Giant blond, blue-eyed ants

September 9, 1962

I have just been out driving around the Soviet deployment to the west of Havana, over by Mariel. It’s getting absolutely surreal. There are hundreds of trucks and tanks and cement mixers and thousands of very, very white, thick-necked men in striped sport shirts. Well, it is difficult to describe what is going on. It’s as if Cuba is a big anthill crawling with giant blond, blue-eyed ants, carrying everything here and there and going about their business. And to think: it is all for the defense of Cuba from attacks by Uncle Sam. If it is really true that Kennedy and his people still have no inkling that nuclear missiles are being deployed in this island, he is in for one helluva surprise.

I have been trying to think: how is it possible that Kennedy is still giving daily statements to the effect that there is no evidence of a missile deployment in Cuba. I asked Che and Raul yesterday: do you believe that Kennedy still has no idea what’s going on down here? They said they did not think this was possible—that even the CIA, which is notorious for getting things wrong, cannot possibly miss what is going on. In addition to their illegal over-flights and other technological means of getting information about us, there are thousands of Cubans in Miami who have heard from their relatives on the island what is going on. Now, a lot of these people work for the CIA. We know this. We have our spies, too. They work for us. But something is being lost in translation between what the exiles are reporting to their Yankee overseers, and what the gringos who are in charge of the exiles are telling the people in Washington. Maybe none of the gringos speak Spanish—at least not Cuban Spanish, which (so the Mexicans tell us) sounds partly Spanish and partly African dialect, spoken with a mouth full of food. (It’s a wonder we get along so well with the Mexicans!) Or maybe the gringos take the information given them by the exiles and throw it in the wastebasket. That would be just like the gringos. They have no respect for Cubans. None at all, not even the gusanos!

I know this from personal experience. On April 25 1959—I remember it as if was yesterday—I was sitting at a dinner supposedly in my honor at the Harvard University Faculty Club. The host was McGeorge Bundy, who was the dean, and is now Kennedy’s national security adviser. Bundy raised his glass and offered a toast to me: “to the only person ever given a dinner at the Harvard Faculty Club who tried to get into Harvard, and failed.” (It’s true about my application to Harvard, in 1948. I wanted to go to Harvard. But they turned me down.) Anyway, everybody laughed at Bundy’s clever toast. I was angry, and I felt my blood start to rise. So I stood up and said in Spanish (I had been speaking English until then), something like, “and here is to a roomful of ignorant gringo bastards, especially the dean of the gringo bastards.” When I finished, only my Cuban associates knew what I had said. They tried to stifle laughter. The gringos, beginning with the gringo dean, raised their glasses as if I had just toasted to everyone’s good health. They were clueless.

Maybe the CIA gringos in Miami are just as clueless as the gringo bastard dean of Harvard.