Fulgencio Batista: Cuban President from 1940-1944 and 1954-1958. He was pushed out of power in 1959 by the forces of Fidel Castro. Batista was widely considered a dictator during his time in power.
Fidel Castro: Led an attack on an army installation of Batista’s and was consequently imprisoned for two years before escaping to Mexico and organizing freedom fighters. He continued to organize guerilla forces after returning to Cuba and successfully drove out Batista in December of 1958. He took control of Cuba and around 1960 began allying with the communist Soviet Union, establishing himself as an enemy of the United States. He was the president of Cuba until 2006.
Che Guevara: Fidel Castro’s second in command during his overthrow of Fulgencio Batista. After Batista’s exile, Guevara was put in charge of “revolutionary justice” against Batista supporters. In later years, Castro also put Guevara in charge of the cuban economy and large scale literacy and public healthcare programs, as well as roles in military training and trading partnerships. Although he identified with Marxist principles, he was distrustful of the Soviet Union.
Overview of Historical Events
After the defeat of Spain in Cuba during the Spanish-American war, the United States had extensive involvement in the cuban government which led to resentment of the US by many cubans, including Fidel Castro and his eventual followers. In 1953, Castro decided to take up arms against the then dictator of Cuba, Fulgencio Batista, and attacked a military garrison in Santiago. Castro was put on trial and later left Cuba for Mexico, where he amassed a following, including Che Guevara, and trained them before returning to Cuba in 1956 to move against Batista. In 1958, Batista fled Cuba after Castro’s forces successfully defeated him using guerilla tactics. In the years after Castro took charge of Cuba, major socialist reforms and political radicalization took place (mostly at the expense of the upper middle class) such as land and urbanization reforms, rights for afro-cubans, opposition of the catholic church and opposing media, as well as business nationalization and expropriation of US businesses. After this, the US broke diplomatic relations with Cuba and Castro began forming alliances with the Soviet Union. As tensions escalated between the US and the Soviet Union, a few crisis emerged in Cuba, such as the Bay of Pigs (an unsuccessful US sponsored invasion of Cuba by cuban exiles), and the Cuban Missile Crisis (Soviet nuclear weapons were stored in Cuba and forcibly dismantled by the US to avoid nuclear war).
Among Castro’s reforms of Cuba were some that essentially took away religious, political, and personal freedom from many Cubans. There arose many accusations of organized campaigns against gays in Cuba by Castro’s administration since the beginning of his rise to power, including testimonies by cubans such as Reinaldo Arenas, who testified about the systematic imprisonment of gays. Many reports of street raids aimed at arresting homosexual prostitutes and “pajaros” (effeminate homosexuals) by police arose, as early as 1961.
Censorship in Revolutionary Cuba
Due to Fidel Castro’s policies that nothing go against the revolution, freedom of speech and artistic rights were and are heavily controlled and subordinated. Allegiance to the revolution is required and going against it is punishable by their government. The cuban government takes an active role in what literary works are accepted by promoting and censoring works according to what is socially acceptable to Castro’s regime.
Before Night Falls by Reinaldo Arenas
Reinaldo Arenas underwent political persecution for his homosexual-based literary work including Before Night Falls, and campaigned against Fidel Castro in the US, providing testimonies of systematic imprisonment of gays and a large underground homosexual community he was a part of. The book is based on Arenas’ life, beginning with his childhood, initial support of the revolution and then prosecution by castro’s government, following through to his exile and life in the United States.
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