William Wynkoop, TR Site Interpreter / Programming Assistant
Publication Year: 2017

On Tuesday May 23 Dr. Henry Louis Taylor Jr. visited the TR Site to continue our lecture series with his talk “The Evolution of U.S. Cuban Relations”. His discussion of Cuba is particularly relevant to the Site as, for better or worse, Theodore Roosevelt was as significant in the history of Cuba as Cuba was in the rise of Theodore Roosevelt.

Dr. Taylor began his talk by setting the stage for the audience. He said that much of the U.S relationship with Cuba was complicated by the Cold War narrative. He defined this as the perspective, even to this day, of Cuba as opposed to the United States in the battle between “good capitalist, and evil socialist.” He went on to say that, despite the policies of detente, the U.S. still views the Cuban government as one “that needs to be toppled, because it oppresses its own people.”

This was an important point, as he claimed that the Cold War narrative would continue to muddle any dealings we had with Cuba. It also helped to create the context for the question he spent a great deal of time on: “What is Cuba?”  Dr. Taylor answered this in part by discussing Lenin and Trotsky’s thoughts on how a socialist country would fare in a world dominated by capitalism.

One very important point, was that, despite any success, Cuba would always be threatened by capitalist restoration for three reasons: (1) necessary market reforms, (2) the threat that those market reforms would generate internally, and (3) intrigue from capitalist countries. According to Dr. Taylor,  Cuba is defined by this struggle as well as its multi-ethnic nature.

Dr. Taylor also explained the evolving relationship between these two neighbors including the recent “thaw”. From his perspective, the easing of tensions is a noticeable improvement, but Dr. Taylor cautioned the audience to “have absolutely no illusions as to what this detente means for the United States and Cuba.” He asserts that tensions will continue “as long as the United States continues to use a Cold War lens” to view Cuba and their relationship between the two nations.

**Follow this link to watch Dr. Taylor’s presentation on YouTube.**