#CubAngola40: Rethinking the 1975 African-Cuban War


#CubAngola40: Rethinking the 1975 African-Cuban War

– See more at: http://clacs.as.nyu.edu/object/clacs.events.special.110615#sthash.2s4FGExX.dpufForty years ago, the Cuban government launched Operation Carlota, a large-scale military intervention in Angola while this African country was on the eve of its independence from Portugal. The Cuban military victory over the forces supported by the United States and South Africa represented an explosive chapter  of the Cold War and of the African decolonization. The consequences were immediate and long-lasting, since the resulting defeat of South African troops contributed  to the end of the white-supremacist regime of Apartheid. In that context, the intervention of a small Latin American country into the two main geopolitical struggles of the time was not only unique, it represented an audacious South-to-South cooperation.

Nonetheless, this important historical fact still underrepresented. A great deal of historical and cultural material remains open to exploration, discussion, and scholarship.  Hence, #CubAngola40  begins to redress the scant attention this event has received and will strive to answer many pertinent and suspended questions:

  • What did the internationalism behind this event mean, or what could it have meant to today’s racial politics of the African diaspora and to transnational solidarity?
  • What political role did the Bantu-based cultures shared by both countries since early slave trade bring to bear in the Angola-Cuba context?
  • In light of recent changes in US-Cuba relations, can we expect new narratives, revelations, or perspectives regarding the intervention?


10:00 am  Welcome and opening remarks

10:10 am   Prof. Piero Gleijeses — Visions of Freedom: Castro’s Foreign Policy

11:20 am  Morning Coffee Break

11:45 am  Adriano Mixinge and Prof. Christabelle Peters — A Conversation About History and Literature on Cuban-Angolan Relations

1:00pm      Lunch Break

2:00 pm     Tony Pinelli and Ned Sublette — A Conversation About Music and Cultural Exchange During the Cuban Intervention in Angola

3:30 pm     Afternoon Coffee Break

4:00 pm     Prof. Linda Heywood — Soft Power in the African Diaspora: The Case of Cuba and Angola

5:00 pm    Reception

Speakers at this event are:

Piero Gleijeses is a professor of United States foreign policy at Johns Hopkins University. He is best known for his scholarly studies of Cuban foreign policy under Fidel Castro, and has also published several works on US intervention in Latin America. His 2002 book, Conflicting Missions: Havana, Washington and Africa, 1959–1976, was an exhaustive re-examination of the Cuban involvement in the decolonization of Africa. and won SHAFR’s Robert H. Ferrell Book Prize for 2003. Visions of Freedom (2013), picks up from Conflicting Missions by looking at the clash between Cuba, the United States, the Soviet Union, and South Africa in southern Africa between 1976 and 1991.

Linda Heywood is a professor of African History and the History of the African Diaspora and African American Studies at Boston University. She is the author of Contested Power in Angola, editor of and contributor to Central Africans — Cultural Transformations in the American Diaspora, and co-author with John Thornton of Central African, Atlantic Creoles, and the Foundation of America (Cambridge University Press, July, 2007) which was the winner of the 2008 Melville Herskovits Award for the Best Book published in African Studies.

Adriano Mixinge, is an Angolan writer and historian with studies in Art History at the University of Havana, Cuba and at the Complutense University of Madrid, Spain. He is a member of the International Association of Art Critics, serves as a cultural advisor with the Embassies of Angola in Spain ad France, and has worked as a professor at the National Institute of Artistic Training and Culture (INFAC)of Angola. In addition, he  edits the cultural journal Jornal de Angola, is a curator of several solo and group exhibitions of artists in Angola and abroad (Spain, South Africa, France) and a collaborator of Angola’s delegation to UNESCO. He has been invited to present on Nov. 6, 2015 at the CubAngola:40 conference at NYU, that will analyze Cuban and Angolan relations 40 years after the Cuban intervention in Angola.

Christabelle Peters, is a cultural theorist specializing in the relationship between race and national identity, with a particular focus on transnational links between Angola, Brazil and Cuba. Her monograph “Cuban Identity and the Angolan Experience” (2012) narrated how the internationalist mission in the former Portuguese colony transformed how Cubans thought about themselves at home and in the world. Since receiving her doctorate from the University of Nottingham in 2010, Peters has been awarded fellowships from the Leverhulme Trust, the British Academy, and the University of Warwick to develop a new book project titled “Angola in the African Atlantic.” She is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the Department of Hispanic Studies at Warwick, UK, and concurrently a member of two research centers in Lisbon, Portugal: the Centro de Estudos sobre África, Ásia e America Latina of the University of Lisbon, and the Hangar Artistic Research Center. She has been invited to present on Nov. 6, 2015  at the CubAngola:40 conference at NYU, analyzing Cuban and Angolan relations 40 years after the Cuban intervention in Angola.

Tony Pinelli, is a Cuban musician, producer and radio host. He became known in Cuba in the early 1970s after joining the vocal quartet “Los Cañas”, that toured in then Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia, besides Bulgaria. In 1975, Mr. Pinelli traveled to Angola in the early moments of Cuban intervention as a member of the artistic brigades, playing for the Cuban and Angolan soldiers and population with other important musicians as Silvio Rodríguez and Grupo Manguaré, as part of the cultural policies of Cuban internationalism. Back to Cuba, he devoted the following years to produce musical concerts and radio shows about Cuban music. Mr. Pinelli has recently moved to Miami, where he presents “De Lo Que Habla Pinelli” for América Tevé,  writes a weekly column for Cubarte website and is finishing his book “A pesar de todo: La historia no contada de la Música Cubana”.

Ned Sublette is the author of Cuba and Its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo(Chicago Review Press, 2004), co-founded the 1990s record label Qbadisc, which specialized in contemporary Cuban music. He traveled to Angola in 2012, researching and recording for four one-hour documentaries for Public Radio International’s Afropop Worldwide Hip Deep, including “The Cuban Intervention in Angola,” featuring the commentary of Piero Gleijeses and Tony Pinelli.

This event is free and open to the public. ID is required to enter the building.

Co-sponsored by the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS), King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center (KJCC), Department of Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Literatures, and the Department of History at NYU. – See more at: http://clacs.as.nyu.edu/object/clacs.events.special.110615#sthash.2s4FGExX.dpuf

One thought on “#CubAngola40: Rethinking the 1975 African-Cuban War

  1. Piero Gleijeses, You have written a lot about the War in Angola, also of the period 1975-1976.
    I tend to disagree with some of your reports.
    I would also like to know from you , how and when did the Cubans defeat the South Africans during the 1975-1976 period.
    The fact is that the Cubans stopped the South Africans at Ebo on the 23rd November 1975. Yes , that was a huge advantage for the Cubans that days happenings. The Cubans and FAPLA had blown nearly every Bridge from the west coast to the Eastern side of Angola. The only passage for the South Africans to advance further was through Ebo, as they did not have any Bridge building equipment . So the Cubans with Cuban Commander Raul Diaz Arguelles set a trap for the South Africans , as General Luis Coquette recalls those days when national independence was in great danger: “In view of the enemy’s advance decided to sabotage several bridges, we have created an authentic funnel that had to drive the invading troops to Ebo. And that’s where we set up the defense. The commander Arguelles was always by our side. ”
    So the South Africans drove into that trap, and the Cubans were the Heroes of the Day.

    But when after that did they defeat the South Africans ?
    During the Battle at Bridge 14, on the Nhia river, early December 1975.
    The Cubans had also blown this Bridge.
    The South Africans decided this is where they were going to cross.
    The Cubans had their forces on the North side of the Nhia river,
    The South Africans sent in one Company of 18 -19 year old National Serviceman who were still busy with their National training. The Cubans had already experienced Combatants .
    The South African gunners were also 18-19 year old National Serviceman as were the mortar men , Medics etc, even the Eland men were mostly young National Serviceman.
    Now this battle actually started on the 2nd December 1975 with the main fighting happening on the 9th , 10th , 11th & 12 December. During this battle the Cubans fired everything they had at the South Africans, BM-21’s , Mortars , Sagger missiles, Cannons etc
    Yet the South African Sappers carried on rebuilding the Bridge , fighting back as well.
    During this Battle the South Africans lost four soldiers , KIA. fOUR TIFFIES WERE cAPTURED ON THE 13 TH December as they had orders to go to the front to retrieve something. But they drove too far North and drove into the Cubans positions .
    Now maybe you don’t know how many Cuban and Fapla troops fought against the South Africans in that BATTLE. But they were at Least 4x the amount of Soldiers that the South Africans had, yet it was the South Africans who crossed the Bridge on the 12th December 1975 , pushing the Cubans back into a retreat. One of those Cubans who also died during that BATTLE was Cuban Commander Raul Diaz Arguelles, who died on the 11th December, when driving over a landmine, on the Conde Road, as this time the South Africans laid their own trap, making the Cubans believe that they still wanted to advance through the Conde area.
    Too many Cubans and Fapla were killed in that battle.
    On the 12th December 1975 , there was already orders that the South Africans must not advance , but that arrived to late at the Front. So during the Battle , after the South African Eland Armoured Cars had managed to push the Cubans back to Catofe, the Eland men were told to halt, and not attack any further.
    The South Africans were told to hold ground, as they were expecting to be withdrawn out of Angola.
    But politics played it part, with the Americans, and other Countries trying to keep the South Africans in Angola . Anyway near the end of January 1975, the South Africans started to withdraw in a peaceful manner. they were not attacked by the Cubans or FAPLA during their withdrawal out of Angola.
    The only towns & Cities the Cubans and FAPLA captured , were the towns we had already withdrawn from. Maybe the Cubans did not want to start any battles with the South Africans as they withdrew, as maybe they were worried the South Africans might just have turned around then.
    So what the world was told by Castro , you and other historians, is partly Truth but too many untruths.
    I was 18 years old then and was involved with the Battle at Bridge 14, so I know what I am talking about.

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