The US special interests building stands next to the Anti-Imperialist plaza in Havana.

The US special interests building stands next to the Anti-Imperialist plaza in Havana.

The gospel truth about everyone’s favorite love-hate relationship

By Brooke

I always wondered why the US and Cuba didn’t get along. I mean, they’re 90 miles apart and seemed to have had such a solid relationship in the 30s and 40s—what happened? And more importantly, why can’t we bring back any cigars or rum?!

Well, lucky for you, I think I got to the bottom of it.

This is the history of US/Cuba relations, as I understand it. Don’t quote me. Don’t verify this. I’ll deny knowing you if this ever shows up anywhere and no, we won’t run a correction.

This IS political, though. It kind of has to be. But I don’t align with any particular party and simply enjoy parties of any kind. I’m not using my real name and I have no idea why *Fidel Castro* is following me on Twitter.

JH 15470small• 1492: Columbus sailed the ocean blue and landed in Cuba. This event is illustrated by my favorite e-card: “Let’s celebrate Columbus Day by walking into someone’s house and telling him we live there now!” Spain got Cuba because they wanted it.

[Skipping a few centuries]

• 1902: After Spain lost to the US in the Spanish-American War, they handed over Cuba. Cuba gained its independence but kept the island under US protection and gave the US a key to its apartment – I mean, rights to intervene in Cuban affairs. After a sincere DTR (defining the relationship) conversation, Cuba agreed not to enter into any treaties or financial agreements with other countries, and let the US set up a naval base on the island: Guantánamo Bay. This is when the US and Cuba gave each other one of those matching heart-shaped BFF necklaces.

• 1930s: Worldwide depression crippled Cuba’s economy. The US, polishing its half of the BFF necklace, revised Cuba’s sugar quota and changed tariffs to favor Cuba. Sergeant Batista led a coup to overthrow current leadership in 1934. Batista became president.

You know what they say. “What happens in Havana stays in Havana.”

You know what they say. “What happens in Havana stays in Havana.”

• 1940s-1950s: US corporate assets grew under Batista’s leadership, and the two countries enjoyed mutual benefits. Well, the US and Batista himself enjoyed these benefits. The average Cuban became poorer and poorer. A mini-Las Vegas grew in Havana with casinos and cabarets, and Havana became a playground for America’s elite. Oh, and the mob. The mob totally ruled Havana during this time.

• 1956: Fidel Castro and Che Guevara waged a guerrilla war against the Batista regime to more fairly redistribute the government’s wealth to its citizens. The US withdrew military aid to Batista at the cost of America’s corporate interests. Said U.S. State Department advisor William Wieland to the US government, “I know Batista is considered by many as a son of a [jerk]… but American interests come first… at least he was our son of a [jerk]. Then he slammed his door and yelled, “I hate you!” (probably). Fidel promised the world he was all about democracy and was in it to fight Batista’s dictatorship.

The world cheered at the peasant revolution and Fidel’s victory, because anything was possible if two guys and a bunch of farmers could overthrow a corrupt government. But then Fidel turned communist.

• 1960: All US businesses in Cuba were nationalized without compensation, and the US broke off diplomatic relations. This is when the US and Cuba ripped off their BFF necklaces and changed their Facebook statuses to “It’s complicated”.  The US imposed a trade embargo in response to Castro’s reforms. The mob? I have no idea what happened to them. I guess they went back to New York.

Today, anti-American sentiment is a common theme in Cuban propaganda.

Today, anti-American sentiment is a common theme in Cuban propaganda.

In the meantime, Castro started taking all Cuba’s big businesses, too, and executed anyone involved with them, accusing them of being conspirators in the Batista regime. The world started freaking out because Castro had totally changed, and Cuban business owners were scrambling to get out.

• 1961: The US backed a failed invasion by Cuban exiles at the Bay of Pigs; Castro officially proclaimed Cuba a communist state and got a new BFF: Russia. The US and Cuba officially became Frenemies.

• 1962: The Cuban Missile Crisis. Fearing a US invasion, Castro allowed the USSR to deploy nuclear missiles on the island.  The USSR finally says to the US, “Fine. We’ll move our missiles if you move your missiles out of Turkey.” Crisis averted.

• 1978: Castro sent 125,000 released convicts to the US. Thanks, pal.

• 1992: The UN condemned the US embargo on Cuba. I think it went something like, “Enough already. Can’t you guys just make up?”

Today, anti-American sentiment is a common theme in Cuban propaganda.

Today, anti-American sentiment is a common theme in Cuban propaganda.

• 2001: Five Cubans were convicted in Miami and given long sentences for being Cuban government spies.

• 2009: Cuba grabbed a young USAID worker and accused him of spying for Washington. Said Cuba: “We’ll release him when you release our five guys.”

Obama lifted restrictions on family travel to Cuba. Though several cultural exchanges have taken place since that time, Cuba’s refusal to release the USAID worker, even after one of the five have been released from prison in the US, has frozen all relations to date.

Nobody knows what the future holds for Cuba/US relations, but we can only hope they’ll eventually make up and get back together for our sake—the citizen-kids.