From Boomers to Millennials: A Modern US History Podcast

Episode 14 - 1959: Coping with Cuba

April 30, 2021 Logan Rogers Season 2 Episode 4
From Boomers to Millennials: A Modern US History Podcast
Episode 14 - 1959: Coping with Cuba
Show Notes Transcript

This episode first examines the Great Leap Forward in China, an instance of bad Maoist policies creating mass starvation. We then discuss diplomatic exchanges between the superpowers in 1959, including the Kitchen Debate between Khrushchev & Nixon, as well as the Soviet Premier's cordial visit to the USA later that same year. But the main portion of our program explores the causes, consequences, & legacy of a dramatic political revolution in the Caribbean island nation of Cuba. The January 1959 Cuban Revolution was a key turning point in the history of the Cold War. US support of dictator Fulgencio Batista, alongside the heavy influence by American corporations & organized criminal syndicates on the island, led Cuban revolutionaries such as Fidel Castro & Che Guevara to distrust the United States. They instead pursued an alliance with the capitalist Americans' archrival, the Communist Soviet Union. This pact panicked the Eisenhower Administration. In response to the emergence of a Marxist regime in Cuba, the USA attempted to adopt more humane policies toward other Latin American nations (in an attempt to prevent similar left-wing revolutions), while simultaneously taking a very hard line against Castro. By 1960, the CIA was training anti-Castro Cuban exiles to invade the island & topple the regime. In the early 60s, tensions over the fate of Cuba would bring the two superpowers to the brink of nuclear war. 

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            From Boomers to Millennials is a modern US history podcast, providing a fresh look at the historic events that shaped current generations, from the end of World War II up to the present day. Welcome to 1959, a/k/a Episode 14, “Coping with Cuba.” On January 8, 1959, a bearded young revolutionary named Fidel Castro took power in Havana, Cuba. Castro’s rebel insurgents had forced a corrupt Cuban dictator to flee the country one week earlier. Many local Cubans were excited about a new government that they hoped would be more responsive to the needs of the people. However, the United States was uneasy about this shift in the political winds in an island nation just 90 miles south of Florida. Over the 2 years that followed, that nervousness would turn to alarm when Fidel Castro fully embraced capitalist America’s sworn enemy, the Communist USSR.


            However, before we get into the drama of the Cuban Revolution, we will examine a couple of other incidents, also involving Communists, that took place during 1959. We begin with a brief discussion of a subject not often covered in US history textbooks: the so-called “Great Leap Forward,” one of the great human catastrophes of the 20th Century. Americans are not often taught about this disaster, because it involved the internal policies of a distant & secretive foreign power, but this landmark event in Chinese History is important to world history. In the People’s Republic of China, from 1958 to 1962, the Communist dictator Mao Zedong attempted a new set of government policies that created a calamity. Attempting to achieve a higher stage of economic development, Mao raised grain quotas for farmers to much higher levels. Local Communist officials knew that failing to meet Mao’s goals could be met with their arrest & imprisonment. So, these local officials lied and told the regime that they had met the unrealistic agricultural quotas. This caused the government to significantly overestimate its grain supply & misallocate its distribution of food. Meanwhile, the Chinese regime also foolishly diverted some farmworkers to industrial production, urging them to make steel out of scrap metal in backyard furnaces, when most humble peasants only had the means to make low-quality pig iron of little value. Mao’s desire for a “great leap forward” in terms of agricultural production also involved the elimination of pests that served as a threat to the crops. He ordered the Chinese people to kill large numbers of rodents, flies, & sparrows. But messing around with the ecological food chain generally isn’t a good idea. Sure enough, with the sparrow populations decimated, the grasshopper population ballooned, & clouds of locusts began devastating the fields in some regions. 


These Communist Chinese policies involved massive miscalculations, & in a vast, heavily populated country like China, these man-made mistakes combined with a natural drought to cause famine & death on a truly massive scale. Tens of millions of people died in the Great Leap Forward, making Mao responsible for a number of deaths that likely exceed even those killed by Hitler or Stalin. The catastrophe occurred due to the valuing of Maoist ideology over sound science, & because of an authoritarian mindset that ranked the leader’s wishes above the common good & plain common sense. For many Chinese people, sadly, the ambitious Communist government initiatives of this era involved only a great leap into the grave. However, because so-called “Red China” was such a closed society, most contemporary Americans knew little about the vast disaster that was occurring in the Far East during this era. Today, you can look at a chart of global population growth rates during the 20th Century & see a significant dip during the late Fifties & early Sixties. That statistical anomaly represents the consequences of the Great Leap Forward, & the story behind it is one of incredible hubris & terrible suffering. Today, China is far more skillful at managing its economy & providing for its people, although its authoritarian central government still creates many problems & hides its failures.


On a much more positive note, in our last full-length episode, we described a thaw in the Cold War during the late 50s that allowed for a less paranoid cultural atmosphere in the USA & which had also provided political opportunities for Cold War Liberals. In 1959, President Eisenhower & Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev worked to take advantage of that thaw & reach some kind of lasting agreement allowing for a less tense relationship between the two superpowers. The Russian leader made the first move. Historian George C. Herring writes that (quote) “In January 1958, Khrushchev proclaimed Soviet intentions to cut conventional forces by 300,000 troops. Two months later, he announced a unilateral suspension of nuclear testing” (close quote). Herring argues that Khrushchev did so, hoping to be able to divert resources from military to domestic needs. Eisenhower was skeptical at responding in kind at first; members of the US Department of Defense & the Atomic Energy Commission told the president that nuclear testing was essential to national security. But Herring reports that (quote) “after . . . [a media] uproar over the dangers of nuclear fallout, Eisenhower belatedly committed to suspending atmospheric testing” (close quote). Professor James T. Patterson notes that (quote) “Although both sides kept building bombs, chances for some kind of nuclear [arms limitation] arrangement seemed more promising than at any time [thus far] in the history of the Cold War” (close quote).


            However, the unpredictable Khrushchev undermined Soviet peace overtures by simultaneously saber-rattling over the status of the city of Berlin, which remained divided between the superpowers & yet was isolated geographically within the Communist satellite state of East Germany. This was not the first time that the Soviets had used Berlin as a pressure point to try to win concessions from the West; for details about the earlier Berlin blockade & the US airlift that solved it, listen to Episode 3. By the late 50s, Khrushchev faced a major problem of East Germans escaping the Communist Bloc via West Berlin in pursuit of better economic opportunities in capitalist West Germany. In 1958, he threatened that unless the Western powers withdrew from Berlin within 6 months, he would allow the East Germans to seize communication lines & deny US troops access to West Berlin. Patterson writes that Eisenhower was determined to maintain American control over West Berlin, but (quote) “he tried not to embarrass Khrushchev by publicly calling his bluff” (close quote). One key element to de-escalation of the latest Berlin crisis would be a diplomatic summit between Ike & Nikita on American soil.


            In early 1959, the Soviet leader made known that he would like to visit the United States. According to Eisenhower biographer Jean Edward Smith, Ike agreed, arguing that (quote) “this will take the crisis edge off the Berlin situation” (close quote). However, when Eisenhower told the Soviets that he wanted to meet privately with Khrushchev at Camp David, the Kremlin became deeply concerned. Jean Edward Smith describes the fears & confusion among the Communist leadership: (quote) “What & where was Camp David? Was it an internment facility? Perhaps a quarantine station? Was the Russian leadership to be held hostage?” (close quote). US diplomats reassured the Soviets that the so-called “camp” was no military facility, but instead was a comfortable country retreat in rural Maryland that had been used by US presidents since FDR, & that being invited to Camp David was meant as an honor, not a threat. After they were able to independently verify this information, the embarrassed Soviets awkwardly agreed to the meeting.


            The prospect for face-to-face contact improving relations & decreasing paranoia between the leaders of the two superpowers did not appear borne out by the events of July 1959, when Vice-President Nixon got into a public argument with Premier Khrushchev during a visit by the VP to Moscow. This quarrel occurred at an event called the American National Exhibit, which was supposed to a be a positive & peaceful cultural exchange between the superpowers. Nixon showed Khrushchev a model American ranch house that was part of the exhibit, & Patterson recalls that Nixon (quote) “bragged truculently about gleaming American kitchen conveniences . . . in order to remind Khrushchev (& the world) of the fantastic economic potential of the American way of life” (close quote). Khrushchev resented this assertion of American capitalist superiority, & the famous argument that followed would be dubbed by the media as the “kitchen debate.” Khrushchev insisted he was not impressed by any of these fancy American appliances, & he forcefully argued that Soviet Communism would soon outpace the technology & the economy of the United States. After debating the merits of their respective economic systems, the two men at least expressed agreement on the need for peace. The incident revealed unpleasant attributes of both men: for Nixon the calculated political grandstanding, & for Khrushchev the tendency toward temperamental rhetorical bluster. Luckily, although the Kitchen Debate made headlines around the globe, it did not seem to significantly damage the US-Soviet relationship, & Khrushchev kept his plans to visit the USA.


            Smith states that (quote) “Khrushchev arrived in Washington on September 15, 1959. [He] stayed 13 days and visited 7 cities” (close quote). There was a media circus as a gaggle of reporters accompanied the Soviet premier to banquets, factories, & farms across America. Although there were some hostile hecklers, the blustery Khrushchev avoided creating any major diplomatic incidents, and according to Herring (quote) he “displayed flashes of folksy charm” (close quote). Yet there were some limitations placed upon his activities; while in Los Angeles, Khrushchev complained bitterly when he was not permitted to visit Disneyland due to security concerns. One can hardly blame him for wanting to visit the “happiest place on Earth” after spending a lifetime in Soviet Russia, but it was not to be. The Soviet leader’s American guide & handler during the trip was Henry Cabot Lodge Jr., a former moderate Republican Senator & the current US Ambassador to the United Nations. Khrushchev & Lodge made for an odd couple, the humble son of Russian peasants alongside the upper-class scion of a prominent Massachusetts WASP political dynasty. Yet they seemed to get along; Smith suggests that (quote) “Lodge had a sense of humor which Khrushchev appreciated” (close quote). 


The meetings between Khrushchev & Eisenhower at Camp David proved to be cordial, & in the evening the two leaders relaxed by watching movies, specifically Westerns (which had also been a favorite film genre of Khrushchev’s former boss Josef Stalin). Not a tremendous amount was achieved at the Camp David summit, other than a general warming of relations between the leaders that opened the door to further negotiations. However, there was one important result of the meetings: Khrushchev’s withdrew of his ultimatum regarding Berlin. The leaders of the two superpowers made plans for another summit in Paris during 1960, & after that tentatively scheduled a visit by Eisenhower to the Soviet Union. There were hopes of an official nuclear test ban treaty & perhaps a mutual reduction of military expenditures. Herring recalls that (quote) “the Soviet premier came to see the president as someone he could work with” (close quote). Unfortunately, all these high hopes would come crashing down during 1960, when a US spy plane trespassing in Soviet airspace was shot down by the USSR. That incident, to be discussed in our next full-length episode, would help usher in one of the most tense periods of the Cold War.


            Another major controversy during the early 1960s that caused relations between the USA & the USSR to become more difficult related to the status of Cuba, which eventually became a Soviet-sponsored outpost in America’s back yard. The 1959 revolution in Cuba started out as genuinely popular among the common people, because many Cubans had serious grievances with their previous government. According to historian George C. Herring, the Cubans had suffered for a quarter-century under the oppressive regime of dictator Fulgencio Batista. However, the US had remained friendly with Batista’s government in Havana because it proved very hospitable to American companies, which had major holdings in Cuba. Business could be done on the island as long as the right palms were greased & Batista and his lackeys got their cut of the action. Notes Herring, (quote) “Batista scrupulously accommodated Washington [DC] on major issues & granted favors, sometimes in return for bribes, to US corporations” (close quote). By the 1950s, Cuba had developed a reputation as some combination of modern-day Las Vegas, Cancun, & Tijuana – an exotic tropical paradise just south of the US border, where visitors could enjoy vices prohibited in the States. In fact, one of the founders of the Las Vegas gambling industry, the mobster Meyer Lansky, also became heavily involved in the casino business of Havana. Herring writes that (quote) “An estimated 300,000 Americans flocked to Cuba yearly, making it a playground for the rich & a source of wealth for US organized crime” (close quote). The impoverished people of Cuba, however, often did not feel they were getting much benefit out of being a playpen for wealthy American tourists & mafiosos. 


            Fidel Castro was among the many educated & nationalistic young Cubans who became convinced that Batista was allowing the Americans to exploit the island. Fidel was the son of a wealthy landowner, & he went on to study law at college. He was also a gifted athlete who enjoyed playing baseball, although the widely-reported claim that his pitching skills attracted a contract offer from the New York Giants baseball franchise is apparently only a myth. Young Castro instead dedicated himself to his studies, & upon graduation devoted his life to radical Cuban politics. Historian James T. Patterson writes that Castro (quote) “like many people in Latin American nations, deeply resented the economic might of the United States, whose citizens owned some 40% of Cuba’s sugar, 90% of its wealth from mines, & 80% of its utilities. The US also controlled a bit of Cuban territory, a naval base at Guantanamo” (close quote). US influence had been present in Cuba since the end of the 19th Century, when the Americans had liberated the Cubans from the Spanish, only to establish their own quasi-colonial economic & political presence on the island. 


Fidel Castro set out to change all this by first removing Fulgencio Batista, & then by purging Cuba of American influence. His quest to achieve these aims caused him to give up the practice of law & essentially become an outlaw. Castro had already been involved with radical politics as a student, so he was well-acquainted with anti-government organizations. He joined an anti-Batista paramilitary group & soon established himself as a charismatic leader within the rebel movement. Castro’s anti-government forces occupied the Sierra Maestra Mountains in the rugged Eastern province of Cuba, using it as a staging ground for various insurgent attacks against government troops. The rebels eventually wore down the official Cuban army through their mastery of guerilla warfare tactics. The Batista regime responded to repeated rebel assaults by becoming ever more repressive, but this crackdown backfired. The dictator lost legitimacy & popularity as his efforts to crush the rebellion repeatedly failed. Castro’s famous ally Che Guevara won the decisive battle in December 1958, when his guerilla fighters defeated a much larger government force & captured the key city of Santa Clara. This victory gave the rebel army a clear path to the Cuban capital of Havana, where a panicked Batista gave up power & fled the country in order to avoid being captured.


            When Fidel Castro first took power in early 1959, he did not self-identify as a Communist. Initial signs indicated that he might simply be a left-wing nationalist along the lines of Egypt’s Gamel Abdel Nasser. According to Herring, (quote) “There is no persuasive evidence that Castro entered Havana in January 1959 committed to a Marxist revolution” (close quote). Other historians debate his true intentions, but what is known is that upon first taking power, Fidel portrayed himself as Cuba’s heroic liberator, not as a hard-line Communist ideologue. James T. Patterson observes that during the first few months after the revolution, American press coverage of Castro tended to be positive. The fact that he had rebelled against & overthrown a dictatorship made some people view him as a kind of Cuban George Washington, fighting for freedom & democracy. Alas, Castro’s commitment to liberty would soon prove to be lacking. In the meantime, the Eisenhower Administration tried to cozy up to the new regime to see if the US could steer it in a more moderate direction. In Spring 1959, Fidel Castro visited Washington DC & according to Patterson, (quote) “was warmly received & spent 3 hours talking with Vice-President [Richard] Nixon” (close quote). (What did they talk about? How did they get along? Forget Nixon meeting Elvis – the Nixon-Castro tapes would be fascinating to hear!). Well, we do have public US State Department documents, where Nixon wrote after the meeting that he had mixed impressions of Castro. He viewed him as a natural leader who (quote) “seems to be sincere,” but judged him to be (quote) “incredibly naïve about Communism” (close quote). Herring suggests that the Americans may have assumed that Castro could eventually be persuaded to seek US loans & support, there being no better alternatives for a Cuban government than to cozy up to the superpower next door. However, any US officials who believed this clearly made a major miscalculation.


            In the months after his revolution, Castro moved further & further politically to the Left, & the Eisenhower Administration began distancing itself from his regime as a result. When Castro redistributed the land of wealthy planters & then nationalized American-owned banks & industries without compensation, his relationship with US officials deteriorated. Patterson reports that (quote) “Castro executed opponents & confiscated foreign investments, including $1 billion [dollars] held by Americans . . . Refugees fled to the US & told stories of Castro’s atrocities” (close quote). During the year 1960, Eisenhower responded to these Cuban expropriations with tough US sanctions. According to Patterson, Ike put pressure on Castro by (quote) “cutting American economic aid & ultimately . . . refusing to accept Cuban sugar, a mainstay of the island’s economy. An embargo was placed on [all] American exports to Cuba” (close quote). Castro had gone down a different economic path than your average corrupt Latin American dictator. His strategy for maintaining power focused upon confronting wealthy elites instead of accommodating them, & he seemed unwilling to be bought off by powerful interests. His ideological radicalism was part of a broader global movement. The forces of decolonization had been raging in Third World nations across Asia, Africa, & Latin America. Castro wanted to be an influential international leader among radicals across the Global South. In the autumn of 1960, he visited the United Nations in New York City, & right there on US soil he denounced “American imperialism” during a lengthy speech before the UN General Assembly. Historian Thomas Borstelmann notes that Castro stayed in the African-American neighborhood of Harlem during the visit, in order to show support for the oppressed American black population. Although he would prove to be a ruthless dictator, Castro was also highly charismatic & savvy about crafting a public image as a fighter for the underdogs of the world against exploitative colonial powers. Herring notes that (quote) “Revolutionaries like Castro [&] his confidant Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara . . . inspired oppressed people everywhere & even became romanticized heroes for [some] leftists in developed nations” (close quote).


            Of course, Castro became more controversial when, during 1960, he pursued a close relationship with one of the world’s great imperial superpowers, the Soviet Union. Historians James Henretta, David Brody, & Lynn Dumenil report that (quote) “Isolated by the US, Cuba increasingly turned toward the Soviet Union for economic & military support” (close quote). Professor George C. Herring notes that the Soviets were excited that this opportunity to gain a revolutionary proxy in the Western Hemisphere had fallen into their lap. Nikita Khrushchev embraced the chance (quote) “to gain an ally at America’s back door” (close quote). In response to this new Communist alliance, the Eisenhower Administration approved a CIA plan to begin training anti-Castro Cuban exiles to invade the island & overthrow Castro’s regime. The Americans were panicked at having a neighboring domino fall to the “Red Menace,” & they now saw regime change in Cuba as their best option.


            Patterson reports that at the end of Ike’s presidency, he had some 600 men (quote) “being readied to attack [Cuba] from Guatemala” (close quote). That Central American nation had become an enclave of US military & CIA activity ever since the Eisenhower Administration had backed a right-wing coup against a progressive Guatemalan president back in in 1954 (see Episode 9). Sympathizers with Castro’s cause in the region informed Cuban intelligence agents of what the United States was planning in Guatemala. Patterson argues that tension between Eisenhower’s conservative US government & Castro’s revolutionary Cuban regime was inevitable, but (quote) “still, the far-from-secret readiness of the . . . [US] administration to consider invasion added” greater enmity between the two nations (close quote). Patterson also declares that (quote) “When Eisenhower left the White House, it remained only for someone to kindle the fires of war” between Cuba & the United States (close quote). The CIA would present its plans for a US-backed invasion by the trained anti-Castro Cubans to the next US president, John F. Kennedy, when he entered the White House in 1961.


            However, the Eisenhower Administration also engaged in introspection about its foreign policy as a result of the Cuban Revolution. It came to the conclusion that in addition to preparing sticks to use against Castro & other pro-Soviet rebels, they also needed to provide carrots to incentivize other Latin American nations to follow a path of constitutional capitalist government. According to Herring, for most of the Fifties, the Americans favored not only Batista but also (quote) “accommodated the dictators who ruled 13 of the 20 Latin American nations” (close quote) In fairness, the Eisenhower Administration inherited many of these policies from its predecessor; Herring notes that the Truman Administration had also (quote) “rebuffed Latin American pleas for a hemispheric Marshall Plan, insisting that modest loans & private investment were the correct path to economic development” in the region (close quote). The US during the early Eisenhower Administration had decided to pursue propaganda rather than an improvement of material living conditions in its attempts to win the support of Latin Americans. Herring reports that the US government produced (quote) “comic strips, cartoon books, & radio broadcasts, [all] warning the Latin American masses of the dangers of Communism” (close quote).


            But after Castro’s rise to power, the Eisenhower Administration made a major shift away from these policies, realizing that they had failed to address the fundamental needs of the Latin American public. The USA began distancing itself from some military dictators, & it supported more moderate reformers. The North Americans also provided more humanitarian aid to alleviate the poverty that led to human suffering & political instability in many of these Latin nations. Herring writes that during Summer 1960, the US government (quote) “created a Social Progress Trust Fund of $500 million dollars to promote medical, education, & land reform programs, [which was] not exactly the Marshall Plan [that] Latin American leaders had pleaded for, but [was still] a big step beyond earlier policies & [which also served as] a foundation for President John F. Kennedy’s [upcoming] Alliance for Progress” initiatives in the same region during the early Sixties (close quote). As president, Kennedy would also favor combining a harsh & aggressive policy toward Castro’s Cuba with diplomatic attempts to win over the rest of the Western Hemisphere. During his successful run for the White House in 1960, the up-&-coming Massachusetts Democratic Senator made certain to take political advantage of the foreign policy embarrassment that losing Cuba had caused for President Eisenhower & Vice-President Nixon, who was now Kennedy’s Republican opponent. According to historian David Farber, candidate Kennedy publicly blamed the Republicans for allowing Cuba to fall to the Communists. However, during his 1960 presidential campaign JFK also promoted the establishment of programs like the Peace Corps that would send Americans to help improve conditions in developing nations. This shows how the Cold War increasingly involved a multi-pronged struggle between the Americans & the Soviets. It involved military hardware & strategic ruthlessness on the one hand, but it simultaneously attempted to win over hearts & minds in the Third World on the other.


            We conclude this episode by considering the legacy of the Cuban Revolution. There were significant long-term effects on domestic life in the USA that resulted from Castro coming to power. Henretta, Brody, & Dumenil note that (quote) “In the 6 years after [the revolution] . . . an estimated 180,000 people fled Cuba for the United States. The Cuban refugee community grew so quickly that it turned Miami into a cosmopolitan, bilingual city almost overnight. Unlike most new immigrants, Miami’s Cubans prospered, in large part because they had arrived with more resources” (close quote). Indeed, many of the early migrants were members of the elite or the upper middle-class, people whose livelihood & property was seriously threatened by Castro’s radical policies. These folks also had the financial means to easily escape Cuba & used their savings to help them start over in the USA. Some wealthy Cubans became immediately successful in the US, but other former professionals had to start their careers over, often taking menial jobs they were overqualified for, which were the only positions available to people in Florida who lacked fluency in English. However, the Cuban community tended to be tight-knit & industrious, & most of the Cuban bourgeoisie eventually made their way into a comfortable life in Miami. Some later Cuban immigrants, especially those who arrived by boat, were far more impoverished & thus experienced less economic success in the USA. One should not overgeneralize about the Cuban-Americans, but in general, the mold set for the community was one of proud, upwardly mobile immigrants with zero tolerance for Communism. This became significant to US politics in the late 20th Century, when Cuban-Americans were a key Republican-leaning group in the vital swing state of Florida. By the 21st Century, multiple people of Cuban ancestry had risen to high political offices in the USA, including Republican Senators Marco Rubio of Florida & Ted Cruz of Texas, plus Democratic Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey.


            As for most Cubans left on the island, life was not easy. To be clear, the legacies of the Cuban Revolution & Fidel Castro are still polarizing topics in the United States & beyond. When I checked out other podcasts that have discussed the Cuban Revolution, I discovered shows with depictions of Castro as either a revolutionary hero or a monstrous tyrant. Here I will try to give a brief, nuanced, & fair assessment of the revolution’s legacy, to the extent possible. Cuba remained an authoritarian dictatorship with a dysfunctional economy under Castro, who remained in power for decades. Scholars still argue over to what extent the economic problems were caused by the difficulties common to all centrally planned Communist economies, & to what extent they were caused by the US embargo that severely limited Cuban trade opportunities. The loss of the USSR as a powerful political patron at the end of the Cold War made the economic situation even more difficult for the Cuban people. The post-revolutionary Cuban government’s human rights record was dismal under Castro’s leadership. The regime locked up political dissidents & persecuted homosexuals. People accused of being counterrevolutionaries or traitors to the regime were occasionally executed. Fidel Castro died in 2016, but the Communist government in Cuba remains undemocratic & repressive. On the other hand, the Cuban form of socialism did reduce the wide inequities of race & class that had existed under Batista. To this day, Cuba’s health care & education systems often score surprisingly well for an impoverished Third World country. People of Cuban descent around the world still argue about the legacy of the revolution, but most would agree that the material conditions of life for many people living in Cuba need improvement over where they are now.


            This episode is probably the last time on the From Boomers to Millennials podcast that we will have a detailed discussion about the effects of the Cuban Revolution, but we will continue to discuss US-Cuban relations in the context of the Cold War. Those of you who have studied the history of the Kennedy Administration will already know what’s coming in the 1961 & 1963 episodes. Cuba will be at the center of one of the most perilous moments of the Cold War, & we will see that during that crisis, Fidel Castro’s behavior only made matters more dangerous. But before we get there, we will first explain how the thaw in the Cold War came to an end.  We will explore that topic, conclude our story of the Eisenhower Administration, & begin coverage of a very turbulent decade, in our next episode, all about the year 1960.



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