In 1960, just days after the American embargo against Cuba was first imposed and months before ties between the United States and Cuba were formally severed, the Metropolitan Broadcast Corporation aired Cuba: The Battle of America, an hour-long special on Channel 5 about the Cuban Revolution.
Hosted and written by Albert Burke, the program featured the Yale professor and Emmy-winning television presenter ambling the stage, talking about the roots of Castro's rise to power. Sound like a snoozer? It's absolutely not.
With Wednesday's great thaw in mind, the video documents what Cuba looked like the last time American tourists could easily visit the island, more than five decades ago. At the time, Burke noted, the typical tourist stuck to the country's "tourist alleys" and its familiar "foam-rubber mattress, tiled-bathroom type of life." But the average "John Q. American," in Burke's words, didn't know that beyond those alleys lay something much darker and pernicious: communism.
The first irony here is how successfully the image of Cuba has been overtaken by communism. It's difficult to imagine a past in which Americans didn't picture the Castro regime rather than the hotels, department stores, and office buildings of the Old Havana Burke described.