Cuban soldiers serving
|Above: Angolan-Cuban "War Baby" Mario Ramirez Anache - traced his mother in Angola, and now works there as a dentist.|
Across the Atlantic Ocean from Cuba, on the coast of sub-Saharan Africa, lies the vast country of Angola. Cuba's connections with Angola go back 300 years to the time of the slave trade. We don't know exactly, but it is estimated that 40% of all African slaves in the caribbean, came from the Angola region (controlled by the Portuguese). We can safely say that by the time slavery in Cuba was abolished, a large number of Cubans were descended from an Angolan heritage; their ancestors brought over to work on the Sugar Plantations.
But there was a second relationship between Angola and Cuba - this time in the 1970s and 80s. A civil war was raging in Angola, between two armies fighting for power: One army loyal to, and funded by, the USA and South Africa (then, white-ruled). The opposing army was the MPLA, a communist-aligned movement, which received arms from the Soviet Union. Cuba took the unprecedented step for a latin-american country, of directly intervening in a civil war in another continent. Cuba actually sent a whole army, complete with armour and equipment, across the Atlantic, to fight in Angola on the side of the MPLA.
Cuba's military was there from 1975 until about 1991 when the MPLA side was victorious in the Civil war. Then the Cuban soldiers returned to Cuba. But many of these soldiers, took back more than memories and souvenirs of war, to their caribbean homeland. Many Cuban soldiers had fathered babies by Angolan women - and they were allowed to take these babies back with them to Cuba. The mothers, of course, were not able to accompany their babies and had to say goodbye to them; many no doubt, believing they would never see them again.
There is a sting in the tail of this story - with, for many, a happy ending of family reunions. Five years ago, Angola decided to allow any Cuban citizens born in Angola during the civil war, to apply for Angolan passports; thus enabling them to travel to Angola, to look up their mothers (if they could find them), and any surviving relations in Angola. These Cuban-Angolan "babies" are now young men and women in their 20s and 30s - they soon realised that an Angolan passport would give a lot more than just the chance to look for their long-lost mothers. This brought the opportunity to live and work in Angola, which at present has a booming economy and lots of opportunites for work. Even more, came the chance to travel to other countries in Africa and Europe, travel which for the majority of Cubans is very difficult or impossible.
Has Angola finally taken revenge on the caribbean, for plundering its human resources during the slave trade !
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