Tag Archives: Civil War

InCity Documentary Review

But first …

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“HARVEST OF EMPIRE: A History of Latinos in America”

Reviewed by Steven R. Maher

For Direct TV viewers: “Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America” can be watched or recorded on the LINK Channel 375 Tuesday, February 28, at 6 a.m. There are also several websites where the movie can be seen.

The hottest button issue on the American political agenda today is immigration from Mexico and Central America. Donald J. Trump was elected President in part by harping on this issue. It was with that in mind I recently watched an obscure Direct TV Channel (LINK, Channel 375) documentary – “Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America.”

This documentary is based on a book by Juan Gonzalez, from Puerto Rico. This writer was very surprised when the film opened with Harry Truman saying Puerto Ricans were being starved on slave labor wages in the land of their birth. Truman’s narration of corporate exploitation was accompanied by films of farm laborers in Puerto Rico looking like emaciated concentration camp survivors.

This was surprising because in November 1950 a Puerto Rican independence group attempted to assassinate Truman and because Republicans today often cite Truman as a “good Democrat.” Gonzalez places Latino immigration to America in a historical context. Gonzalez makes a persuasive argument that past American military intervention has created an environment that periodically stimulates the very immigration Trump wants to build a wall to stop.

Started with Mexico

In 1845 – 1848 the United States invaded Mexico and annexed the northern half of the country, where southern California, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and parts of other states now exist. Some in the U.S. wanted to annex Mexico in its entirety, but others believed a shotgun marriage between White Anglo Saxon Protestant America and Catholic Mexico would not be a happy union. A compromise was reached where it was agreed the U.S. would take Mexico’s relatively unpopulated northern provinces. While the film didn’t give any statistics, there was a Mexican populace in these provinces “who didn’t come to the border, the border came to us.”

Throughout American history, Mexican immigrants were welcomed in the United States when we experienced labor shortages, such as during World War I and World War II. Then, after the wars ended and native Americans came home looking for work, the Mexicans were expelled as illegal immigrants, says Gonzalez.

In 1898, the United States, after a war with Spain, expanded American territories to include Cuba, the Philippines and Puerto Rico. While the first two countries eventually became independent, Puerto Rico was retained as essentially a U.S. protectorate. The U.S. imposed on Puerto Rico a justice system where English was the only language used and an educational system where Spanish could not be spoken. While many Puerto Ricans over time benefitted financially from their status as quasi-Americans, Gonzalez says they “paid a heavy price.”

Five Nations Spur Immigration

Gonzalez argues that U.S. interventions in five Central American nations led to an explosion of the U.S. Latino population:

• Early in the 20th century the U.S. occupied the Dominican Republic, brought to power dictator Rafael Trujillo, and reoccupied the country in 1965 to stop an alleged pro-Castro takeover. This is the least persuasive example cited by Gonzalez. Trujillo was assassinated in 1961 by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and Dominicans seem drawn here more for economic reasons than because of a civil war more than half a century ago.

• Cuba is identified as a country where U.S. military intervention also spurred immigration. A better argument could be made that Fidel Castro’s repressive regime and catastrophic economic mismanagement led to mass flight to the U.S.

• In 1954 the CIA overthrew a Guatemalan government that had expropriated land owned by the United Fruit Company, with which the U.S. Secretary of State and the Director of the CIA, the brothers Dulles, had strong commercial ties. This was a very disturbing scene to view. One could not help but think of members of the Trump cabinet, with their business interests around the Developing World, while watching the Dulles brothers plunge Guatemala into a 40-year civil war that killed 200,000 Guatemalans.

• During the waning years of the Cold War, Gonzalez claims the United States funded death squads in El Salvador that assassinated Archbishop Óscar Romero and four Maryknoll nuns. (Some of these death squads were organized by Roberto D’Aubuisson, known as “Major Blowtorch” for his preferred torture method.)

• During the Cold War, the United States in the 1980s funded the Nicaraguan Contras to overthrow the pro-Communist Sandinista government. Gonzalez says the Contras were comprised primarily of former members of the deposed Somoza dictatorship. However, there were many former Sandinistas in the ranks of the Contras, along with many Nicaraguan freedom fighters, who had nothing to do with the Somozas.

While the U.S. military involvement in Cuba and the Dominican Republic did not send fleeing masses of Cubans and Dominicans to our shores, Gonzalez is on safer grounds in stating the ramifications of the Salvadorian, Guatemalan and Nicaraguan civil wars spurred immigration to the U.S. It should be noted that the Salvadorian, Guatemalan and Nicaraguan conflicts were resolved in the early 1990s, a quarter of a century ago.

Viewing Time

Direct TV users who want to record “Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America” on the LINK Channel 375 can do so Tuesday, February 28, at 6 a.m. There are also several websites where the movie can be seen.

HISTORY WILL NOT ABSOLVE FIDEL CASTRO

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Cuba had Castro; we had Kennedy💝   pic:R.T

By Steven R. Maher

In 1953 Fidel Castro stood in the dock of a Cuban court. On July 26, 1953, Castro had led an armed attack on the Moncada Barracks, the second largest army base in Cuba, in an attempt to overthrow the tyrant Fulgencio Batista. Castro and his 135 followers planned to take the 1,000-man garrison by surprise, and use the barracks and captured weaponry as a “Free Territory” to set off a civil war. The attack failed, and approximately sixty of Castro’s followers were brutally murdered.
Castro in court denounced the state of Cuban society, the savagery of Batista’s dictatorship, and concluded with an inspiring battle cry.

“Condemn me, it does not matter. History will absolve me!” Castro cried out.
Thirty years earlier Adolph Hitler had stood in a German dock after he, too, had led a failed revolt.

“You may pronounce us guilty a thousand times over, but the goddess of the eternal court of history will smile and tear to tatters the brief of the state prosecutor and the sentence of the court. For she acquits us!” Hitler cried out.

Castro biographer Georgie A. Geyer in “Guerrilla Prince” quoted historian Ward M. Morton: “Both [Hitler and Castro] put the accusers and the regime they represented on trial for cowardice, cruelty, persecution, and base betrayal of the national spirit. Both announced a mission: to realize the true destiny of the fatherland by purging it of all its faults. Both speeches contained many references to blood, death and sacrifice and both ended with almost the same identical phrases.”

It seems Castro had intellectual mentors other than Marx and Lenin.

Bankrupted

Fifty three years later Castro died on November 25, 2016. It is unlikely history will absolve Castro of the terrible legacy he has left Cuba. Today Cuba is a totalitarian dictatorship in which the populace at large has access to decent health care and education, but little else. By every other measure, Cuba has been bankrupted.

Such a denouement seemed unlikely in 1953. After serving two years of a fifteen year prison sentence, Castro went to New York and raised money to fund an expedition from Mexico mostly of Cuban exiles (and the group’s doctor, the Argentine Che Guevara.) Castro landed in Cuba with 82 men in November 1956 and was attacked by Batista’s army. His force reduced to fifteen men, Castro went into the Sierra Maestra Mountains at the opposite end of the island from Havana.

What followed was one of the most heroic and romantic stories of the 20th century. With only fifteen men, Castro launched a guerrilla war, attacking isolated army barracks and ambushing army units sent out to capture him. He built up his guerrilla army in the Sierra Maestra, equipping his men with captured weapons. Because his guerrillas often went without shaving gear, they grew long beards and became celebrated as the “Barbudos,” the “bearded ones.” “Our beards and hair belong to the revolution now,” Castro told his followers.

Castro waged his war in the North American media as much as he did in the mountains of Cuba. He often submitted to interviews with media outlets like the New York Times and television stations. Castro sounded like a Hispanic Thomas Jefferson, talking of liberty, the right to free expression, the need for elected representation, the necessity of dissent.

Castro’s guerrillas won battle after battle against overwhelming odds. When Batista sent 10,000 men into the Sierra Maestra to destroy the insurgents, Castro defeated them with only 300 guerillas. Che Guevara successfully attacked Santa Clara in central Cuba with 300 men, a city defended by thousands of soldiers armed with tanks and artillery.

On January 1, 1959 Batista fled Cuba. Castro then rode a tank from the Sierra Maestra down the central highway of Cuba, to be cheered by millions of Cubans along the way. “Havana went out to cheer,” wrote historian Hugh Thomas in his excellent historical tome, “Cuba: The Pursuit of Freedom”, when Castro arrived in Havana amidst the applause of a million Cubans. Castro rode to the biggest military base in Cuba and promised not to become a dictator himself.

“We cannot become dictators,” said Castro. “We shall never need to use force, because we have the people, and because the people shall judge, and because the day the people want, I will leave.”

While Castro spoke, someone released several doves. One dove flew to Castro and rested on his shoulder the entire time he spoke. Castro was then 32 years old.

Frozen in time

“To many people the month of January 1959 in Havana was a unique moment of history,” wrote Thomas, “golden in promise, the dawn of a new age; great projects which had already begun; however, in a way that most of them scarcely appreciated, it was also the end of an era.”

This was the image that liberals and leftists kept frozen in their minds as they came to the defense of Castro over the decades to follow – Castro being cheered by millions of Cubans thronging to hear him, the bearded insurgent in the hills who sounded like Thomas Jefferson, the victorious guerrilla standing triumphant with the symbol of peace, a dove, perched on his shoulder as he spoke to thunderous applause.

Within months of arriving in Havana Castro began tightening the screws. There were mass executions of Batista war criminals. Over time newspapers were shut down, opponents shouted down by mobs or imprisoned, and massive numbers of Cubans fled the country. Cubans who talked of liberty, like Castro did at his Moncada trial, found themselves in prison. Cubans who took up arms to fight the new dictatorship, like Castro did, found themselves in front of firing squads. In 1968 Castro, who had taken power as a bearded insurrectionist, ordered “mass shavings of long-haired men and the departure of mini-skirted girls, who were said to have made ‘passionate love in their school girl uniforms’, to forced labor camps in the countryside,” wrote Thomas.

The new tyrant proved the accuracy of the old dictum that “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Castro had talked of improving the lives of Cuban peasants. While they went hungry in collective farms, Castro lived opulently in beach front homes, dined on gourmet dinners, and wanted for nothing. The country became his experimental laboratory where Castro failed at genetically improving cows, grew watery strawberries the size of softballs that no one would buy, and set up a “coffee cordon” around Havana that died out, because of bad soil.

Backed wrong side

Castro’s biggest mistake was backing the wrong side in the Cold War. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and the Russian subsidies went away, Cuba’s standard of living during the “special period” plunged below that of Haiti.
“Lower than Haiti?” asked historian Thomas. “It seems possible.”

History is unlikely to absolve Fidel Castro. In 1959 he was an internationally recognized hero, an almost messiah-like figure to Cubans, and was overwhelmingly popular in the United States. Only 90 miles away from the world’s richest economy, Castro could have built a parliamentary democracy, a strong export economy based on sugar cane converted into ethanol, brought social justice to the Cuban masses, and been remembered as a Latin George Washington. That is likely to be history’s judgment on Fidel Castro: the man who had the world at his feet, and then blew it.

Greendale: “Music from and about the Civil War era”

Massachusetts Society of Genealogists meet at the Zion Lutheran Church

41 Whitmarsh Ave.

TUESDAY, November 11, 7 pm

New Members Welcome!

“Music from and about the Civil War era”

The November meeting of the Worcester Chapter of the Massachusetts Society of Genealogists, Inc. will be held the second TUESDAY evening on November 11th at the Zion Lutheran Church, which is located at 41 Whitmarsh Avenue (Greendale Neighborhood).

If you wish, you can arrive from 6:30 pm to attend an earlier ½ hour of socialization time.

The night will begin with a short meeting followed by the “Music from and about the Civil War era” a live performance by Lori Lyn Price.

You may be surprised at how many melodies you will find familiar, even if you don’t know the background of the composition – proof that music is a historical reference that is part of all of us, even if we are not conscious that it’s taken its place within our hearts.

Local songwriter, singer, and guitarist Luanne Crosby offers a compelling and entertaining story about songs from the Civil War period, the composers who wrote them, and how the soldiers brought them into battle.

The meeting is open to the public, free for members and $3.00 for non-members.

Attendees are encouraged to bring along a friend(s), as well as your own non-alcoholic beverage, munchies will be provided.

Anyone bringing goodies to share will receive an extra door prize ticket!

Yearly membership is only $25 for an individual and $30 for a family living in the same household.        
                       

Why do Black people celebrate “Juneteenth”?

By Parlee Jones

Why do Black people celebrate “Juneteenth”? It can be asked wonderingly, or confusedly, or with an attitude. A lot of people wondering “why can’t we just celebrate on the Fourth of July?” Hmmm. July 4, 1776? Just in case you did not know, Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation freeing Black people in America on September 22, 1862, with an effective date of January 1, 1863. Hence, Black people in America were SLAVES on July 4th 1776 although there were many African American’s who fought for the freedom of White people in America in 1776. Salem Poor, Crispus Attucks, Prince Esterbrooks, Peter Williams, Oliver Cromwell, Jordan B. Nobel, Peter Salem, Jude Hall, Prince Whipple, and many, many, many more free, slave and ex-slaves fought side by side with white colonists seeking independence from British domination, even as their own freedom was non-existent in the country they served.

That being said, the flip side to that question is “Why do Black People celebrate July 4th? I am the last person to turn down a cook-out or a gathering that brings people together in Harmony. Fourth of July cookouts do that and the general population are really not even aware or don’t really care to talk about our state in that time. A lot of people want to let all that “slave talk” die and go away, but as long as we refuse to at least acknowledge our past history in America, our children will never completely understand the way America works and our place here.

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19ththat the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed atGalveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and thearrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.

Later attempts to explain this two and a half year delay in the receipt of this important news have yielded several versions that have been handed down through the years. Often told is the story of a messenger who was murdered on his way to Texas with the news of freedom. Another, is that the news wasdeliberately withheld by the enslavers to maintain the labor force on the plantations. And still another, is that federal troops actually waited for the slave owners to reap the benefits of one last cotton harvest before going to Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. All of which, or neither of these version could be true. Certainly, for some, President Lincoln’s authority over the rebellious states was in question For whatever the reasons, conditions in Texasremained status quo well beyond what was statutory.

General Order Number 3

One of General Granger’s first orders of business was to read to the people of Texas, General Order Number 3 which began most significantly with:
“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.”
The reactions to this profound news ranged from pure shock to immediatejubilation. While many lingered to learn of this new employer to employee relationship, many left before these offers were completely off the lips of their former ‘masters’ – attesting to the varying conditions on the plantations and the realization of freedom. Even with nowhere to go, many felt that leaving the plantation would be their first grasp of freedom. North was a logical destination and for many it represented true freedom, while the desire to reach family members in neighboring states drove the some into Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Settling into these new areas as free men and women brought on new realities and the challenges of establishing a heretofore non-existent status for black people in America.

Recounting the memories of that great day in June of 1865 and its festivities would serve as motivation as well as a release from the growing pressures encountered in their new territory. The celebration of June 19th was coined “Juneteenth” and grew with more participation from descendants. The Juneteenth celebration was a time for reassuring each other, for praying and for gathering remaining family members. Juneteenth continued to be highly revered in Texas decades later, with many former slaves and descendants making an annual pilgrimage back to Galveston on this date.

Juneteenth Festivities and Food

A range of activities were provided to entertain the masses, many of which continue in tradition today. Rodeos, fishing, barbecuing and baseball are just a few of the typical Juneteenth activities you may witness today. Juneteenthalmost always focused on education and self improvement. Thus, oftenguest speakers are brought in and the elders are called upon to recount the events of the past. Prayer services were also a major part of these celebrations.

Certain foods became popular and subsequently synonymous with Juneteenth celebrations such as strawberry soda-pop. More traditional and just as popular was the barbecuing, through which Juneteenth participants could share in the spirit and aromas that their ancestors – the newly emancipated African Americans, would have experienced during their ceremonies. Hence, thebarbecue pit is often established as the center of attention at Juneteenth celebrations.
Food was abundant because everyone prepared a special dish. Meats such as lamb, pork and beef which not available everyday were brought on this special occasion. A true Juneteenth celebrations left visitors well satisfied and with enough conversation to last until the next.

Dress was also an important element in early Juneteenth customs and is often still taken seriously, particularly by the direct descendants who can make the connection to this tradition’s roots. During slavery there were laws on the books in many areas that prohibited or limited the dressing of the enslaved. During the initial days of the emancipation celebrations, there are accounts of former slaves tossing their ragged garments into the creeks and rivers to adorn clothing taken from the plantations belonging to their former ‘masters’.
Juneteenth and Society

In the early years, little interest existed outside the African American community in participation in the celebrations. In some cases, there was outwardly exhibited resistance by barring the use of public property for the festivities. Most of the festivities found themselves out in rural areasaround rivers and creeks that could provide for additional activities such asfishing, horseback riding and barbecues. Often the church grounds was the site for such activities. Eventually, as African Americans became land owners, land was donated and dedicated for these festivities. One of the earliest documented land purchases in the name of Juneteenth was organized by Rev. Jack Yates. This fund-raising effort yielded $1000 and the purchase ofEmancipation Park in Houston, Texas. In Mexia, the local Juneteenth organization purchased Booker T. Washington Park, which had become the Juneteenth celebration site in 1898. There are accounts of Juneteenth activities being interrupted and halted by white landowners demanding that their laborers return to work. However, it seems most allowed their workers the day off and some even made donations of food and money. For decades these annual celebrations flourished, growing continuously with each passing year. In Booker T. Washington Park, as many as 20,000 African Americans once flowed through during the course of a week, making the celebration one of the state’s largest.
Juneteenth Celebrations Decline

Economic and cultural forces provided for a decline in Juneteenth activities and participants beginning in the early 1900’s. Classroom and textbook education in lieu of traditional home and family-taught practices stifled the interest of the youth due to less emphasis and detail on the activities of former slaves. Classroom text books proclaimed Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863 as the date signaling the ending of slavery – andlittle or nothing on the impact of General Granger’s arrival on June 19th.

The Depression forced many people off the farms and into the cities to find work. In these urban environments, employers were less eager to grant leaves to celebrate this date. Thus, unless June 19th fell on a weekend or holiday, there were very few participants available. July 4th was the already established Independence holiday and a rise in patriotism steered more toward this celebration.

Resurgence

The Civil Rights movement of the 50’s and 60’s yielded both positive and negative results for the Juneteenth celebrations. While it pulled many of the African American youth away and into the struggle for racial equality, many linked these struggles to the historical struggles of their ancestors. This was evidenced by student demonstrators involved in the Atlanta civil rights campaign in the early 1960’s, whom wore Juneteenth freedom buttons. Again in 1968, Juneteenth received another strong resurgence through Poor Peoples March to Washington D.C.. Rev. Ralph Abernathy’s call for people of all races, creeds, economic levels and professions to come to Washington to show support for the poor. Many of these attendees returned home and initiated Juneteenth celebrations in areas previously absent of such activity. In fact, two of the largest Juneteenth celebrations founded after this March are now held in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.

Texas Blazes the Trail

On January 1, 1980, Juneteenth became an official state holiday through the efforts of Al Edwards, an African American state legislator. The successful passage of this bill marked Juneteenth as the first emancipation celebration granted official state recognition. Edwards has since actively sought to spread the observance of Juneteenth all across America.

Juneteenth In Modern Times

Today, Juneteenth is enjoying a phenomenal growth rate within communities and organizations throughout the country. Institutions such as the Smithsonian, the Henry Ford Museum and others have begun sponsoring Juneteenth-centered activities. In recent years, a number of local and national Juneteenth organizations have arisen to take their place along side older organizations – all with the mission to promote and cultivate knowledge and appreciation of African American history and culture.
Juneteenth today, celebrates African American freedom and achievement,while encouraging continuous self-development and respect for all cultures. As it takes on a more national, symbolic and even global perspective, the events of 1865 in Texas are not forgotten, for all of the roots tie back to this fertile soil from which a national day of pride is growing.

The future of Juneteenth looks bright as the number of cities and states creating Juneteenth committees continues to increase. Respect and appreciation for all of our differences grow out of exposure and working together. Getting involved and supporting Juneteenth celebrations creates new bonds of friendship and understanding among us. This indeed, brightens our future – and that is the Spirit of Juneteenth.