I am Cuba: Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution (2020) – Matthew Langdon Cost

Title:I am Cuba: Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution
Author:Matthew Langdon Cost
Publisher:Encircle Publications
Publication date:2020
Star rating:⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Disclaimer:I was kindly sent a copy of this book by the author Matthew Langdon Cost in exchange for an honest review

You do not kill ideas”

Cost’s foray into the Cuban revolution, and pivotal moments between the years 1951 and 1959 in which Fidel Castro led a group of unknown revolutionaries into several battles, is equally well-researched as well as brilliant in its inclusion of the human experience. As detailed as it is it does not simply read like a textbook on Cuban history, but rather reads like a great spy adventure in which normal citizens become heroes and the ‘average joe’ can fall in love with the mysterious foreign expatriate. It is both a telling of history and a tale of great bravery under a violent and corrupt regime. It is also a great study of the inevitable class struggles, and how important history is to the Cuban people.

We are first introduced to Vicente Bolivar, a young man whose father died at the hands of the former Cuban president, Fulgencio Batista. He will meet the infamous Fidel Castro, a lawyer from a wealthy family, and become his driver and major confidante over the many years of rebellion. From Vicente’s point of view the reader will experience the intimacies of being close to Fidel Castro and his philosophies and politics. Castro was well-known for his hatred of America’s involvement in Cuba’s economy, and for Batsist’a role in the unequal distribution of wealth. Chronologically Cost describes the numerous retaliations and attacks on Batista’s army, and their eventual retreat into the mountains where the rebels lived under very harsh conditions. They retreated into the mountains because they had no alternative. Those that joined Castro (mostly scholars and people in the working class) were either killed or were some of the lucky few to survive the corrupt reign of a president who eventually abandoned his people and his post and left Cuba on a plane in the middle of the night along with his equally corrupt cronies and family.

Amidst the retelling of history, Vicente the protagonist is falling in love with an Italian American socialite on holiday in Havana, who eventually joins the rebels. As with Castro himself, Cost is also sure to mention the various women that were involved in the war. Not merely scenery but major players in a war in which only a few hundred managed to defeat several thousand. Included in this list of important women is society girl turned revolutionary, Celia Sanchez who aided Castro in his fight and was also his lover.

Cost describes significant moments in which the Movimiento 26th de Julio first attacked the Moncada barracks and failed, invaded Cuba from Mexico via the ship Granma in 1953, and the joining of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, an Argentinian doctor who joined the rebels and shared a love of reading with Castro. Each of these occasions and so many others were significant in the overall history of the revolutionary movement. To read about them in such intimate detail feels as though you as the reader are also hidden among the harsh landscapes trying to escape the brute force of Batista’s armed troops, and the frightening realities of possible capture and torture.

This book is riveting from the first page and it is mostly because Cost has a very real talent for telling the people’s story. At the time the media coverage of his story was very important and Castro allowed Times journalist Herbert Matthews to join them in the mountains. For a while Castro was believed to be dead and it was Matthews who set the record straight.

Fidel’s greatest fear was irrelevance”

This book is a pleasure to read from the perspective of someone who knew very little Cuban history, and especially that of Castro’s role in it’s liberation. It is equally pleasurable to anyone with prior knowledge as its point of view is unique and it’s narrative filled with passion, loyalty and the universal need to fight for one’s own freedom no matter the consequences. A truly inspiring book that I highly recommend to anyone with an interest in history and/or the human condition.

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