Cuban children are also taught, although some mislearn it or pretend to forget it as adults, that until 1959 Cuba was a country with a monoculture (sugar cane), on American-owned land, but located in its own territory; that it exported only one product (sugar) to only one market: the United States. The American companies had bought the best lands at the price of pennies per caballeria [1 caballería=194.2 acres], after a war in which their government intervened – in an opportunistic manner – when the Cubans had cornered the largest army that Spain had ever had in America.
From the beginning of that struggle for the independence of Cuba and Puerto Rico, José Martí, its main organizer, would leave written for posterity his intention to meddle in uncomfortable matters: «It is a world that we are balancing; it is not only two islands that we are going to liberate», and he would also define that what he did and would do was to «prevent in time with the independence of Cuba that the United States spread through the Antilles and fall, with that force more, on our lands of America».
Martí was a man who, with a universal vision, wrote about the struggles of peoples in the most diverse environments: His first literary work (Abdala) is set in the Middle East, and it is difficult to find a people defending their sovereignty that has not had Marti’s pen at its side. From Ireland to Vietnam, as the original peoples of what he called Our America, had in him the attentive and deep look on their resistances, as well as the workers of Chicago that the world of work honors every May 1st.
An exemplary Martiano, Fidel understood that limiting the actions of the Revolution in the international arena to denouncing U.S. aggressions, without at the same time trying to change the environment that supports them, would be suicidal for Cuban revolutionaries. Because of its humanist and universal Marti vision, but also because of the understanding that this enormous asymmetry can only be balanced with an active and founding participation in the international arena. For that reason, far from conceiving the relations between the United States and Cuba only as a bilateral problem, or reducing them to the issue of the economic blockade, he always had an integral and global vision of them.
From the nationalizations and the Five Points of the October Crisis to the Baraguá Oath, passing through the battles against the extraterritoriality of Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, against the Bush Plan, for the return of the child Elián and the freedom of the Five Cuban anti-terrorists unjustly sentenced in the United States, the Comandante made the anti-imperialist struggle an instrument of social cohesion with the people as its protagonist, a reason for popular mobilization in Cuba and of the international public opinion that would impose a high political cost to the adversary.
From aid to national liberation movements and the massive training of professionals for the Third World to the sending of medical brigades and the export of competitive biotechnological products, including its recent and very effective vaccines against COVID-19, Cuba’s role in the world has been and is a thousand times superior to what could be expected from a small resistant country on the borders of the largest empire in history.
U.S. imperialism is not Cuba’s problem, it is humanity’s problem. U.S. policies not only threaten Cuba, they threaten the very survival of the human species. The emergence of new and growing responses to those policies, recognize the role that the island has held as a symbol of resistance to that hegemonic pretension.
That is what explains the impressive, diverse and supportive reception that the delegation headed by Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel has just received in Algeria, Russia, Turkey and China, shortly after the 30th overwhelming rejection of the U.S. economic blockade against Cuba at the UN, or the almost unanimous disqualification of a Summit of the Americas without Cubans. It is not only that these countries support Cuba, it is also that by supporting it they know that they are supporting themselves, at a critical time when Washington’s orders are no longer obeyed even in Saudi Arabia.
Once again, Martí synthesizes: «Cuba does not go around the world begging, it goes around as a sister, and by saving itself it saves and acts with the authority of such. Friends and enemies know it, as we should know here that in order to maintain that authority with which the word Cuba admires the world, the decisive thing is what we do with that support, on this Island and beyond, those of us who call ourselves Cubans.