The Month of April in Cuban History

Elio Delgado Legon

The Bay of Pigs Museum.
The Bay of Pigs Museum.

HAVANA TIMES — In Cuba, all months have historical significance, be it because of the heroism of certain people or the cruelty of others. April, the beginning of the spring, has particularly special significance for Cubans because of the number of historical events that took place in the month – so many I will not be able to mention them all.

The month begins with the anniversary of the arrival in Cuba of Antonio and Jose Maceo, Flor Crombet and 20 combatants, who came to the island on a ship named Honor in 1895, to join the war of independence organized by Jose Marti to cast off the Spanish yoke in Cuba.

The expeditionaries were cruelly attacked by the Spanish army and so-called “volunteers,” unpatriotic Cubans who served the oppressor and fought against their own people’s liberation efforts. This demonstrates there have always existed traitors at the service of foreign powers, some sincerely confused and others in search of personal gain, just as, before, there existed those who wanted to see Cuba annexed by the United States.

The 11th of the same month, the leader and main organizer of the independence efforts, Jose Marti, disembarked in Cajobabo beach, in south-eastern Cuba, next to Maximo Gomez, the illustrious Dominican who devoted much of his life to the struggle for Cuba’s freedom.

After the war ended and Cuba’s full independence was thwarted by an opportunistic intervention by the United States, a period of nearly 60 years of dependence on the northern neighbor began for the island, which saw governments that, showcasing a false democracy, maintained the country in the cruelest and most heartless form of economic, social and cultural underdevelopment, a period that included the dictatorships of Gerardo Machado and Fulgencio Batista, built, in both cases, on thousands of deaths, torture and disappearances, always with the support of the United States.

On April 20, 1957, four young university students escaping from the authorities and hiding at a building on Humboldt Street, Havana, were murdered by police officers under Batista, immortalizing Fructuoso Rodriguez, then president of the University Student Federation, Juan Pedro Carbo, Jose Machado and Joe Westbrook.

On April 9, 1958, an attempt at a general strike was made in support of the rebels who were struggling against the dictatorship in the country’s main mountain ranges. The repression was fierce and claimed the lives of many young revolutionaries.

Immediately after the triumph of the revolution on January 1, 1959, the United States began its attacks on Cuba and its efforts to nip the revolution at its bud.

On April 15, 1961, planes painted with false flags (the Cuban Air Force insignias) bombed three airports in Cuba in an attempt to destroy the few planes Cuba had to defend itself with.

The attacks caused numerous deaths and injuries and, the following the day, during the burial of the victims, convinced we would be attacked immediately, Commander in Chief Fidel Castro proclaimed the socialist revolution.

Less than 24 hours later, in the early morning of April 17, mercenaries trained and organized by the United States began to disembark, escorted by US warships and covered by aviation, also from the United States.

The invasion cost Cuba hundreds of deaths and wounded, but it was repelled in less than 72 hours. On April 19, when the last of the mercenaries surrendered, the victory of the Cuban people was proclaimed.

In view of these events and those that have been left out of this post, every time the current president of the United States, Barack Obama, urges Cubans to forget the past and look only to the future, I recall the song composed by Amaury Perez Vidal, titled “Remember April.”

3 thoughts on “The Month of April in Cuban History

  • Of course we cannot forget the past, and in particular, what it can teach us about the possible future. A good lesson from the past for every nation: be as militarily strong as you can be, because you may regret it if you’re not.

    BUT … we can’t become prisoners of the past, either. The human animal is pretty nasty, especially when he’s organized into tribes or nations. So if you want to make list of nations that have done terrible things to other nations … it’s going to be pretty long. Left out of the list, on the aggressor’s side, will be those tribes and nations that weren’t strong enough relative to their neighbors to oppress them.

    Japan’s atrocities in China… US A-bombs (two!) on Japanese cities… Germany invading Russia … Russian mass rape in Germany … Germany against most of the nations of Europe … most central European tribes/nations against others in the Thirty Years War … the list could go on and on and on … it’s the nature of the human beast.

    Despite this, we move forward. The productive forces develop, the political superstructure on top of them slowly changes to reflect the growing knowledge and skill both of collective humanity and of the individual.

    I don’t think Cuba has much to fear from the US now, for various reasons, one of them being that Cuba, although well-respected by Latin American patriots for its successful defiance of the Yankee Collosus, and admired for its social achievements, doesn’t really look like a model that many others want to follow any more.

    Maybe if it can greatly relax the strangle-hold of the bureaucracy on the economic initiatives of its population, and move towards a more open poltiical system, it might once again become a beacon for the rest of the continent.

  • “…there have always existed traitors at the service of foreign powers…”
    I will grant that whatever criticism Cubans make of their government is made under the shadow of a hostile USA. But i don’t think it is useful or accurate to brand all critics as traitors.
    In order to engage Cubans in the political process there will have to be lots of criticism, some of it unfair and unreasonable.

  • Obama did not ask Cubans to forget anything in the sense that it didn’t happen. He offered Cubans a way forward. That way must begin by not allowing what we disagree about to be more important than what we can agree upon. At the risk of being called cynical (I have been called far worse at this site), I have always submitted that the Castros don’t really want rapprochement with the US. It is not in their interests to improve relations with the US. Castro buttkissers like Elio want things to stay exactly as they are. Hence, this nitpicking criticism of what was a very brave and politically costly speech by Obama. The good news is that these naysayers are far outnumbered by Cubans tired of the past and wanting something different. I don’t like Obama’s strategy much myself. I say turn the screws even tighter. But Obama is right. Isolation hasn’t worked. It’s time for a new approach.

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