La Isla de Pinos, the other island of Cuba


For many of us, La Isla de Pinos is the place where many of our relatives spent time in Castro’s political prisons.   In the late 1960s, Castro changed the name to “La Isla de la Juventud” trying to turn the isolated island into some kind of indoctrination school for young minds.

Today, the small island is detached from Cuba and the rest of the world.

I found this article rather interesting and instructive.  It taught me a few things about the island and its complicated history:

“Some places are blessed by geography, with a deep harbor, mighty river or abundant natural resources.  Then there are places where geography is more of a curse. In the absence of any distinctive feature or economic purpose, they appear like a blank slate, inviting grandiose schemes and outsize ambitions.  Cuba’s Isla de la Juventud, the “Isle of Youth,” is one of those places.”

We often forget about La Isla de Pinos.  Yet, it sits there as another exhibit of the total and complete failure of  Castro’s policies.

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The 113th anniversary of Cuba’s independence & US-Latin America stories

Guests:  Fausta Rodriguez Wertz, editor of Fausta’s Blog….and Fernando Hernandez, author of “The Cubans, Our Footprints Across America, a book about the story of Cubans in the US…….we will look at the 113th anniversary of Cuba’s independence and remember some famous Cubans who came to the US……….also, the latest in US-Cuba talks plus a follow up on the events in Venezuela, Argentina and the murder of Mr Nisman, Brazil and the bad economy, Chile and a family scandal plus other stories from US-Latin America…..

Click to listen:

The life and times of Jose Marti

GUESTS:  Jorge Ponce, Cuban American writer and contributor to Babalu Blog, joins me for a chat with Professor Alfred Lopez about his new book, “Jose Marti, a revolutionary life”……….the book is in English and offers many Cuban Americans an opportunity to read about Marti……..

click to  listen:

Great Book of José Martí

Marti Book

Professor López did an outstanding job researching this book. I had tried reading Jorge Mañach’s book on Martí in the past, but I could only understand only 5% of its content. Its Spanish was so erudite, that it was burdensome for Cuban-American like myself to get the gist of it. This is not to detract in any way from Mañach’s book, which many judge to be the definitive book on Martí (in Spanish).

What makes López’ book so wonderful is that it is the first written in English. Moreover, López looked up to Martí as a man — with all his frailties and genius. Thus, he added another dimension to Martí that up to now was unknown. Rather than detracting from his persona, López made him better understood and relatable.

Anyone who is anxious to find out the racial dimensions of the Cuban struggle for independence from Spain and on Martí’s thoughts should read this book.

You can purchase your copy at

1959: Castro sworn in but he was never elected…..

We remember today a sad day in Cuban  history:

“On February 16, 1959, Fidel Castro is sworn in as prime minister of Cuba after leading a guerrilla campaign that forced right-wing dictator Fulgencio Batista into exile.

Castro, who became commander in chief of Cuba’s armed forces after Batista was ousted on January 1, replaced the more moderate Miro Cardona as head of the country’s new provisional government.”

It was a sad day for two reasons:

1) There was no legal rationale for it.   Castro was never elected.  It would have made more sense to restore the 1940 Constitituion and then hold elections.    Perphaps Castro would have won given his immense popular appeal but there are no guarantees.

2) Castro learned that day that he was “la ley” or the law.  He immediately governed with a demagogic tone and delayed elections until he declared himself a Marxist Lennist in 1961.  His “appointment” to Prime Minister also cemented “the cult of personality” that eventually destroyed the Cuba of our parents and grandparents.

Yes, a very sad day.


1898: Remember The Maine

On this day in 1898, US and Cuba politics came together because of the “Maine”:

“A massive explosion of unknown origin sinks the battleship USS Maine in Cuba’s Havana harbor, killing 260 of the fewer than 400 American crew members aboard……..

Within three months, the United States had decisively defeated Spanish forces on land and sea, and in August an armistice halted the fighting.

On December 12, 1898, the Treaty of Paris was signed between the United States and Spain, officially ending the Spanish-American War and granting the United States its first overseas empire with the ceding of such former Spanish possessions as Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines.”

Cubans finally celebrated independence on May 20, 1902.