50 years ago this week, a U.S. military jet photographed strategic nuclear missiles that had been installed by the Soviets in Cuba. Over the next 13 days, Americans and Soviets alike wondered if the Cold War was about to turn very, very hot. On the anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Backstory turns its attention to Cuba, considering the outsized influence that this small nation has had on American history.
Setting the scene, Brian, Ed, and Peter talk with a historian who argues that the Cuban Missile Crisis is better understood as playing out not over 13 days, but rather 18 months. They then turn the clock back and explore the reasons that 19th Century Americans developed a hunger to acquire Cuba. They later consider how the 1980 “Mariel Boatlift” of Cuban "undesirables" to Miami forced the U. S. to decide whether it was more opposed to Cuba or to homosexuality. Finally, they talk with a music scholar about the crucial, often unacknowledged, influence of Cuban rhythms on American music.
Jim Blight, Balsillie School of International Affairs, on the Cuban perspective on the 1962 Missile Crisis.
Julio Capo, Yale University, on the Mariel Boatlift.
Kristin Hoganson, University of Illinois, on the role of gender in pushing the U.S. into the Spanish-American War.
Ned Sublette, musicologist, on the forgotten Cuban roots of American musical forms.