Depending on how one views history and Fidel Castro, the Cuban Revolution is either a victory over imperialism and capitalist corruption; or, the demise of democratic freedom and the virtual enslavement of Cuban people and the island’s resources. Trying to make sense of the political arguments is a complex undertaking, so for purposes of this blog, the following overview is intended to provide a relatively neutral historical context for the story “Buried Statues” by Antonio Benitez Rojo. In “Buried Statues”, the story’s characters live within the walled confines of a former estate -determined to keep to a pre-revolutionary Code and remain isolated from the changes going on outside the walls.
Regardless of which viewpoint one takes of Fidel Castro, the more recent Cuban Revolution can trace its origins to the 19th century struggle against Spanish colonialism and the Cuban War for Independence (1895–1898). However, the internal war for independence from Spain became mired in the larger Spanish –American War between the U.S. and Spain until on December 10, 1898, the U.S. and Spain signed the Treaty of Paris, recognizing Cuban independence.
Although many argue that Cuba was on the verge of a victory over the Spanish, most historians have concluded that the Cuban insurgency could never have succeeded without American intervention –a conclusion evidenced by the fact that Cuban independence was tied into the treaty between Spain and the U.S.
The more recent Cuban Revolution, headed by Fidel Castro, might be viewed as an economic revolution stemming from the fact that by 1920, U.S. investors owned a large portion of the arable land in Cuba and the Mafia had infiltrated Havana’s gambling and tourism in the 1930’s; by the 1950’s the country was ruled by a military dictator, Fulgencio Batista. Batista’s increasingly corrupt and repressive regime then began to systematically profit from the exploitation of Cuba’s commercial interests, by negotiating lucrative relationships with the American Mafia and large multinational American corporations that had invested considerable amounts of money in Cuba. The gap between rich and poor widened.
Into this scenario stepped a young idealistic Fidel Castro with the promise of a more egalitarian type of government and distribution of wealth. As Castro plotted to overthrow Batista, Cuba again became embroiled in a revolution that is viewed by some as freedom from imperialism, and by others as oppressive communism.