BY CUBAN STANDARDS
PRIVILEGED.
THEY WORKED FOR AMERICAN
CORPORATIONS, THEY WORKED FOR
THE CUBAN SUGAR MILLS, THEY
WORKED FOR...
THEY WERE CUBAN MINISTERS IN THE
METHODIST CHURCHES AND
PRESBYTERIAN CHURCHES.
AND IT'S A VERY EXPLICABLE
PHENOMENON.
THEY EXPERIENCE FIRSTHAND
DISCRIMINATION.
THEY KNEW THAT THEIR AMERICAN
COUNTERPART WAS MAKING TWICE AS
MUCH MONEY AS THEY WERE.
THEY WERE BARRED FROM THE SOCIAL
CLUBS.
AND THIS IS WHERE THE KIND OF
EXPLOSION COMES OUT.
THIS IS WHERE...
AGAIN, MY COMMENTS ARE THE FIRST
YEAR, 18 MONTHS.
THINGS CHANGE AFTER THAT.
AND THIS BECOMES POWERFUL,
POWERFUL AND DARE I SAY
REVOLUTIONARY ENERGY?
IT KIND OF JUST MOVES, I MEAN,
WHEN YOU SEE THE BEST AND THE
BRIGHTEST, THE PEOPLE THAT HAD
ALWAYS BEEN IDENTIFIED WITH
AMERICAN ENTERPRISES NOW
LEADING, YOU KNOW, THIS
MOVEMENT.
THE LEADERSHIP OF THE CUBAN
REVOLUTION, NOT THE
"COMANDANTES,"
BUT THE
PEOPLE WHO ASSUME ALL SORTS OF
POSITIONS IN CUBA, IN THE
MINISTRIES, SOME LARGE
PERCENTAGE OF THESE PEOPLE
GRADUATED FROM AMERICAN SCHOOLS.
THEY GRADUATED FROM AMERICAN
EVANGELICAL PROGRAMS.
THEY BELIEVED IN THE SOCIAL
GOSPEL, RIGHT, AND THESE ARE THE
PEOPLE WHO CARRIED THE
REVOLUTION OVER THAT FIRST HUMP,
OKAY, THAT MOBILIZED THE REST OF
THE COUNTRY.

Now music plays as a different part of the lecture rolls.

Louis says IF THERE IS ANY
TRUTH, IF THERE IS ANY TRUTH TO
THE ADMONITION THAT ONE MUST
UNDERSTAND THE ENEMY IN ORDER TO
DEFEAT HIM, THERE WAS PERHAPS NO
PEOPLE IN THE WORLD BETTER
PREPARED TO CHALLENGE THE
UNITED STATES SUCCESSFULLY THAN
THE CUBANS.
THE ORIGINAL
AMERICAN PURPOSE WAS SUCCESSFUL.
IT DID INDEED PRODUCE AMONG
CUBANS A DESIRE TO CONSUME, THE
ONLY PROBLEM WITH THAT, THAT
THIS, THE POWER OF THIS APPEAL
ASSUMED ALL-ENCOMPASSING
DIMENSIONS AND IMPLICATED CUBANS
OF ALL SOCIAL CLASSES AND WOULD
PROVE TO BE FOR MOST A FUTILE
UNDERTAKING.
LARGE NUMBERS OF CUBANS,
MIDDLE CLASS AND WORKING CLASS
ALIKE, WERE LIVING BEYOND THEIR
MEANS, UNABLE TO MOVE FORWARD,
UNWILLING TO GO BACK.
VAST NUMBERS HAD BEEN FORMED BY
THE IMPERATIVE OF THE MARKET.
CONSUMPTION OF AMERICAN
COMMODITIES WAS SELF-IMPLICATING
AND SERVED AS A SOURCE OF
SELF-DEFINITION.
COMMODITY AND SELF CONVERGED AND
BY THE MID-20th CENTURY HAD
BECOME ONE OF THE SALIENT FACETS
OF NATIONALITY.
CUBA DEVELOPED INTO A PARODY OF
A NATION AS INCREASINGLY CUBANS
LOST CONTROL OVER THE MEANS TO
DEFINE THEMSELVES ON THEIR OWN
TERMS, IN THEIR OWN FORMS, AND
UNDERWENT REPEATED
TRANSFIGURATIONS UNTIL ALL THAT
REMAINED WAS A CARICATURE.

Now music plays as a different part of the lecture rolls.

Louis says THE EXPECTATIONS
THAT SURROUNDED CUBANS IN TERMS
OF MATERIAL CULTURE, WELL-BEING,
ECONOMIC SECURITY, WAS THEN
CARRIED INTO THE REVOLUTION
AFTER '59.
GOING BACK, IF YOU WOULD, OR IF
YOU'VE GOT NOTHING BETTER TO DO,
GET COPIES OF
"LA REVOLUCION."
AND LOOK
AT FIDEL CASTRO'S SPEECHES IN
'59 AND THE LEADERSHIP SPEECHES
OF '59, AND YOU ARE STRUCK...
ONE IS ASTONISHED BY HOW MUCH
THE CUBAN REVOLUTION IN THE
EARLY MONTHS AND PROBABLY
THROUGH THE END OF '59 WAS ABOUT
RAISING A STANDARD OF LIVING,
AND THE FRAME OF REFERENCE WAS
THE UNITED STATES.
FIDEL CASTRO SAID ON MANY
OCCASIONS THAT THE CUBAN WORKER
WAS GOING TO LIVE AS WELL AS THE
AMERICAN WORKER, AND THIS WAS
NOT EQUALITY BY IMPOVERISHING
EVERYBODY.
THIS WAS EQUALITY BY BRINGING
EVERYBODY UP, AND ALL THE
ORIGINAL, THE FIRST SIX MONTHS,
THE MEASURES, THE URBAN REFORM,
AGRARIAN REFORM, THE DOZENS AND
DOZENS AND PERHAPS HUNDREDS OF
DECREES AND STATUTES THAT WERE
PASSED ALL HAD AS THEIR PURPOSE
TO RAISE THE CUBAN STANDARD OF
LIVING.

Now music plays as a different part of the lecture rolls.

Louis says TENS OF MILLIONS
OF AMERICANS ALL THROUGH THE
1950s ARRIVED AT THEIR
CONSTRUCTION OF WHAT THE CUBAN
WAS THROUGH RICKY RICARDO.
THERE WAS NOTHING, I SUBMIT, IN
RICKY RICARDO TO PREPARE
AMERICANS FOR FIDEL CASTRO.
(Laughter)
RICKY RICARDO
WAS YOUR TYPICAL REPRESENTATION
OF CUBAN ADAPTATION,
ACCULTURATED IMPERFECTLY AND
OBLIVIOUS TO THE IMPERFECTIONS,
WHO MISPRONOUNCED ENGLISH AND
MISRENDERED IDIOMS, WHO MANGLED
SYNTAX AND ROUTINELY EMPLOYED
BAD GRAMMAR.
"A CUBAN MUSH-MOUTH" WAS THE WAY
FRED CHARACTERIZED HIM IN ONE
EPISODE.
THE ACCENTED AND THE
ACCIDENT-PRONE ENGLISH SERVED AS
EASY TARGETS FOR LUCY'S RIDICULE
AND THE ENDURING SOURCE OF
AUDIENCE ENTERTAINMENT.
RICKY COULD HOLD HIS OWN.
RICKY COULD HOLD HIS OWN ONLY BY
REVERTING TO SPANISH, A
DEFENSIVE SELF-ESTEEM EXPRESSED
IN FORMS BEYOND THE
UNDERSTANDING OF LUCY AND THE
VIEWING AUDIENCE AND AT
CONSIDERABLE COST, BECAUSE IN
THE PROCESS, HE BECOMES TOTALLY
INCOMPREHENSIBLE AND HENCE,
INEFFECTIVE.
THE VERY ACT OF DEFENDING
SELF-INTEREST TRANSFORMS HIM
INTO AN UNINTELLIGIBLE OUTSIDER.
RICKY IS PORTRAYED SPEAKING
SPANISH AS A FUNCTION OF
EMOTIONAL OUTBURST, OF
FRUSTRATION, OF EXASPERATION,
USUALLY WITH AND-OR OVER HIS
AMERICAN WIFE.
THE CUBAN IS REPRESENTED USING
SPANISH WHEN OUT OF CONTROL.
THE SERIES HISTORIAN, MICHAEL
McCLAY, WRITES, AND I QUOTE,
"WHENEVER RICKY BECAME
FRUSTRATED BEYOND
WORDS,"
AND I UNDERLINE
THAT WORD, "WHENEVER HE BECAME
FRUSTRATED BEYOND WORDS, USUALLY
BY HIS YANKEE WIFE, HE
REGRESSED --."
(Laughter)
"INTO HIS NATIVE
TONGUE."
HE REGRESSED INTO HIS NATIVE
TONGUE BEYOND WORDS.
NOW, LISTEN TO
SECRETARY OF STATE CHRISTIAN
HERTER DESCRIBING A MEETING WITH
FIDEL CASTRO.
"IN ENGLISH," QUOTE, "IN
ENGLISH, HE SPOKE WITH RESTRAINT
AND CONSIDERABLE APPEAL."
"IN SPANISH,
HOWEVER, HE BECAME VOLUBLE,
EXCITED AND SOMEWHAT WILD,"
CLOSE QUOTE.
(Laughter)
INCIDENTALLY, I
MIGHT ADD, FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO
APPRECIATE SIGNIFICANCE AND
IRONY, JUST ABOUT THE TIME THAT
CUBA AND THE UNITED STATES
RUPTURED DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS,
LUCILLE BALL AND DESI ARNAZ
DIVORCED.
(Laughter)
AMERICANS
OPERATED OUT OF A SET OF
ASSUMPTIONS, CENTRAL TO WHICH
WAS THE PRESUMPTION OF
FAMILIARITY, OUT OF WHICH WAS
DERIVED THE NOTION THAT
SOMETHING SPECIAL LINKED CUBA TO
THE UNITED STATES.
THE AMERICANS COULD PRESUME
SUFFICIENT FAMILIARITY WITH CUBA
AND CUBANS TO OBTAIN INSPIRATION
FOR THEIR MUSIC, IMAGES FOR
THEIR FILMS, MATERIAL FOR THEIR
FICTION AND THEN PROCEED TO MAKE
A TOTALITY OF THAT FRAGMENT OF
THE CUBAN REALITY THAT THEY
THEMSELVES HAD CREATED.
THEY INSISTED UPON DEALING ONLY
WITH THE ARTIFACT OF THEIR
CREATION.
FAMILIARITY IN THIS INSTANCE DID
INDEED BREED ITS OWN FORM OF
CONTEMPT.
FAMILIARITY ACTED TO RENDER CUBA
AS ANOTHER EXOTICIZED TROPICAL
ISLAND, ANOTHER VACATION SITE
PERHAPS WITH A HISTORY, PERHAPS
WITHOUT.
WHO CARED?
IT REALLY DIDN'T MATTER.
CUBA WAS NOT A COUNTRY TO BE
TAKEN SERIOUSLY, HARDLY THOUGHT
ABOUT, HARDLY THOUGHT ABOUT
BEFORE 1959 AS ANYTHING OTHER
THAN A PLACE OF TROPICAL
PROMISCUITY, VISITED BY TOURISTS
IN PURSUIT OF ILLICIT PLEASURES
AND RISQUE AMUSEMENT.
CUBA WAS A PLACE FOR FUN, FOR
ADVENTURE, FOR ABANDON.
IT WAS A SETTING FOR HONEYMOONS,
A PLAYGROUND FOR VACATIONS, A
BROTHEL, A CASINO, A CABARET, A
GOOD LIBERTY PORT, A PLACE FOR
FLINGS, SPREES AND BINGES,
ALL... ALL, I MIGHT NOTE, TO THE
DEEPENING DISQUIET OF EVER
GROWING NUMBERS OF CUBANS.
BY THE LATE 1950s, AGAINST THE
BACKDROP OF A DEEPENING POPULAR
INSURRECTION AGAINST THE
U.S.-BACKED GOVERNMENT OF
FULGENCIO BATISTA, CUBANS WERE
SLOWLY COMING TO QUESTION THE
ASSUMPTIONS OF EVERYDAY LIFE,
INCREASINGLY UNEASY, AND THEY
DESPAIRED, BECOMING EVER SO MORE
DISPOSED TO BREAK WITH THE
PREVAILING ORDER OF THINGS.
A BROODING DISQUIET, A BROODING
DISQUIET TOOK HOLD IN THOSE
REALMS, IN THAT SPACE OF HUMAN
EXPERIENCE IN WHICH PEOPLE
DETECT MALAISE, AND THEY SENSE
THAT THINGS ARE NOT QUITE
RIGHT... BUT CAN'T QUITE
ARTICULATE AND GIVE COHERENT
NARRATIVE ORDER TO THEIR UNEASE.
THEY CAN'T ARTICULATE THE SOURCE
OF THEIR MISGIVING.
WHAT THEY SEE IS, HOWEVER, THAT
THINGS AREN'T RIGHT, JUST BY
LOOKING AROUND, JUST BY SEEING
WHAT'S IN FRONT OF THEM.
THEY SENSE CHANGE.
THEY SENSE A NEED FOR CHANGE BUT
AREN'T ABLE TO SAY EXACTLY WHY
OR HOW OR WHERE.
IT IS AT THAT MOMENT THAT THEY
WERE MOST SUSCEPTIBLE TO CHANGE,
PERHAPS NOT ENTIRELY CERTAIN
THAT THIS WAS THE CHANGE THEY
WANTED, BUT IT SEEMED COHERENT,
IT SEEMED COMPELLING.
AND EVEN THOUGH IT MAY NOT HAVE
BEEN EXACTLY WHAT THEY WANTED,
THEY WENT ALONG.
THERE CAN BE, I SUBMIT TO YOU,
NO OTHER PLAUSIBLE EXPLANATION
FOR THE CUBAN REVOLUTION OF
1959.
THE REMARKABLE TRIUMPH OF ARMS
AND SPIRIT OVER THE U.S.-BACKED
GOVERNMENT OF BATISTA SERVED TO
CONFER ON CUBAN DEMANDS, IN
CUBAN EYES, A HEIGHTENED SENSE
OF COLLECTIVE CONFIDENCE AND
INTERNAL CREDIBILITY.
THE PROBLEM WAS,
HOWEVER, THAT THE UNITED STATES
WAS UNPREPARED TO ACCEPT AND
UNWILLING TO ACKNOWLEDGE THE
DEPTH AND BREADTH OF CUBAN
GRIEVANCES.
CUBANS MEANT TO
BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY IN 1959.
THE AFFIRMATION OF NATIONAL
SOVEREIGNTY, THE PROCLAMATION OF
SELF-DETERMINATION, THE DEMAND
FOR CONTROL, THE CONTROL OVER
THEIR RESOURCES, THE CONTROL
OVER THEIR LIVES, THE CONTROL
OVER THEIR FUTURE, WERE SIMPLY
NOT ACCEPTED AT FACE VALUE BY
THE AMERICANS.
THIS DEMAND FOR PARODY, THIS
INSISTENCE UPON EQUAL
OPPORTUNITY, THIS APPEAL TO FAIR
PLAY VERY MUCH FORMULATED IN THE
END IN AMERICAN TERMS, WHEREAS
IN THE UNITED STATES,
INCOMPREHENSIBLE IF NOT
IMPLAUSIBLE COMING FROM CUBANS.
SO PROFOUNDLY INSTITUTIONAL, SO
INTRINSICALLY STRUCTURAL WERE
THE SOURCES OF AMERICAN HEGEMONY
THAT THE CUBAN DETERMINATION TO
ADVANCE THE PRIMACY OF NATIONAL
INTEREST COULD NOT FAIL BUT TO
LEAD A DIRECT CONFRONTATION WITH
THE UNITED STATES.
THE FAILURE TO TAKE CUBANS
SERIOUSLY, INDEED GIVING THE
RELATIONSHIP FROM WHICH THE
AMERICANS HAD DERIVED THEIR
PERCEPTIONS OF CUBA PERHAPS THE
INABILITY TO TAKE CUBANS
SERIOUSLY, HAD FAR-REACHING
POLICY IMPLICATIONS.
IT WAS INCONCEIVABLE THAT A
PEOPLE THAT THE AMERICANS HAD
COME TO KNOW PRINCIPALLY THROUGH
THEIR MOST CHARMING AND
INGRATIATING DISPOSITION, WHO
WERE SO DEVOTED TO BASEBALL,
WHOSE MUSIC HAD BROUGHT SO MUCH
PLEASURE TO AMERICAN DANCES,
WHOSE ARCHETYPE IN THE FORM OF
RICKY RICARDO HAD WEEKLY
DELIVERED DELIGHT INTO AMERICAN
HOUSEHOLDS, IT WAS INCONCEIVABLE
THAT THEY POSSESSED AN INTERNAL
HISTORY.
IT WAS INCONCEIVABLE THAT THEY
WOULD HARBOUR GRIEVANCES AND
DISAFFECTION WITH A RELATIONSHIP
THAT MOST AMERICANS, IF THEY
THOUGHT ABOUT IT AT ALL, WERE
CERTAIN WAS IDEAL.
IT'S IMPORTANT TO STRESS BY WAY
OF CONCLUSION HERE THAT THE
EARLY APPEAL OF THE PROJECT OF
REVOLUTION STRUCK A RESPONSIVE
CHORD AMONG CUBANS OF ALL
CLASSES, AND THIS RESPONSE WAS
ROOTED IN GRIEVANCES AGAINST THE
STATUS QUO.
AND MUCH OF THAT CONDITION WAS A
FUNCTION OF TIES, HISTORIC AND
ACTUAL, WITH THE UNITED STATES.
FOR ONE CRITICAL MOMENT, FOR ONE
CRITICAL MOMENT IN '59, AND I'M
NOT SURE I WOULD PUSH IT MUCH
FURTHER THAN '59, BUT CERTAINLY
FOR ONE CRITICAL MOMENT IN 1959,
ALL CUBANS ON THE ISLAND
SURRENDERED THEMSELVES TO A
JOYFUL NATIONALIST CELEBRATION.
THE NEW CUBAN HAD BEEN BORN IN
THE CUBAN REVOLUTION.
WITHOUT THIS UNDERSTANDING, IT
BECOMES IMPOSSIBLE TO EXPLAIN
THE RELATIVE EASE WITH WHICH
THEIR REVOLUTION TRIUMPHED AND
CONSOLIDATED ITSELF.
THE REVOLUTION, NO LESS THAN THE
RESPONSE TO THE REVOLUTION IN
THE UNITED STATES, WAS IN THE
END A CONVERGENCE OF
CIRCUMSTANCES CONDITIONED BY
THIS LONG AND OFTEN TORTURED
CUBA-U.S. RELATIONSHIP THAT
ALMOST FROM ITS VERY ORIGINS
CONTAINED WITHIN ITSELF THE
FORCES OF ITS OWN
TRANSFORMATION.
THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

The audience applauds.

(Dramatic instrumental music)

A slate appears with the caption "What’s next?"

Louis says I THINK ANYBODY
WHO TRAVELS TO CUBA IN THE LAST
15 YEARS HAS TO APPRECIATE THAT
THE TRANSITION HAS ALREADY
BEGUN, AND ONE OF THE TELLTALE
SIGNS THAT THIS TRANSITION HAS
BEGUN IS THE RESURFACING OF
AMERICAN POPULAR CULTURE IN
CUBA.
I'M ALWAYS
STRUCK BY, CERTAINLY TALKING
WITH MY STUDENTS, HOW UNAWARE
MOST AMERICANS ARE OF HOW
SEDUCTIVE AMERICAN POPULAR
CULTURE IS.
IT'S REALLY QUITE PHENOMENAL.
AND SO AMERICAN POPULAR CULTURE,
AMERICAN MUSIC, HIP-HOP, ALL
THIS IS JUST REALLY INSINUATING
ITSELF CERTAINLY IN CUBAN YOUTH
CULTURE, WHICH HAS NOW BECOME
ALSO KIND OF COUNTERCULTURE,
POLITICAL PROTEST.
IT GETS ALL
CAUGHT UP IN KIND OF A LARGE
AMALGAM OF POLITICS, CULTURE...
WHEN REGISTERING ONE'S OWN
CONVICTION... IN TERMS OF THE
IMPACT OF U.S. CULTURE, ONE...
YOU KNOW, YOU COULD PICK UP
MIAMI EASILY ON CUBAN RADIO.
THAT COMES IN.
YOU DON'T NEED
RADIO MARTI
TO LISTEN TO
THE UNITED STATES, AND SO THERE
IS THIS SENSE OF... THE
IRREVERSIBILITY OF THIS CULTURE,
OKAY?
AND I WAS ON A FLIGHT A FEW
WEEKS AGO TO HAVANA, LEAVING OUT
OF MIAMI, AND THERE WAS A GROUP
OF ABOUT 10 OR 15 U.S. YOUNG MEN
AND WOMEN.
(Chuckles)
AND THEY WERE ALL TAKING...
I ASSUME THEY WERE GOING ON SOME
HUMANITARIAN MISSION.
AND SO ALL THE WAY ON THE PLANE,
I WAS IN THEIR MIDST, LISTENING
TO THEM TALK, AND THEY WERE ALL
LOOKING FORWARD TO A GOOD TIME.
AND ONE YOUNG WOMAN TURNED TO
THE YOUNG MAN SITTING TO MY
RIGHT AND SAYS, "DO YOU KNOW
WHAT CUBA'S NATIONAL ANTHEM IS?"
AND THE GUY SAID, "NO."
AND SHE SAID, "ROW, ROW, ROW
YOUR BOAT."
(Quiet laughter)
AND I THOUGHT,
TURN 500,000 OF THESE PEOPLE
LOOSE IN CUBA, THREE-QUARTERS OF
A MILLION OF THESE PEOPLE LOOSE
IN CUBA, OKAY, AND I DON'T THINK
THAT THE CUBAN REVOLUTION COULD
SURVIVE... FOR LONG, FOR LONG.
I JUST DON'T SEE THE POWER OF AN
AMERICAN TOURIST...
I MEAN I KEEP THINKING OF SPRING
BREAK IN HAVANA, OKAY...
SPRING BREAK IN VARADERO.
AND U.S. FOREIGN SERVICE
OFFICERS IN A PRIVATE
CONVERSATION WOULD BE THE FIRST
TO ADMIT THAT IF ONE WANTED
REALLY, REALLY TO KIND OF PUT
THE BRAKES ON CUBA... LIFT THE
TRAVEL BAN... LIFT THE TRAVEL
BAN, WHICH TELLS YOU THAT THEY
REALLY DON'T WANT TO PUT THE
BRAKE ON CUBA.

Music plays.

Watch: Louis A. Perez, Jr. on Cuban culture and revolution