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Saturday, April 3, 2010

Remembering the Maine

While I was in Havana, I went searching for the memorial to the sailors aboard the USS Maine, the battleship that blew up in Havana Harbor in 1898, prompting the US to declare war with Spain. Nobody seemed to know much about where the memorial was located, but I finally found it at the extreme western end of the Malecón, near the iconic Hotel Nacionál, in the left of the photo.

It is interesting how the explosion aboard the USS Maine has been used for propaganda purposes by both the US and the Cuban governments. Though there was no clear evidence that the Maine had been blown up by the Spanish, the US declared war, with the slogan "Remember the Maine! To hell with Spain!" Now, the Cuban government, freed from both Spanish colonialism and US paternalism, tells the story of how the US government intentionally blew up its own ship and killed its own sailors to create a pretext for invading Cuba. It is likely, however, that the the USS Maine blew and sank because of a fire in her coal bunker, which was adjacent to her forward magazine.

These days, the monument is largely forgotten, with the fountain full of garbage and the original plaque, which named the 266 sailors killed, replaced with a plaque remembering "victims sacrificed to the imperialist greed in its fervor to seize control of Cuba." The gold eagle that was once at the top of the columns was removed in 1961 and is now housed in the American Interests Section building in Havana.

So, here's the raw video of a recording of the song "Battleship of Maine" that I made while we were in Havana Harbor. I'll let you draw your own message from it.

[N.B. This recording is entirely my own work and does not reflect the opinions of Amistad America, Inc., or the officers and crew of the Freedom Schooner Amistad.]

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