Cards predate Castro reign

When I first purchased two sets of mounted postcards in 2017, I briefly mentioned them in a column back a couple of years ago. The one set featured postcards from The Netherlands. Those 15 postcards featured several very colorful and interesting shots of Holland, fields of tulips as well as the canals in Amsterdam. That set sold quickly at the Kane County Flea Market.

But somehow the set that features 15 postcards from Cuba didn’t get taken to Kane County. Squirreled away with some other art, I just happened upon the framed cards a few weeks ago. I hadn’t looked very closely at them, but when I did, I made a nice (but not too) surprising discovery.

All the postcards are from pre-Castro Cuba.

A little history searching tells us that Castro took over Cuba in 1959, when it became a Communist country. The U.S. was upset (understatement) at that prospect and had helped the Batista regime with the revolution. Castro won and soon there were a host of diplomatic issues between the two countries, with the USSR also part of the mix.

The Bay of Pigs incident as well as the Cuban Missile Crisis were two very serious incidents; but thankfully there was no nuclear wars. The Russians capitulated and removed the missiles from Cuba and President John F. Kennedy got credit for his part in the standoff.

That’s the brief history of Cuba immediately after Castro’s takeover, but let’s get back to the postcards.

Cuba, being only 90 miles from the U.S. was a popular vacation spot for Americans, who also earned plenty of cash as casino owners, oil suppliers and other businesses. The Cuban people lived mostly in poverty and some of these postcards depict that lifestyle. One of the postcards shows a family posing in front of their shack; dressed in old clothes and some without shoes. That postcard is titled, “A Cuban Country Family.”

Only two of the 15 postcards are black and white – The first is the Cathedral Havana Cuba and the second is a shot of a man standing in a grove of trees. That is titled, “Matanzas, Cuba Montsserrat Subida a la loma.” Others have locations named such as the National Capitol.

One of the color postcards, is titled, “Partial Air View of the City –Havana Cuba.” It is also stamped, “Patente No. 12706. This makes me think it is an American manufacturer or Havana would have been spelled Habana, as it is on another Cuban postcard.

Another postcard in the group is of the Morro Castle, which was built in 1589. According to information found on the Internet, “Inside the gates is an exhibition on the lighthouses of Cuba – El Morro once housed a school for lighthouse keepers. There was actually a watchtower here until the British blew it up during their successful siege in 1762. The Faro Castillo del Morro lighthouse was added in 1846. The cannons around the fort are now badly rusted, but the walls are well preserved. The fort has central barracks up to four stories high. A small underwater archeology exhibition is also located here. Noteworthy are the old latrines and their chute into the sea, as are the two sets of doors and the drawbridge mechanism. The current harbor master's office is still housed in the fortress. A plaque dedicated by the ambassador of the United Kingdom commemorates the 1762 siege, and a small memorial is located between two strong powder rooms in the northeast bastion. A small turret at the end of the wall offers views of the sea crashing onto the rocks 20 meters below, and of the huge dry moat. The opposite side of the moat holds more modern guns and cannons, La Bateria de Velasco, and offers a sweeping view down to Cojimar.”

Now that we have reopened diplomatic relations with Cuba, many Americans are planning to visit. Morro Castle is a popular tourist spot with a rich history of Cuba. I would like to visit Cuba someday, but in the meantime, I’m planning on doing some research on these postcards, mounted in a wooden frame and protected with glass.