Castro chose a bizarre place to put a serious political declaration, shown alongside billboards for a casino and swimsuits. Yet, in one sense it was appropriate, as its statement of freedom and a olive branch to America was not to last much longer than the attention grab of this advertisement.
Since 1901 Cuba had been allowed to govern itself, but this was like being released on remand, with good behaviour, the underlying condition in The Platt Agreement allowing America to continue to intervene in Cuban affairs.
After 1909 Cuba became the Second Republic of Cuba. Presidential campaigns were built around the promise of reforms, and taking either a pro or anti- America stance. Governments who failed to fulfil either promise, were promptly forced from office, as with Gerardo Machado (1924-1933). After Machado's downfall, an army sergeant named Fulgencio Batista overthrew the new government.
The United States supported Batista's government, and its reward in 1934 was the cancellation of the Platt Amendment, except for the Guantanamo Bay lease. Although Cuba could now concentrate on itself rather than pleasing the US government, the country was still having difficulties establishing a strong government. In 1953, Castro, then a young lawyer, was jailed for an attempted revolution. After his release from prison he started a revolutionary group. All attempts by the government to crush the uprisings which followed only served to increase support for the rebels. Batista fled in January 1950, and Castro and his army took control of Cuba. Under the new leader, relationships with American worsened. Western nations, responding to American pressure, refused to sell arms to the country, and Castro decided, on the ending of diplomatic relations in 1961, to turn to the Soviet Union for military and economic assistance. As the country's economy became increasingly dependent on Soviet aid, Nikita Krushchev's statement that, "[Politicians] are the same all over. They promise to build a bridge even when there is no river" was to appear more and more relevant to Cuba.
Current exhibition: `Manipulations', work by Caitlin Harrison. At Crescent Arts, The Crescent, Scarborough, YO11 2PW (01723 374 753).