Contesting Castro: The United States and the Triumph of the Cuban Revolution

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Today they stand as enemies, but in the 1950s, few countries were as closely intertwined as Cuba and the United States. Thousands of Americans (including Ernest Hemingway and Errol Flynn) lived on the island, and, in the United States, dancehalls swayed to the mambo beat. The strong-arm Batista regime depended on Washington's support, and it invited American gangsters like Meyer Lansky to build fancy casinos for U.S. tourists. Major league scouts searched for Cuban talent: The New York Giants even offered a contract to a young pitcher named Fidel Castro. In 1955, Castro did come to the United States, but not for baseball: He toured the country to raise money for a revolution.
Thomas Paterson tells the fascinating story of Castro's insurrection, from that early fund-raising trip to Batista's fall and the flowering of the Cuban Revolution that has bedeviled the United States for more than three decades. With evocative prose and a swift-moving narrative, Paterson recreates the love-hate relationship between the two nations, then traces the intrigue of the insurgency, the unfolding revolution, and the sources of the Bay of Pigs invasion, CIA assassination plots, and the missile crisis. The drama ranges from the casino blackjack tables to Miami streets; from the Eisenhower and Kennedy White Houses to the crowded deck of the Granma, the frail boat that carried the Fidelistas to Cuba from Mexico; from Batista's fortified palace to mountain hideouts where Rau'l Castro held American hostages. Drawing upon impressive international research, including declassified CIA documents and interviews, Paterson reveals how Washington, fixed on the issue of Communism, failed to grasp the widespread disaffection from Batista. The Eisenhower administration alienated Cubans by supplying arms to a hated regime, by sustaining Cuba's economic dependence, and by conspicuously backing Batista. As Batista self-destructed, U.S. officials launched third-force conspiracies in a vain attempt to block Castro's victory. By the time the defiant revolutionary leader entered Havana in early 1959, the foundation of the long, bitter hostility between Cuba and the United States had been firmly laid.
Since the end of the Cold War, the futures of Communist Cuba and Fidel Castro have become clouded. Paterson's gripping and timely account explores the origins of America's troubled relationship with its island neighbor, explains what went wrong and how the United States "let this one get away," and suggests paths to the future as the Clinton administration inches toward less hostile relations with a changing Cuba.

"Engaging diplomatic history of US-Cuban relations focuses on the 1950s and early 1960s. Aims to explain reasons for the conflict between neighbors"--Handbook of Latin American Studies, v. 57.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Succeeds telling a story that is crucial to understanding the frigid standoff that has defined relations between the United States and Cuba for the last 30 years."—New York Times Book Review

"Well-written [and] soundly documented....Riveting."—George McGovern

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195101201
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 8/28/1995
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 8.00 (w) x 5.38 (h) x 0.74 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas G. Paterson is Professor of History at the University of Connecticut. He is the author or editor of more than a dozen books, including On Every Front: The Making and Unmaking of the Cold War, Kennedy's Quest for Victory, and the popular textbook A People and a Nation.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: A Puzzling Matter 3
I Building the Cuban-American Relationship at Mid-Century
1 Dependencies: Batista, Castro, and the United States 15
2 Confusionist Cubanism: The Political Mess Before Granma 25
3 Sugar, North American Business, and Other Bittersweets 34
4 Curve Balls, Casinos, and Cuban-American Culture 46
5 Supplying Repression: Military, CIA and FBI Links 58
II Confronting the Insurrection
6 Thunderstorms: Castro's Granma Rebels and the Matthews Interview 69
7 Ambassador Gardner and the Propaganda War 81
8 Violence Victorious: Ambassador Smith Meets the Rebellion 90
9 Expanding Contact with the Rebels 99
10 Taking Sides: Arms, Arrests, and Elections 109
III Riding the Tiger to Defeat
11 Batista's Self-destruction and the Suspension of Arms 125
12 Terrible Mood: Castro and the General Strike 139
13 Operation Fin de Fidel and U.S. Weapons: Anti-Americanism Ascendant 150
14 Rocket Heads, Kidnappers, and the Castros 160
15 Frankenstein, Texaco, Nicaro, and a Toughened Attitude 173
16 Burning Up the Wires: The Quest for Communists and Arms 183
IV Dumping the Dictator, Blocking the Rebel
17 A Pox on Both Their Houses 195
18 Batista Dismissed: Pawley's Plot and Smith's Blow 206
19 U.S. Third-Force Conspiracies and Batista's Flight 216
20 Madhouse: Castro's Victory, Smith's Defeat 226
V Losing a Client
21 A Complete Break: How Did the United States Let This One Get Away? 241
22 Failing the Tests: The United States and Cuba in the Castro Era 255
Notes 264
Sources 319
Index 337
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