I was back in Cuba, sometime later, when the American
Society of Travel Agents held their convention. I was traveling with Tony Triano
and Mrs. Keating, we stayed at the Havana Riviera for a week. We had a
grand time. Saw most of the shows in Havana. The food was fantastic. I remember
having Arroz con pollo at the Tropicana, a fantastic night club with the sky for a ceiling. It was the most famous club in Cuba. I smiled at one of the dancers, who met me after the show. She was a beauty!
Tony was Cuban; one of the reasons we went to Cuba was to
make a pilgrimage to his home town in the interior. It was
interesting to see how the Cubans lived outside of the city. They were poor,
but you could see that they were, for the most part, a happy, carefree people.
One night Tony and I went out to some of the Cuban night clubs. We
were in one club and Tony came running up to the bar and told me that we were
going to go in and watch the floor show; that he had two girls that were
going to join us. He thought we were going to have a great night. I told him
that I would join them, but that he shouldn't get his hopes up as far as the
girls were concerned. He said, "Sam, this is my country, believe me they
will go with us."
We sat with two very attractive girls and watched the show.
As with most Latin shows there comes a time when a dancer will call someone from
the audience to come on stage and dance with them. They would usually make them
look silly and everyone would laugh. She chose me. I had been dancing for a long
time and even won some jitterbug contests in New York and in the Bahamas, so I
was able to hold my own. We got applause instead of laughs. She was nice and she
thanked me after the show.
Needless to say we left the club sans the girls. Tony kept
saying, "I don't believe it. I don't believe it. This is my country, how
did you know?"
One night we were at a club called "Las Vegas" that
was popular with all of the show people in Cuba. After work they would come to
"Las Vegas" for the last show at 5 AM. It was a large club and packed
with people. It was around 4 AM when I was walking through the crowd in the
barroom and someone grabbed my arm. I turned to see the girl I had danced with
at the other club a few nights ago. She said, "Hello" and told me she
was in the show and wanted to know if I would I get up and dance with her?
Being the ham I am, how could I refuse such a wholesome request?
The show began, and when she came on, she announced that I
would be dancing with her. The crowd got angry and I heard them yelling,
"No, we don't want no gringos." That didn't deter her, she said
don't worry you will like him. So when she invited me on stage, I was facing a
very hostile audience. I really loved it. We danced our butts off, and when we
were finished, they cheered, stood up and applauded. Some of the men came over
and patted me on the back and took me to the bar for a drink. Ah, memories. I
have more, but some other time.
Friday, the day before the last day of the
convention, leaflets were thrown from the top of the Hotel Nacional and blamed on an
American plane. Saturday Castro made his first anti-American speech. It was a mad house -
everyone was rushing to check out of the hotels and get on the first plane to Miami.
Sometime later on, I was on a boat bound for the Bay of
Pigs. I was going to photograph the invasion. I had many Cuban friends in Miami ,who were
going. One of them helped me get aboard one of the boats carrying Cuban volunteers.
We were running through the keys when we ran aground and damaged the wheel. That was as
far as I got. When I got back and heard the news, I felt sickened and very angry.
The thoughts of all of those young men, crowding into boats, determined to bring
freedom to their people, who were now dead or prisoners, still haunts me. We
I read a book about Cuba as it is today and about some of the
things Castro accomplished, such as education and medical treatment. I realize
that it was the very wealthy, connected people who hated Castro for taking away
all of their wealth and sharing it with the people. It gave me a different
out-look on the man. I would like to go back to Cuba for a visit.
Copyright Younghans 1959