Pre-1960 Book Pocket and Book Card, Havana Military Academy, Biblioteca Rafael Maria Mendive
The Havana Military Academy, Havana, Cuba
The Havana Military Academy, founded by Raúl Chibás in 1947, before the Cuban Revolution, was an elite military-style boarding school on the outskirts of Havana, Cuba.
The 1947 Montreal Royals
Before opening to students in late 1947, the Academy famously hosted the Brooklyn Dodgers and their AAA farm team, the Montreal Royals for their 1947 spring training season. After having experienced racial harassment from white crowds in Daytona Beach during the 1946 spring training season due to the Royals integrated roster that included the first black minor league player, Jackie Robinson, management decided to change the location training location to Cuba after learning that baseball teams in Cuba had been integrated since the early 1900s. However, Jim Crow laws followed Robinson and the Royals to Havana. While the Dodgers stayed at the swank Hotel Nacional and the Royals at the brand new Havana Military Academy, Jackie Robinson and other African American teammates were given accommodations at a third-rate boarding house in downtown Havana. This unfair treatment didn’t deter Jackie Robinson from making baseball history. In the 1947 regular season, Jackie Robinson was signed to the Brooklyn Dodgers and become the first African American major league baseball player in the history of American baseball, became the Rookie of the year, and helped the Dodgers go all the way to the 1947 World Series.
The Cuban Revolution of 1953
Before the Cuban Revolution, Cuban politics were rife with corruption, dictatorships, and episodic American intervention and interference. The Cuban economy, at times robust due to the growing exports of sugar to the United States, continually fluctuated and ultimately stagnated because of restrictive trade policies introduced by the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act in 1930.
In 1933, the Sergeants’ Revolt, a coup led by Fulgencio Batista, led to the deposition of President Carlos Manuel de Cespedes and the introduction of a United States-backed military dictatorship. While the economy prospered under Batista, so did social ills and inequalities. Cuba became known for its decadence, a destination for prostitution and gambling at mafia-infested casinos. Moreover, while the economy under Batista was burgeoning for many, the underclass was experiencing extreme poverty and unemployment. In 1952, a young attorney named Fidel Castro petitioned the courts to overthrow the presidency of Batista due to his corruption, but Castro’s arguments were not persuasive to the Cuban courts. It was then that Castro concluded that more forceful steps were needed to rid Cuba of an administration he saw as tyrannical. With the help of his brother Raul, Castro organized a paramilitary organization called “The Movement,” and by the end of 1952 had recruited over 1,200 followers. In 1953, a failed attempt at stealing weapons from a military garrison landed Castro in prison for a term of 15 years but was released early due to international pressures. Upon his release, Castro traveled to Mexico to receive paramilitary training, and there met a young militant revolutionary named Che Guevara. Guevara joined forces with Castro, and both returned to Cuba to begin the revolution in earnest. On November 25, 1956, Castro, Guevara, and other supporters crash-landed a small yacht onto the shores of Playa Las Coloradas. After a brief but lethal attack by Batista’s army, they fled into the mountains, where they continued plans for a coup. In response to the growing revolutionary movement, Batista solicited the help of the United States to combat the rebels, but the United States played both hands and supplied support to the rebels, as well, sensing the need to establish a relationship should Castro’s revolution be successful. From 1957 through 1958, there was a dramatic shift in public support for the revolution. Batista’s public approval was dwindling, and an arms embargo by the United States further weakened Batista’s military powers. On January 1, 1959, Batista fled Cuba and Fidel Castro’s first appointed President, Manuel Urrutia Lleo, took office on January 3, 1959. In a speech by Fidel Castro on November 28, 1960, Castro spoke of the Havana Military Academy that had been abandoned by Raúl Chibás upon his defection to the United States. “A gentlemen left, leaving a school behind called the Havana Military Academy. Now we are adding to it, and it will be the first rebel army polytechnic school for the revolution … and it has the manpower to do all the tasks and achieve all the goals it proposes.”
Havana Military Academy Educators and Students
Raúl Chibás (1917-1998) founder of the Havana Military Academy, and a long-time critic of the Batista administration, joined Fidel Castro’s revolutionary movement in 1957. Politics was no stranger to the Chibás family. His brother, Eddy Chibás, was the founder of the Partido Ortodoxo in Cuba, a former Senator and a controversial radio talk show host who committed suicide on air in an act of political contrition. Raul, believing that Castro was the answer to the overthrow of President Batista and the advent of democracy in Cuba, joined Castro in the Sierra Maestra Mountains, where he co-authored the Sierra Maestra Manifesto laying out the democratic intentions of the revolution. But Castro, needing the support of those with less radical leanings like Chibás, concealed his communist intentions. After the revolution, Chibás became disillusioned with Castro’s authoritarianism and defected to America in August 1960.
Félix Rodríguez (b. 1941), also known as Félix “El Gato” Ramos Medina, was a Havana Military Academy graduate recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency shortly after his defection to the United States in 1960. In 1961, Rodríguez slipped back into Cuba to prepare for the covert Bay of Pigs operation, but due to the failure of the mission, sought refuge at the Venezuelan embassy before he was allowed to leave Cuba. Rodríguez was involved in many CIA-backed operations, but he is most well-known for his participation in the assassination of Che Guevera on October 9, 1967, and arms trafficking for the CIA and the Nicaraguan Contras.
Manuel Artime (1932 –1977), a professor at the Havana Military Academy, was a former member of Castro’s rebel army. In 1959, after becoming disillusioned by Castro’s increasingly communist leanings, he formed a counter-revolutionary group called the Movimiento de Recuperación Revolucionaria (MRR). However, fearing assassination by Castro’s army, Artime defected to the United States with the help of the American embassy and the CIA. After defecting, Artime was recruited by the CIA and become the leader of the Bay of Pigs resistance fighters and other anti-Castro campaigns, including a failed assassination attempt against Fidel Castro in 1965. In the 1970s, Artime organized the Miami Watergate Defense Relief Fund, collecting money for the convicted Watergate burglars, a number of whom were American or Cuban veterans of the Bay of Pigs operation. Artime died suddenly on November 18, 1977, prior to his scheduled appearance before the House Select Committee on Assassinations to give testimony on the John F. Kennedy assassination.