History Lapse in Cuba

Dmitri Prieto

The Confederate Flag
The Confederate Flag

Not long ago, I saw a guy on a bus wearing a cap with the Confederate flag on it.   Plus, written across the front was the motto “Confederacy border patrol: Keeping Yankees north since…” (followed by an absurd date from American history).   The man – a Cuban, white and mustached – was also wearing a US Marines t-shirt with something scrawled on it having to do with 9/11.

This threw me for a loop.

I remember that when I way as little boy, I once drew a swastika symbol. When my mother discovered it, she gave me a tremendous reaming out, reminding me of the millions of human beings who lost their lives at the hands of the Nazis.

From that moment on, I always recalled it when they showed scenes on TV of the 1945 victory march past Lenin’s Mausoleum in Red Square by processions of Soviet soldiers, who threw Nazi flags onto the pavement – beginning with the personal banner of the Führer.

“Look! See that? There it is. They lost, we won, and the swastika was brought down.  Justice always conquers evil,” I remember my mother once saying.

Although I sometimes doubt of my mom’s last sentence, I continue to hate ideologies of hate and all they represent.

For me, there’s not a lot of difference between the flag of the Confederate States and that of Nazi Germany.  Just as slavery was called a “peculiar institution” by the planters in Dixie, the leaders of the Third Reich could have called their extermination camps a “peculiar institution” of Germany.

I don’t believe that a person with an understanding of history can wear the flag of the Confederacy if they don’t deeply identify with this ideology of hate and exclusion.

I know that in the US there are no laws regarding its prohibition; the First Amendment of that country’s constitution is very permissive concerning freedom of beliefs and expression.  But in Germany, wearing a swastika is formally considered a violation of national security.

In Cuba, we have José Martí (1853-1895) who as a boy mourned the assassination of US President Lincoln. Previously, he had seen a black person lynched from a tree.  Later he wrote in “Mi Raza” (My Race) that all human beings were the same.

He also contended that the US won its independence with Washington, and it’s Revolution with Lincoln.  This was neither rhetoric nor sheer conceptual hermeneutics: Martí was clear, because the party that he founded for the independence of Cuba – a party with membership equally open to blacks and whites, men and women – was not called an independence party, but a revolutionary one.

What is there to be “proud” of in wearing the Confederate flag in Cuba?  Has the KKK now metastasized among us?

But before concluding, I wanted to clarify something.  That was not the first time I’d seen a person in Havana wearing the symbol of slavocracy on their head.  It’s paradoxical, but I’ve even seen Blacks wearing the flag of the Confederacy.  As absurd as that is, it’s a fact.

I can only explain this as being the result of a tremendous ignorance of history.  This is due to an educational system in which only the history of Cuba is emphasized.  Exposure to other histories, though taught, don’t stick because this is usually based on the mere memorization of texts.  If this were not the case, such stupidity could not be explicable in a country where general education is accessible and mandatory for everyone.

That guy threw me for a loop. I’ll never know if I acted correctly; I just stood there, quiet… The guy probably deserved seeing his cap mashed into the floor, along with a good punch in the nose… though this would have probably ended up with my giving a presentation on US history in a police station.

Dimitri Prieto-Samsonov

Dmitri Prieto-Samsonov: I define myself as being either Cuban-Russian or Russian-Cuban, indiscriminately. I was born in Moscow in 1972 of a Russian mother and a Cuban father. I lived in the USSR until I was 13, although I was already familiar with Cuba-- where we would take our vacation almost every year. I currently live on the fifth floor of an apartment building in Santa Cruz del Norte, near the sea. I’ve studied biochemistry and law in Havana and anthropology in London. I’ve written about molecular biology, philosophy and anarchism, although I enjoy reading more than writing. I am currently teaching in the Agrarian University of Havana. I believe in God and in the possibility of a free society. Together with other people, that’s what we’re into: breaking down walls and routines.

9 thoughts on “History Lapse in Cuba

  • November 26, 2009 at 12:29 am

    The Confederate Rebel Battle Flag is one of the most beautiful flags in the world. It represents in memory all the brave who died defending their southern rights. It’s also part of the Cuban history too, read the books: Cuban Confederate Colonel by Antonio de la Cova, Cubans in The Confederacy by Phillip Thomas Tucker, and The Woman in Battle by Loreta Janeta Velazquez. These great Cuban heroes fought for an ideal and they should be remembered and respected. I’m a Cuban by birth and have always put my country of origin first everywhere, although my roots are European. Just because some ignorant frustrated people of low self esteem accuse the flag of being racist or prejudice, I will not be ashamed to wear the confederate flag, fly it, and claim it as part of my culture. I’m proud to be a confederate Cuban rebel!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *