“For 24 hours we were free!”

“Entrada gratis”, said the lady at the gate of the naval history museum in Cienfuegos. That is (according to the guidebook) 2 CUC extra in my pocket. Yes!
Walking to the main building I pass a torpedo, some anchors, a machine gun from a submarine and a Russian truck. The latter was the best preserved of them all, and I assumed it must have played an important role in communist Cuba.
At the entrance of the main building I was greeted by a lovely lady who asked if I would just like to walk around or was interested in a guided tour. English was an option, so off we went.
First she apologized: “We had to move items to a safe location due to hurricane Matthew. Not all items are put back on display.” Luckily by far most of them were.
Half of the museum is dedicated to the uprising against the Batista regime of September 5th 1957, which started in these buildings. Many artifacts on display “this is the shirt one of the leaders wore that day”. But also a heavy machine gun on a tripod. “This was placed on a truck” the guide explains. Indeed, the one outside.
“For 24 hours we were free!” the guide said proudly. Meaning, a day after the uprising the Batista “puppet regime” had crushed the uprising.
Later on we passed a patrol boat on display. It was of the first of the Cuban coastguard. “Given to us by the Russians”. The engine has a hole in it, so it mere useless. “Every September 5th we start the engine for a couple of minutes as if we would sail out. Which we can’t do for real of course”. I start to like her sense of humor; although not completely sure she intended that way.
Of to the more classic naval history. Cuba once being a Spanish colony, there was money (in silver) going to Spain. Somewhere this sounds familiar to me. And yes, I spot a print of a Dutch painting which says “Afbeeldinge in wat manier de Silver vloot vanden Generael Pieter Pietersen Heyn veroouert is”. About the conquest of the Spanish Silver fleet by the Dutch. Here is Cuba they call him (Piet Heyn) a pirate; the Dutch think different about him.
I explained the painting to the guide. “I think I’ve learned something today”, she says. Me too: history is defined by who’s side you are on.

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