Half a century. Cuba is, to some, one of the last remnants of Reagan's cartoonish "Evil Empire." For others, it is a living vision of a humanist alternative to Western politics as usual.
Decades of US-backed military and CIA interventions, the economic consequences of the collapse of the Soviet Union, and an on-going American blockade have not dimmed the Cuban joie de vivre. Cuba is a land of cultural celebration, with First World-quality universal education and health, and one of the highest literacy rates in the world (99.8%).
Cuba has avoided the leader-cult excesses of some other Communist regimes. As Fidel himself put it during a May Day rally in 2003, "There is no cult of personality around any living revolutionary, in the form of statues, official photographs, or the names of streets or institutions. The leaders of this country are human beings, not gods."
All sweetness and light? Of course not. Despite all of the external pressures, the clampdown on dissent, while not as black and white as right-wing US politicians and newspaper editorialists contend, is neither necessary nor defensible to protect the gains of the revolution. While Cuba now has a lively and open gay scene, such has not always been the case.* Capital punishment has not been abolished. Politics at the local level appears to be open and democratic, but national debate on the issues of the day, not to mention the wider practice of politics in the country, are--constrained.
The Cuban Revolution, since it took place five decades ago, has lent itself to superficial rhetoric and sloganeering on both sides. But there are more serious and content-rich discussions to be had.
I would like to invite readers to weigh in on the positive and negative aspects of the revolution from our fifty-year perspective. All I ask is that we remain civil, and try if possible to bring something new to the discussion.
*H/t Fred Litwin