We may choose just one song from this category which covers the special period of deprivation and how Cuba emerged from it to be fully independent and flourishing. In which case the song needs to encompass both the depths of despair building to hope and optimism and have a stirring finish suitable for a finale number. Or we may cover this period in 2 songs, one about the special period of poverty and one about Cuba’s recent successes.
In 1989 the Soviet Union collapsed and removed its economic support for Cuba. This led to great poverty and the economy dropped by a third. Fidel declares a state of emergency – a ‘special period’ in the time of peace. He tells the people that fuel supplies will be reduced or even maybe eliminated entirely. If necessary they would revert to a subsistence economy, the primitivism of the preindustrial age. “Factories will be shut down. Thousands of city dwellers may have to move to the countryside. Oxen may replace tractors. Windmills could provide electricity. The people can ride bicycles instead of busses or private vehicles. Could anything be more healthy? Someday we might be thankful for this special situation. We are going back to the noble Ox. If the ground is wet tractors are useless anyway, whereas oxen are 13 times more productive. They do not require spare parts. We don’t care who or what falls from power anywhere, but here nothing is going to fall. Let the Yankees dream their foolish dreams. No one in Cuba will surrender.” (scene 22b)
It’s a very bad time: Anti-government propaganda appears on walls, price of sugar low, cut back importation of consumer goods – need medications, towels, sheets mattresses, powdered milk; plant rot devastated sugar plantations, hurricanes wreaked havoc, a blue rust destroyed half the tobacco crop, cigar factories closed, unemployment increased, can’t get any credit due to embargo.
You could write a song about these hard times – maybe “it couldn’t be worse”. Or you could draw on Fidel’s speech ‘we won’t surrender’ We will not surrender the advances we have made, we will not surrender our principles, we will not surrender the revolution.
If you write a song ‘ we won’t surrender’ you could choose to reprise (repeat) it at different times when the revolution is under threat e.g. the Bay of Pigs (scene 10b) or during the revolutionary war such as operation verano. So would keep the same chorus and melody but just change the lyrics (see (scene 22b).
Another option to capture this period of hardship could be to write from the perspective of Cubans who are suffering and leave the country.
Cuba’ recent successes
Cuba’s lack of natural resources, combined with the US embargo, has meant Cuba has struggled with poverty and lack of goods. However over time Fidel built up Cuban industry in areas such as biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, and tourism, so they were no longer so dependent on exports of sugar and tobacco. Gradually their standard of living has improved, and with the recent relaxing of the embargo looks set to improve further. The World Wildlife Fund (2006) proclaimed Cuba to be the only sustainable country. Also, although Cuba has little money, it scores highly in terms of well-being. According to the UN Development Index of 2014, Cuba was ranked as ‘very highly developed’ with a life expectancy rate of 79.3 years, better that of the US (78.9). Cuba’s achievement is especially impressive when one compares the relative (Gross National Income) GNI per capita of these countries. The US in 2014 had a per capita Gross National Income of US$52,308 per year and Cuba only $19,844. More
To see a blog with current affairs relating to Cuba check out https://palgrave.typepad.com/yaffe/
We need a song to reflect the Cuban successes. For example Cuba is known for its doctors abroad programme and has sent proportionally more medical help to the Ebola crisis than any other country – see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuban_medical_internationalism. This could be reflected in a song e.g. there shall be doctors, there shall be nurses, we’ll send all round the world to cure diseases … (see (scene 22b). Cuba has also developed the first lung cancer vaccine – here If you encompass some of song theme in this song theme, and mean it to be a finale number then submit it under this song theme.
Or you could have a song right at the end where Raul is bring Fidel reports of how well Cuba is doing – you could draw on the statistics, especially those where Cuba is beating the US to show both Fidel’s competitiveness and also to show where they did well and allow the musical to finish on a high note.
Or you could capture a song about how the enmity between the US and Cuba is now subsiding and the reasons why people are flocking to Cuba – this is a chance to pick up on everything Cuban that we people like and the unique Cuban style of doing things.
You could also refer back to the promises Fidel made early on in the revolution such as in his Declaration of Havana and show how they stuck to their guns and came through despite all the tough times – which promises he delivered on (and maybe which he didn’t!).
Change of leadership
Raul took over from Fidel is 2006 due to Fidel’s ill health. It must have been hard for Fidel as older brother and leader to step down. The song could capture this episode (also see song theme ‘relationship between Raul and Fidel Castro’).
You could finish the musical with Fidel’s death and show the different opinions about him. The opinions of the Cuban exiles and many in the US about Fidel Castro are vastly different from the opinions of those living in Cuba. There is a US funded agency whose role is to spread misinformation about Cuba about repress any positive information about Cuba’s achievements and so it is the US perspective that has dominated in the West. A finale song could highlight some of the different voices that emerged following Fidel’s death. To an extent, this bias is what motivated writing the musical – see https://theconversation.com/our-musical-fidel-will-try-to-puncture-the-polarised-debate-about-castro-69508. Also see the interview with Dr Denise Baden on BBC24 following Fidel Castro’s death https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WApT5wYHSCg. This got over 3 millions views and was deconstructed in an article by medialens.