This summer marks the 25th Anniversary of the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale, a chapter of the Angolan Civil War (1975 to 2002) in which Cuba played an integral part.
Five years ago, for the 20th anniversary of the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale, José Steinsleger wrote, “Havana, near the end of 1984: ‘Is it worth dying so far away?’ The young woman in olive green, sitting next to me in the famous Cuban ice cream parlor, Coppelia, dropped her ‘compañero’ attitude and gave me a fearsome stare of contempt. ‘Look, sir. This country was made with the blood of millions of slaves.’ Then she turned away and left me there, alone and blushing with embarrassment, with a lost appetite for my stupid ice cream.”
Steinsleger describes the battle with a fascinating, if chilling, image: “Luanda, Angola, November 5, 1975. The Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski, hardly a friend of the Cuban Revolution but the best illustrator of Western cowardice toward our intervention in the heart of Africa, described the situation of the purebred dogs abandoned by the Portuguese colonists, fleeing the city en masse, ‘…locked up and condemned to die.’ Boxers, bulldogs, greyhounds, dobermans, dachshunds, cockers, lapdogs, mastiffs, Scottish terriers all in search of food. ‘If the dogs went to the north, they’d find the FNLA. If they’d gone to the south, they’d find UNITA.’ The National Liberation Front (FNLA, backed by Congo Kinshasa and the United States) and the National Union for Independence (UNITA, supported by the racist South Africans) was about to capture Luanda to prevent Agostinho Neto, head of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) from proclaiming the Portuguese colony’s independence.”
This is also a good moment to read Black Stalingrad: The Battle of Cuito Cuanavale, by Peter Polack. Polack, a criminal lawyer in the Cayman Islands, who says his interest in Angola was sparked by a meeting in 1992 with two Cuban refugees who had fought in Angola. He then made a trip to Cuba where he acquired several books on the war in Angola and the battle that took place there in 1987 and 1988 where two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, “collided in a monstrous battle fought by their satellite nations of Cuba and South Africa who were assisting“ Angolan groups. The author explains that the battle was significant because it represented the last major incursion in Southern Africa by Russia and the USA, the start of the Angolan peace process, the end of Cuban international intervention, and the end of the cold war.
For a video presentation of Black Stalingrad, see
Peter Polack was born in Jamaica in 1958. He has worked as a criminal lawyer in the Cayman Islands since 1983.
José Steinsleger is a prolific Argentine writer and journalist based in Mexico. He is a regular columnist for the leading Mexican newspaper La Jornada.
[The excerpt from “The Battle of Cuito Cuanavale—The 20th Anniversary of an Example of International Solidarity” by José Steinsleger was translated by Machetera. She is a member of Tlaxcala, the network of translators for linguistic diversity, and editor of the blog http://machetera.wordpress.com/.]
For reviews of Peter Polack’s Black Stalingrad, see http://reporterregrets.blogspot.com/2010/02/black-stalingrad-or-angolas-verdun.html and previous post http://repeatingislands.com/2010/03/13/amateur-historian-writes-book-on-cuban-soldiers-in-angola/
See Steinsleger’s full article (in English) at http://www.tlaxcala.es/pp.asp?lg=en&reference=4891
For more information on Cuban participation in Angola, see http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/features/48547