New Castro, Same Cuba, Same Ignorant Apologists – Lloyd Billingsley

Lloyd Billingsley is the author of Hollywood Party and From Mainline to Sideline. His work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Reason and many other publications.


raul

New Castro, Same Cuba, a new report from Human Rights Watch, notes that under Raul Castro, Fidel’s brother, Cuba continues to harass and imprison dissidents. The criminal code punishes “dangerousness,” which punishes such crimes as handing out the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, or any behavior deemed contrary to “socialist morality.”

One gets no clue of these conditions, or any history of Castro repressions, from American political tourists, mostly educators, who visit the island under the auspices of Cuba Education Tours, based in Vancouver B.C.

“We have an amazing Cuba trip for teachers during New Years and we warmly invite you to join us on the island,” says an email from Marcel Hatch, Education Director of  Cuba Education Tours. This trip will showcase “the real Cuba,” and “you’ll return having made new friends and contacts abroad.” The upbeat Marcel also links to some educators who already took the trip. Their testimonies are indeed educational.

Norva Schapira and Abigail Cleary, high-school Spanish teachers from Lansing, New York, mention “many stereotypes about the country” but do not mention whether these include the stereotype that Cuba is a one-party Communist dictatorship that represses all dissent, persecutes homosexuals, and has reduced a once prosperous nation to sub-Haiti levels of poverty.

“The experience was smooth from beginning to end,” and “the orientation information was thorough and useful.” Further, “our guide, Tatiana Rodriguez, as well as our driver, Angel always took very good care of the group.” The pair will return soon.

Amy DeCola, an early childhood education administrator with the South Carolina State Department of Education, discovered that “Cubans are passionate about life and it is evident in their music, dance and art. They have overcome challenges with determination and a special resilience. Americans can learn a great deal from the urban organic gardens and sustainable communities.” Amy saw “where Che Guevara set up his headquarters,” and peppered Tatiana with endless questions.

Ann Eskridge, African-American studies professor at the University of Detroit, danced the salsa on a rooftop and testifies that “I came back from my trip to Cuba with a deeper understanding of the issues affecting that country and a newfound respect for the Cuban people. I attribute this to the hard work Cuba Educations Tours staff put into making sure that we had a well-rounded look at what Cuba is like today.”

Dulce Maria Gray, professor of English, writing, literature and women’s studies at West Valley College in Saratoga, California, dropped off her bags at the Hotel Habana Libre in La Rampa, a central neighborhood in Vedado. “Until the revolution, this was the Hilton Hotel that had been opened in March 1958 and had become a gambling casino and playground for rich Americans,” the professor explains. “But, the revolution triumphed on 1 January 1959.”

Sheila Scharmann, a high-school teacher at Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools in Morinville, Alberta, says “We were treated royally from the minute we stepped off the plane.” Breakfast at the Habana Libre was “excellent” and “Never once did we feel threatened or unsafe, even after dark.” Sheila advises tourists to bring a “very large notebook” because “if you go, your eyes and hearts will be opened, and you’ll come home with different outlooks on many issues. This trip is was worthwhile, indeed life-changing!”

That was the experience of  Alexis P. Markowitz, of the UCLA Dept of Humanities, Sciences, Social and Health Sciences. “I am changed forever after such an amazing experience!” Alexis says. “Our guide Mildred was awesome and goes the extra mile. She ensured we had the most complete, authentic, and satisfying trip possible and saw the REAL Cuba.”

And so on. None of the eager tourists, of course, saw anything resembling the real Cuba. The faithful guides did not introduce them to anyone imprisoned for “dangerousness” or violating “socialist morality.” On the other hand, the eager tourists probably showed no interest in victims of the regime.

The visitors also appear unaware of the long history of Potemkin village tours by Communist regimes, charted by Paul Hollander in Political Pilgrims. That book recalls that New-Left icon Abbie Hoffman described Fidel Castro standing erect among his people “like a great penis.” The outpourings of the recent political tourists may be less vivid but are every bit as fatuous. Material about Cuban repression, meanwhile, is not exactly in short supply.

In Improper Conduct, Nestor Almendros and Orlando Jimenez Leal document Castro’s persecution of homosexuals. In 8A, Jimenez Leal documents Castro’s show trial of General Arnaldo Ochoa, in which his state-appointed lawyer pleads with the court that his client should be executed. Armando Valladares charted Cuban prison conditions in Against all Hope and in Heroes are Grazing in My Garden the poet Heberto Padilla explained what it was like to be a writer in a Communist state.

The Cuba Education Tours crowd shows no familiarity with this body of work. The various Amnesty International reports also offer other insights on a regime so loathsome that, at the first opportunity, people will flee in anything that floats, leaving loved ones behind.

When it comes to the worst dictatorship in the Americas, the pilgrims of Cuba Education Tours combine willful ignorance with full cognitive dissonance. They prop up the regime and perpetuate the stereotype of happy peasants who love their massa. If they are so wrong on something so basic, why should their students listen to them on anything else? And now abides credulity, fatuity, and ignorance, but the greatest of these is ignorance.

*

[To get the whole story on political pilgrimages to Castro's Cuba and the psychology behind fellow traveling, read Jamie Glazov’s new book, United in Hate: The Left’s Romance with Tyranny and Terror.]

United in Hate cover

  • therealend

    Come to Tomorrow-land for the Left. And please, don't ever leave.

  • Delia Garcia Menocal

    This article portrays the constant struggle between the Leftist propaganda and the reality the Cubans have faced for 50 years. Unfortunately, American teachers and professors who visit Cuba come back to their classrooms ignorant of the destruction caused by the Castros' tyranny.

    Thank you very much.

  • JoeS

    Most if not all these teachers and educators that visit the Island by invitation are PREDISPOSED towards liberalism and progressivism (code words for Marxism). So, it is with no great surprise that they come away very impressed that this collective state has so many examples of a 'happy' citizenry. Unfortuately, they can not see beyond the veil of corruption, lies and deception. Maybe someday they will be enlightened in the ways of the truth. I am sure that their experience will be shared with those they will be teaching.

  • the almighty mother@$#@

    fuk america. and fuk cuba. are you motheruckers happy now ?

    im fucking tired of both right and left propoganda, its geting boring and annoying. just like free enterprized-style-democracy over REAL democracy, or tyranical exploits of REAL sociliast valueS.

    last time i checked it isnt the poor of cuba , who have endangered the whole world popluation with its, “freedoms” and addiction to oil and fossil burning. FUCKING ASSHOLES.

    pathetic.

  • Robert Bernier

    The Left’s position in this terror war is a shameless one and it is nothing new from the way the Left behaved vis-à-vis the communist monsters of the 20th century. The Left should have learnt its lessons in 1979 when the Ayatollah Khomeini slaughtered almost 50,000 Iranian comrades of various left factions ranging from communist to social democrats. They were wiped out. Today the stalwarts of the Left who choose to live in the comfortable West that they hate, march in solidarity with Gaza, with the despotic Ahmedinejad and the Islamofacsist Nasrallah of Hezbollah. More about correcness at : http://israelagainstterror.blogspot.com/2008/02

  • jackhampton

    It is disturbing that these fools are actually teaching in schools at any grade level. T bet the teacher that was adoring Che never heard from any of his victims relatives that he murdered for just pleasure because he enjoyed killing. But when he was cornered like the rat he was pleaded for his life. God save this country from ignorant useful idiots.

  • jackhampton

    You do have a way with words. Does your mother know about that nasty mouth?

  • USMCSniper

    I bet you sleep with a picture of the bastard muslim son of a wigger woman under you pillow at night in your prison cell. Since you post and speak like a brutha den youse can cake wawk fah meh, sho me youse shuffal, and yells awl dah time dat it awl beez dah white man fault dat youse beez in dah prison.

  • USMCSniper

    An Excerpt from Dr Walter Williams article: The dumbing down of the education system and classroom indoctrination for two generations causes this:

    Alan Kors, University of Pennsylvania history professor, gave a keynote address rececently. What he revealed about the dereliction and character weakness of academics, intellectuals, media elites and politicians is by no means complimentary, but worse than that, dangerous. Professor Kors said that over the years, he has frequently asked students how many deaths were caused by Joseph Stalin and Mao Tsetung and their successors. Routinely, they gave numbers in the thousands. Kors says that's equivalent to saying the Nazis are responsible for the deaths of just a few hundred Jews. But here's the record: Nazis were responsible for the deaths of 20 million of their own people and those in nations they conquered. Between 1917 and 1983, Stalin and his successors murdered, or were otherwise responsible for the deaths of, 62 million of their own people. Between 1949 and 1987, Mao Tsetung and his successors were responsible for the deaths of 76 million Chinese.

    Imagine that we have college graduates that are this ignorant of recent history not just history overall. So the future looks scary!!!

  • therealend

    Apparently something has upset you. There there. There there.

    (that was the best I could do to comfort this poor individual. Maybe another there there would have helped even more)

  • Robert Wargas

    Your grammar and usage indicate that you have doubtless attended a fine university, one that upholds the values of “REAL [sic] democracy.”

    You also say, “last time i checked it isnt the poor of cuba , who have endangered the whole world popluation [sic]….”

    That's because the poor of Cuba are busy thinking of ways to avoid being put in concentration camps.

  • Henry Agueros

    Sounds like these American “tourist” are describing Nazi Germany in 1933–34,38, 36, 37, 38.
    Fascist Italy had the same type “tours” organized by American “tourist” guides.
    Oh these poor liberal fools. We all know they when down there for some cheap SEX and as Always…the castro bros, who are the PIMPS…..get the cash.