Cuba: A view from Canada
January 21, 2012, 11:51 AM
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One to two centuries ago, from the Monroe Doctrine at least through the Smedley Butler era of pushing around banana republics, American foreign policy was deeply concerned with Latin America. These days, Latin America is seldom front-page news, unless people are trying to get worked up over Hugo Chavez. 

The most obvious opportunity for advancing American interests would be in de-Communizing Cuba. Cuba is a remarkable piece of land, a long thin island with 2100 miles of coastline, much of it climatically moderated by sea breezes (a little bit like Hawaii, although not quite as perfect). And the place is just ridiculously poor in dollar terms due to Communism: in 2008, the average monthly salary was $16. Not until Raul Castro came to power were the sale of microwave ovens legalized!

I suggested in 2008 that President Bush consider that Cuban-American relations, like Chinese-American relations in the Nixon era were improved by ping-pong diplomacy, might be rife for somebaseball diplomacy. In 2011 I suggested President Obama consider golf diplomacy, since the island will someday be the next great home of seaside golf courses. 

I brought this up in my recent post on the Washington Post's attempt to smear the super-establishmentarian Center for American Progress as anti-Semitic. Not surprisingly, hardly anybody mentioned it because who cares anymore about America's foreign policy relations with countries not more than 90 miles away when we call all obsess over countries six thousand miles away? 

But, one commenter called Canadian Observer took an aesthetic objection to America helping Cubans not be so incredibly poor anymore:
Steve... you really want to Americanize and de-Castroize Cuba? Turn that unique gem of an island into just another Caribbean sell-out tourist hot-spot rife with American strip malls and ESPN blaring from every single neighbourhood bar? Do we really have to change every single place on earth so that it satisfies the pedantic tastes of the gringo?  
Cuba is unique in that it is the only civilized place on earth where the pervading force of Americanization and Walmartization is almost non-existent.  
Leave it alone, I say. People forget that behind the ideology, Castro became popular with the educated and lower classes because he kicked out the American interests which had been turning Cuba throughout the 1920's, 1930's and 1940's into a nation of dancers, entertainers and hookers.

 

He does have a point. But, judging from the small bits of modern Cuba I've seen in movies over the last decade, there's an even greater irony here. Castro's Cuba is something of a time capsule of mid-Century America. As I wrote in a review of the 2004 movie-in-verse, Yes by doctrinaire English leftist Sally Potter: "Ironically, Cuba turns out, due to Castro's stultifying tyranny, to look like a well-preserved slice of the Eisenhower Era, full of '57 Chevies and Hemingway-worshipers." If Raymond Chandler, Robert Heinlein, James M. Cain, and Mickey Spillane decided to come back to life for one day in 2012 to take a taxi to a bar for a couple of drinks, they might well choose Havana as the place that most reminds them visually of the good old days.