Cuba: Learning from the Past

By Bethany Dotson

Last week, President Obama and President Raúl Castro of Cuba announced moves to normalize diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba following more than a year of secret talks in Canada and at the Vatican (Read more here, here, and here). The 54-year-old embargo on trade and diplomatic relations stems back to Cold War hostilities.

For background on the country, its people, and more, Charles Scribner’s Son’s RUSA award-winning Cuba is preeminent. Articles are authored by scholars from Cuba as well as the United States and other countries; collectively, they provide a comprehensive dialogue on Cuba’s place in the world. It’s available, along with more than 14,000 other titles, on the unlimited, simultaneous access GVRL platform.

Chatham House Online Archive is the digitized records of Chatham House, the world-leading center for policy research on international affairs; the archive covers 1920-2008. The following snippets come from their rich vault of content:

3. Statements, in the House of Commons, regarding the supply of arms to Cuba by the United Kingdom."Documents on International Affairs 1959. Gillian King, ed. London: Oxford University Press, 1963. 389-391.
3. Statements, in the House of Commons, regarding the supply of arms to Cuba by the United Kingdom.”Documents on International Affairs 1959. Gillian King, ed. London: Oxford University Press, 1963. 389-391.
Mr. Khrushchev. "7. Extract from a speech by Mr. Khrushchev to the R. F. S. R. teachers' Congress in Moscow, 9 July 1960." Documents on International Affairs 1960. Richard Gott, John Major, and Geoffrey Warner, eds. London: Oxford University Press, 1964. 563-564.
Mr. Khrushchev. “7. Extract from a speech by Mr. Khrushchev to the R. F. S. R. teachers’ Congress in Moscow, 9 July 1960.” Documents on International Affairs 1960. Richard Gott, John Major, and Geoffrey Warner, eds. London: Oxford University Press, 1964. 563-564.

As the depth and variety of materials available in Chatham House show, the late 1950’s and early 1960’s were a marathon of posturing and speech-making. These, as the political record, are interesting to compare with the Associated Press’s internal records and wire copy, giving insight into what was being reported (although individual publications supplied by the AP may have chosen to position the wire copy differently) at the same time. The AP’s Biographical Service’s file, issues March 1964, on Fidel Castro; a 1982 report on Cuban spies,  These records, and thousands of others, along with hundreds of images like the one below, are available in the Associated Press Collections Online.

Cuba Moncada Attack, 1953." News Features & Internal Communications Image Collection. Primary Source Media, 1953. Associated Press Collections Online. Web. 22 Dec. 2014.
Cuba Moncada Attack, 1953.” News Features & Internal Communications Image Collection. Primary Source Media, 1953. Associated Press Collections Online. Web. 22 Dec. 2014.

A snippet from the same collection:

Cuba: Showdown." The AP Log Dec. 17-Jan. 2, 1963: 3. Associated Press Collections Online. Web. 18 Dec. 2014.
Cuba: Showdown.” The AP Log Dec. 17-Jan. 2, 1963: 3. Associated Press Collections Online. Web. 18 Dec. 2014.

Declassified Documents Reference Center is a fascinating source for Cold War-era documents on Cuba. The headlines—“Cuban subversion in Latin America detailed” from the Central Intelligence Agency; “Memorandum from Gordon Chase regarding the enlistment of international organizations to speed the flow of Cuban refugees trying to exit Cuba in hopes of entering the U.S.”; “Department of State reports on political developments in Cuba”—immediately catch the eye. Here are a few snippets that are particularly interesting:

Problems posed for Castro by trial of Vice Minister of Defense Joaquin Ordoqui detailed. Cable. CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY. OFFICIAL USE. Issue Date: Feb 17, 1965. Date Declassified: May 23, 1990. Sanitized. Complete. 4 page(s). Reproduced in Declassified Documents Reference System. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale, 2014.
Problems posed for Castro by trial of Vice Minister of Defense Joaquin Ordoqui detailed. Cable. CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY. OFFICIAL USE. Issue Date: Feb 17, 1965. Date Declassified: May 23, 1990. Sanitized. Complete. 4 page(s). Reproduced in Declassified Documents Reference System. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale, 2014.
Analysis of Fidel Castro's 7/27/64 press conference. Cable. DEPARTMENT OF STATE. CONFIDENTIAL. Issue Date: Jul 28, 1964. Date Declassified: Sep 13, 1989. Unsanitized. Complete. 2 page(s). Reproduced in Declassified Documents Reference System. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale, 2014.
Analysis of Fidel Castro’s 7/27/64 press conference. Cable. DEPARTMENT OF STATE. CONFIDENTIAL. Issue Date: Jul 28, 1964. Date Declassified: Sep 13, 1989. Unsanitized. Complete. 2 page(s). Reproduced in Declassified Documents Reference System. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale, 2014.

This is not where the depth of information on Cuba ends! Both The Listener Historical Archive and Nineteenth Century Collections Online offer insight from the 1960s.

Even narrowing my search to a few products and a very short period of time, I have here a large breadth of information and viewpoints on what is historically—and now very recently—a controversial issue. To learn more about how we got here and, perhaps, how things might progress, take a look at these select Gale resources.

 

[alert-info] Bethany Dotson

About the Author

Bethany is an avid reader, coffee enthusiast, and travel maven. She’s a proud UMich alum with a BA in English & Spanish. While currently working on her MBA, she looks forward to graduating so she has time for hobbies again!

 

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