The next museum we visited, the Museo de la Revolución, was frankly underwhelming. This may partly be due to the construction that was happening while we visited, but, in general, the museum appeared not to be very well organized, nor a good retelling of the revolution. Interestingly, Dr. Fornet had told us the day before that the Museo de la Revolución is made for tourists, rarely do Cubans ever visit it. In fact, the curator of the museum is an Italian woman, which may explain the presence of a narrative that is not fully formed.
First there is an internal conflict in the museum, between the space as a fine palace and as a museum of the revolution and the Cuban people. I loved the large mural up above with several symbols of the country. I am interested in what information is mentioned and what is missing…also the museum is not just historical because it talks about advances in education, health, safety, and social well-being as consequences of the socialist state that still remains. It is clearly a place of propaganda, like all state museums, but I have to notice that they put the gift shop inside the museum to force every visitor to walk through it as another way to take advantage of foreigners.
I enjoyed the experience of walking around the museum. What caught my attention the most were the stories of Camilo Cienfuegos, since the day before had marked the 60 years of his disappearance. Outside our residence, we saw the streets closed and many police officers because there were so many people in the streets carrying white flowers to throw on the boardwalk. So, this made me curious to look closer at his part in the revolution. I found the banners of Vilma Espín Guillois and Celia Sánchez Manduley very fascinating because normally we do not talk about the role of women in the revolution, neither in the Cuban nor in any other revolution, so I enjoyed learning about their role. The information about the agrarian reform and how they received the plight of the peasants also caught my attention. I think it is one thing to read about the reforms, but it is very different to see a picture of how the land was distributed — which obviously does not begin to tell the whole process, but at least it gives us a visual. In the end, we went outside and saw the Granma, which is impressive. I thought it was much smaller!
To begin with, the museum is located in the palace where Cuban presidents from Menocal to Batista had lived. This in it of itself is a powerful statement: the revolutionary movement has consumed the legacy of Cuba’s ex-presidents. A wall sized photo of Castro delivering a speech hangs with the words “PATRIA O MUERTE” written on it. Generally, the museum’s informative texts are factually vague but powerful in expression. These are very flowery statements that idolize and celebrate the revolutionary efforts while slamming American policies, yet the statements are not rooted in fact– just in passion.