A documentary airing Friday, Sept. 24 at 7 p.m. on WGCU WORLD tells the virtually unknown story of Cuban revolutionaries Frank Pais and Juan Antonio Echeverria.
Working largely independently from each other, these young men – a school teacher and architecture student, respectively – played critical roles in the eventual overthrow of dictator Fulgencio Batista y Zaldivar, although their names seldom appear alongside their more famous contemporaries, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara.
Scholar Lillian Guerra, of Yale and Florida State University, explains: “It is as if we told the tale of the American Revolution as solely Washington’s story, leaving out Franklin, Jefferson, Adams and others.”
New scholarship and recently accessed footage challenge the prevailing view – in part manufactured and perpetuated by Che Guevara – that Castro’s army of 200 guerillas single-handedly defeated tens of thousands of Batista’s professional soldiers and liberated the people of Cuba. In actuality, Pais and Echeverria’s city-based insurgencies in Santiago and Havana held the key to generating popular support for resistance and undermining the authority of Batista and his secret police. Both Pais and Echeverria rivaled Castro in popularity and power during the height of the Revolution yet neither man lived to see the movement succeed. A close associate reportedly gunned down Pais in the street; Echeverria died in a daring raid on the palace.
Cuba: The Forgotten Revolution highlights the complexities inherent in revolutions and examines the shaping (and reshaping) of the final historical record through exclusive interviews and archival stock footage. Cuban revolution participants and observers, family members of the men, Americans who fought alongside Castro and Guevara, and a former CIA agent responsible for smuggling secret radio equipment to the rebels share their experiences from that era, while leading historians consider the newly revealed information.