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Cuba Before the Revolution - by Samuel Farber

To the American popular eye, pre-revolutionary Cuba was the island of sin, a society consumed by the illnesses of gambling, the Mafia, and prostitution. Prominent American intellectuals echoed that view.

Even in 1969, when Cuban reality had changed drastically, Susan Sontag, in an article in Ramparts, described Cuba as “a country known mainly for dance, music, prostitutes, cigars, abortions, resort life, and pornographic movies.”

In a 2004 article for the Nation, Arthur Miller, based on what he had learned from people who had worked in the film industry in the island, described the Batista society “as hopelessly corrupt, a Mafia playground, a bordello for Americans and other foreigners.”

Although most Cubans would have readily admitted that Sontag and Miller had touched some of Cuba’s real wounds, they would have hardly seen them as the most representative, or as the most pressing problems that affected the island.

The perceptions dominant in America’s media revealed far more about the North American colonial worldview than anything about Cuba itself, a feature of the mainstream culture of the US that continues to prevail today.

Read more: Cuba Before the Revolution - Havana

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