The Wacky World of Caribbean Chicanery

I know this is supposed to be all about Puerto Rican history but to be perfectly honest, the first half of the twentieth century was not kind to Puerto Rico. There was massive unemployment, a great depression, abject poverty and a succession of tyrannical governors who cared more for the sugar crops and rum (both legal and a moonshine version called “ron caña”) the island produced than for her indigenous people. The depression spanned the years 1929-1939. It wasn’t until 1942 that the first native born Puerto Rican was named governor of the island. So, let’s talk about Cuba.

Cuba was one of the spoils of war ceded to the USA by Spain in 1898 as a Protectorate after the debacle that was the Spanish-American War. And after all it was the revolution in Cuba that set off the Spanish American War.

Cuba gained its Independence in 1902. Even so the powers that be in Washington DC decided it was in the best interests of both Cuba and the United States for the USA to maintain a military presence in the country. Stop me if this is beginning to sound familiar. The Cuban Revolution had seriously depleted the Cuban Coffers. The economy was in the toilet. Corruption and repression were rampant. In 1933 students took matters into their own hands. One of their professors, a guy named Grau, led a movement to unseat the fat cats in Havana. As usual the USA backed the wrong horse in the race. This particular horse was named Fulgencio Batista.

Batista was a fixture in the halls of authority for the next twenty years, sometimes in office but more often the power behind the official throne. The economy was on the uptick but at a terrible cost to the reputation of the country. During that period Cuba had become party hostess to all manner of seedy ventures and deliberate debauchery. Indeed, Cuba had earned the sobriquet “Bordello of the Caribbean.” Now I’m not saying the American Mob ran the country but Meyer Lansky had a reserved table at the Breakfast Buffet in the Capitol Rotunda in Havana.

Finally, in 1952 the people said enough! A lawyer named Fidel Castro threw his hat in the ring. Fulgencio stomped all over the hat. So, Fidel grew a beard, bought himself a gun and the rest is history.

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