Communist Cuba wasn’t really the best place to be a punk rocker. Rebellious teens, known as los frikis (“the freaks”), used their radios to pick up American airwaves and rock out to groups like AC/DC and Metallica. However, getting the Led out came with a pretty steep price.Kids sporting long hair, ripped jeans, and T-shirts emblazoned with rock band logos were regularly assaulted by the police. When scruffy teens showed up for school, they were often surrounded and forcibly shaved. Anyone caught listening to rock music was tossed behind bars or sent to work in the sugarcane fields. The Berlin Wall had just collapsed, the USSR was falling apart, and Fidel Castro was freaking out. Hoping to keep his regime intact, the bearded director went after anyone who stepped out of line, cracking down hard on rock music and angrily shouting, “Socialism or death!” That’s when musicians accepted the challenge.
To escape persecution, Los Frikis chose to give themselves HIV for a chance at life in a Cuban AIDS sanitarium.
In 1961, Fidel Castro closed Cuban schools for a whole year and formed teachers into a “literacy army” with the goal to eradicate illiteracy. By the end of the year, 707,212 previously illiterate people had learned how to read.
The Mexican ambassador to the United States, said in response to the Kennedy administration’s 1961 call to collective action against Cuba: “If we publicly declare that Cuba is a threat to our security, 40 million Mexicans will die laughing.”
In Cuba, picking up hitchhikers is mandatory for government vehicles, if passenger space is available. Hitchhiking is encouraged, as there are few cars, and designated hitchhiking spots are used. Waiting riders are picked up on a first come first go basis.
Some Cuban cigar factories employed a “Lector” who would read newspapers, political treatises and classical literature aloud to help break the monotony of the cigar-rollers’ work, thus even illiterate cigar-rollers would be well-informed and familiar with great literature.
For over 20 years, Cuba has been aiding and treating more than 18,000 children affected by the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, for free.
East Germany lives on – as a tiny island off Cuba. In 1972, Fidel Castro gifted the island to East Germany. The island was not addressed in the 1990 reunification, and as such is still technically East German territory, even though the nation no longer exists.
A white dove landed on Fidel Castro’s shoulder while he gave a speech, just after he liberated Cuba. It sat there one hour.
The US pays rent for Guantanamo Bay, but Cuba refuses to cash the checks.