The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 70/No. 8           February 27, 2006  
‘Our History Is Still Being Written’
Book-length interview with Chinese-Cuban generals
sparks wide interest at Havana book fair
(feature article)
HAVANA—“This book will be a vehicle to get out the truth about the Cuban Revolution in every country, especially among young people,” said Brig. Gen. Moisés Sío Wong. “It will help people, both here and in the United States, learn about the role of Chinese in Cuban history.”

The book, he noted, will be of value “not only in capitalist countries but in socialist countries too,” especially in China, where little is known about the Cuban Revolution.

Sío Wong was one of the featured speakers at a standing-room-only meeting here February 6 to present Our History Is Still Being Written: The Story of Three Chinese-Cuban Generals in the Cuban Revolution, newly published by Pathfinder Press in both English and Spanish. The event was part of the February 3-12 Havana International Book Fair.

Sío Wong said the book was the product of “persistent work” by Pathfinder editors who, in the course of several interviews over four years, drew out the stories of each of the three generals, including the importance for the Cuban Revolution of the work they are doing today.

As they recount in the book, Armando Choy, Gustavo Chui, and Sío Wong all joined the revolutionary struggle led by the July 26 Movement and the Rebel Army, which overthrew the U.S.-backed Batista dictatorship on Jan. 1, 1959, and opened the door to the first socialist revolution in the Americas. Each became a general in Cuba’s Revolutionary Armed Forces. Today Chui shoulders national responsibilities in the Association of Combatants of the Cuban Revolution. Choy heads up the far-reaching effort to transform the infrastructure of the port of Havana and restore the environmental health of the bay. Sío Wong, who is on active duty in Cuba’s Revolutionary Armed Forces, is president of the National Institute of State Reserves and of the Cuba-China Friendship Association.  
Book generates interest
Our History Is Still Being Written was one of the titles that generated broad interest among visitors to the 10-day book fair. The daily newspaper Granma, the news agency Prensa Latina, and the online edition of the Cuban cultural magazine La Jiribilla all featured articles about the book.

After the Havana fair, the Association of Combatants of the Cuban Revolution is sponsoring multiple presentations of the book in that city—including in Havana’s historic Chinatown—as well as in Matanzas, Santo Domingo, Santa Clara, and Fomento. A presentation is also projected for Santiago de Cuba in the coming weeks. The Association organizes activities of some 300,000 Cubans who have participated in revolutionary struggles at home or internationalist missions abroad.

More than 80 people attended the February 6 meeting. They included a delegation from the Association of Combatants of the Cuban Revolution headed by generals Rafael Moracén and Alfonso Zayas. A number of veteran revolutionary combatants and some university students were among those in the audience.

The three generals were joined on the platform by Cuban vice president José Ramón Fernández, himself a brigadier general who in April 1961 commanded the main column of Cuban troops that defeated the U.S.-organized mercenary invasion at the Bay of Pigs, known in Cuba as the victory of Playa Girón.

Iraida Aguirrechu, a senior editor of the Cuban publishing house Editora Política, who participated in the interviews and did much to assure the book’s editorial quality, chaired the meeting. The first speaker she introduced was Mary-Alice Waters, editor of the book and president of Pathfinder.

Waters focused her remarks on why Our History Is Still Being Written is important today outside Cuba, especially in the United States, and why Pathfinder is publishing it.

All three generals spoke at the meeting. Choy concentrated on the important place of Chinese in Cuba’s history, from their outstanding record in that country’s independence wars between 1868 and 1898 to the revolutionary struggle against the Batista tyranny. Chui talked about his own experience growing up in Santiago de Cuba, about the struggle led by the Rebel Army in the Sierra Maestra mountains of eastern Cuba, and about the internationalist combat mission in Angola in which all three took part at various times between 1975 and 1988. Sío Wong spoke about the political collaboration with Pathfinder editors that produced Our History Is Still Being Written, and about Cuba’s contribution to the worldwide fight for socialism.

Choy said he had experienced little anti-Chinese discrimination growing up in Fomento and Santa Clara before the Cuban Revolution. He attributed the acceptance of Chinese-Cubans and their general integration in society to their distinguished record in Cuba’s independence struggle.

Chui remarked that his experience was different, noting that each of the three was from a different region and social background. His own father was Chinese and his mother black. As a young child Chui spoke only Cantonese, but as soon as he started going to school he encountered such anti-Chinese bias and felt so ashamed of being Chinese that he rapidly suppressed his ability to speak that language. “These conditions led me to have a rebellious nature” and to join the Rebel Army, he said.

Sío Wong, commenting on the role of Cubans of Chinese ancestry in Cuba’s history and today, said the fact they no longer face systematic discrimination in this country is the result of a socialist revolution.  
‘Take this book to China’
The lesson of the Cuban Revolution is “not only that another world is possible, but that a socialist world is possible,” he emphasized. “We are fighting and demonstrating that socialism is the future of the world.”

He said that in addition to its value for Cubans, especially for young people, “it will be important to translate this book into Chinese and take it to China.” In that country, he pointed out, “little is known not only about Chinese participation in our independence war but about the history of the Cuban Revolution in general.”

Sío Wong noted, “It is no secret that for 25 years”—from the mid-1960s to the end of the 1980s—“relations between Cuba and China were not good. Nothing was said here about China, and in China nothing was said about Cuba.”

Relations between the two governments improved beginning in 1989. That year Sío Wong led a high-level Cuban military delegation to China. He joked that in the initial meetings, the Chinese hosts didn’t realize he was Cuban. They kept asking: where is the head Cuban of the delegation? “They thought I was the translator—the waiters would serve all our comrades and then serve me last.”

Sío Wong also spoke of the ongoing internationalist aid Cuba is providing Venezuela today, including the efforts he is contributing around the development of small-scale urban agriculture there. That, he said, “is part of the history we are still writing today.”

After Sío Wong’s remarks, Fernández, who had not planned to speak, asked to say a few words. He thanked Pathfinder “for the work of telling the truth about the Cuban Revolution.” He thanked Iraida Aguirrechu for her help on this and other books, noting her editorial abilities and that she had worked under him for several years when he was vice minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces.

Pathfinder has published Playa Girón/Bay of Pigs by Fidel Castro and Fernández. It has also published an interview with Fernández in Making History, the new Cuban edition of which was presented at the book fair the following day.

After the meeting, book fair participants purchased 86 copies of Our History Is Still Being Written. Fair organizers said it was one of the biggest sales at book presentations during the 10-day event.
Related articles:
Book needed by those in front lines of class struggle
Will be of special interest to many among 2.5 million Chinese-Americans in U.S.  
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