Popular Culture Review Vol. 28, No. 2, Summer 2017 - Page 113

During the 1950s, Cuba offered the gambler several of the leading casino facilities in the world. There was little doubt, however, that the gaming was connected to organized crime personalities in the United States as well as to military dictator Fulgencio Batista. Both entities skimmed considerable sums of money from the casino operations. Cuba also had both public and private lotteries, a first-class racing facility, and jai alai fontons. All the gambling activity came to a halt after Fidel Castro engineered a successful rebellion and took over the reins of power in January 1959. Repeated attempts by casino owners and the new government to negotiate a continuation of casino gaming were unsuccessful. It has been suggested that—as a result--U.S. crime interests were involved in attempts to overthrow the Castro regime, both in the abortive Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 and in several assassination attempts on the new dictator’s life. An entire tourism infrastructure subsequently slipped into decay during the five decades of Fidel Castro’s rule. Today that rule has been passed to Fidel’s younger brother Raul Castro, and now voices are suggesting that Cuba may soon seek to restore its tourism industry and may even contemplate reopening casinos. The island of Cuba was colonized and controlled by the Spanish government for four centuries, until a revolution developed in the 1890s. When the United States declared war on Spain in 1898, the revolution became successful, and independence was gained for the Cuban people. Authorities in the United States, however, sought to keep many controls over the Cuban people. American war troops were not removed until 1902, and even after the Cubans elected a new government under Pres. Jose Miguel Gomez that year, the United States “negotiated” to have a major naval base at Guantanamo Bay. Other commercial interests in the United States also continued their economic domination over much of Cuba. These interests had been in Cuba for many years before the revolution. Many Americans looked at the seaside location called Marianao, ten miles outside of the city of Havana, and found it to be a desirable place to live, engage in real estate transactions, and start tourism resorts. A local group known as the 3 C’s (named for Carlos Miguel de Cespedes, Jose Manuel Cortina, and Carlos Manuel de la Cruz) formed a tourism company that sought to build a casino in Marianao. In 1910, they proposed legislation in the National Congress that would have permitted the casino and also would have granted them an exclusive thirty-year concession to operate it. At a time when the Americans in Cuba saw the casino as “opportunity,” Americans in the United States were in a wave of anti-sin social reform. This was the same year that the 108