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The Cuban Revolution: Years of Promise (review)

From: Arizona Journal of Hispanic Cultural Studies
Volume 10, 2006
pp. 297-299 | 10.1353/hcs.2007.0020

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The Cuban Revolution: Years of Promise, by Teo A. and Victor Andres Triay, is an exceptionally significant contribution to Cuban history through the power of photography. This book which is also subtitled, A Photographic History of the Cuban Revolution, consists of 110 pages of photographs and 20 pages of textual information and narratives of the illustrated events. Most of the images are always accompanied by short descriptions of the events that led to the Cuban revolution and its immediate aftermath. Unlike many other historical texts in which the participants have no faces, this book captures not only the faces of its most important revolutionaries but the photographs are also a powerful testimony of the direct participation of many Cubans in the political developments in the island before and after the 1959 revolution.

In this book, the authors employ a chronological approach highlighting four principal stages of the Cuban revolution beginning in 1953 with the attack on the Moncada military barracks and ending in 1961 with the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. However, it is the preface that serves as in introduction, where Teo A. Babun Jr. one of the authors, sets the frame for the pictures that describe the first incidents of the revolution. According to Babun on May 28, 1957, almost six months after his arrival to Cuba, Fidel Castro led a small group of guerrillas in an attack against a Cuban army garrison near his father's sawmill of El Uvero, near a town of the same name. Later, Babun goes on to mention that this small battle was the first important victory for Castro's army against the forces of dictator Fulgencio Batista. The author describes how his father, an influential industrialist, from Santiago, Cuba, had the intuition that these small developments were the begining of an important time in the history of his country. In time, according to Babun himself, his father went on to develop a relationship and became a sympathiser to the rebel's cause and used his businesses as a cover to help smuggle arms and ammunition to them. Ironically, says Babun Jr., little would his father ever know that a few short years later Babun's family members would participate in the Bay of Pigs invasion. After his father's death in 1987, Babun goes on to say how he found two shoe boxes filled with photographs of this important part of Cuban history that his father had collected, including many of the pictures that Mr. Jose "Chillin" Trutie had taken. After many years of organizing these photographs Mr. Babun says that he decided to tell the story of the Cuban Revolution and its aftermath with his father's pictures. In 2003, Babun says that joined forces with Victor Andres Triay to make this book in pictures a reality.

In the first part of the book, Babun and Triay attempt to give the reader a clear and concise location of where many of the most important events of the Cuban revolution and its aftermath took place. The authors salvage photographs from history which depict the uprising against dictator Fulgencio Batista going back to 1952, when Fidel Castro was a candidate to the House of Representatives. However, it is with the photographs of the 1953 attack on the Moncada barracks and another picture of young Fidel Castro awaiting trial for this attack when the authors introduces the reader to this time in Cuba's history.

In the second section of the text, the authors portray photographs that bring to light Castro's rebels first acts of sabotage in 1957, shortly after his arrival from Mexico. Some these attacks highlight destroying the sugarcane mills that were at the heart of the Cuban economy. This section contains a short narrative of the events that gave rise to Fidel Castro's small army in the Sierra Maestra Mountains and underlines the importance of his July 26 movement as the base of his political support. A historical picture of great significance in this section is that of Josue País, the brother of Frank País and the co-leader of the local July 26 movement who was assassinated while driving in the Streets of Santiago de...