Cuban propaganda billboards – a window to the nation’s narrative

I always like to see Cuban political billboards, murals, books, museums… anything that shows how Cuba tells its story. This isn’t because I love Cuba’s story or swallow it whole – but because it’s a window into understanding the country. How does the government present its narrative? What are children taught in school? What do people read in the newspapers, see on TV, and hear on the radio, all operated and controlled by the state?

That’s not to say that all Cubans swallow it whole, either. The propaganda isn’t subtle or nuanced. So of course many people realize the reality is more complicated than the party line.

Anyways, here are some of my favorite billboards:

“Embargo: The longest genocide in history.” I’ve seen this billboard in a couple spots around Havana.

Bloqueo – Spanish for “embargo.” The U.S. embargo against Cuba gets a lot of attention in Cuban propaganda. It’s a rallying point. The billboard pictured at the top of this post also targets the embargo, with the fist of Cuba punching out Uncle Sam.

Sometimes the messaging is positive, dealing with the Revolution, solidarity, and so on. Or it compliments the Cuban people for being firm in their principles, industrious, revolutionary, hospitable, and so on:

This is one of my favorite pictures ever, snapped through the car window on the way to the Havana airport. “The revolution will continue forward.”

In terms of propaganda, perhaps the richest region of Cuba is the Bay of Pigs area. Cuba takes great offense at the attempt to depose Fidel Castro, considering it an affront to their self-determination. The narrative of repelling the attack is filled with pride for the Cuban defenders and disdain for the attackers.

A tiny town named Australia served as the command post during the battle. “Here was the command of Fidel in the battles of the Bay of Pigs.”

Also in the Bay of Pigs area, “The mercenaries reached this point.” The attackers are often referred to as mercenaries in Cuban propaganda, in it for money or other base reasons. Cuban defenders, on the other hand, are presented as noble heroes.

“Bay of Pigs: the first great defeat of Yankee imperialism in Latin America.” Here’s where you can hear Cuba’s interest in self-determination and resentment against a hostile takeover attempt.

There are many, many more. Cuba’s just got an embarrassment of propaganda riches! In an upcoming post, I’ll highlight some of the painted propaganda – murals, signs, and even comic strips – that you can see painted on walls and buildings across the island.

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