Julia Sweig paints a vivid picture of Cuba from the time when it was still a Spanish colony through to the twenty first century and the struggles that their country and people have had to undergo in order to reach where they are today. …
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The book discusses the early liberation struggles of the people of this country against colonialism, first against Spain, and later against the United States, after the latter was awarded Cuba after winning its war against Spain (Sweig 8). The book also covers the years during which the country was ruled by American backed dictators who suppressed the country’s interests in favor of their sponsors, mainly the United States and companies from this country. It provides a clear picture of how Cuba had to suffer land alienation as almost two thirds of the country’s land be either in the hands of private owners from the United States or in that of American corporations (Sweig 16).
The book then moves on towards the events leading to the revolution and the American response to it that led this country to move into the Soviet sphere of influence. Sweig discusses the reasons for the success of the revolution despite the fact that it was often challenged by its more powerful neighbor to the north. In addition, within the book seems to be a criticism of the American policies on Cuba after the revolution and suggestions of what the former could have done differently to ensure that it remained influential within Cuba (Sweig 23). The five decades of the revolution are also discussed and this is coupled with a discussion of the circumstances that have ensured its survival to the present and the reasons why it did not collapse as soon as the Soviet Union, which was its main backer, did. Sweig also touches on the smooth transition of power from Fidel Castro to his brother Raul who presided over the economy liberalization so that the country does not only remain competitive globally, but also for the benefit of the Cuban people. (Sweig 131). According to Sweig (46), the revolution has played an immense part in the development of the people of Cuba since not only their standards of living but also their society changed for the better after the revolution. The revolution has ensured that the Cuban people are aware of each other’s equality and because of this, and then they have to treat each other well, like a part of a greater family. This positive attitude towards each other it has enabled all workers within the Cuban economy to concentrate more on service for the greater good of all Cubans, than to work for personal gain. One of the firmest principles which the revolution has instilled among the Cubans is that working for the people of Cuba is the most valuable thing because it is what will determine whether the revolution is eventually judged as being either a success or a failure. It is through the revolution that the Cubans became, for the first time, a united nation which was not divided by class or by interference from foreign countries such as the United States. It is only after the revolution that the Cubans came to identify their country as their own and this has created a strong nationalist feeling among them that is hard to match anywhere else in the world. The fact that the revolution has managed to survive for this long can be attributed in part to the strong sense of ownership that the Cubans have towards the revolution. One of the legacies of the revolution that Sweig discusses in her book is that of the achievement of literacy for all Cubans and because of this, Cuba is currently the only country in the world which has achieved a hundred percent literacy for all its citizens and all Cubans of any age have at least a basic education, a feat
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