As baseball manager Ozzie Guillen serves out his five day suspension for saying nice things about Fidel Castro, I took a look today at what college history textbooks have to say about the Cuban dictator. One thing they don’t say about him is the word “dictator.” That word is reserved for the many Castro overthrew, Fulgencio Batista.
I’ve just been looking through the college freshman history textbooks that I critique in the Columns section of this website, and not one of them uses the “D” word in regard to Castro, while all of them use that word, often proceeded by “corrupt,” to describe Batista.
The textbook American Destiny states “In 1959 a revolutionary movement headed by Fidel Castro overthrew Fulgencio Batista, one of the most noxious of the latin American dictators.”
The textbook The American People tells students that Castro’s popularity came from “nationalism and a thrust for reform,” and that the people turned to Castro because “they no longer accept as universal or inevitable the oppressive prevailing order.” Castro, in other words, was a liberator.
Nation of Nations, the textbook by Davidson and Gienapp, is even more biased in Castro’s favor: “Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batist had close ties both to the US government and to major crime figures who operated gambling, prostitution, and drug rings in Havana. A disgruntled middle-class lawyer, Fidel Castro, gained the support of impoverished peasants in Cuba’s mountains and, in January 1959, drove Batista from power.”
None of these textbooks mention a word about the bloodbath that followed Castro’s assumption of power.
It’s easy to understand how Ozzie Guillen got the idea that Castro is a hero. He’s portrayed that way in most of the history books.