Brains, Beards, and Butterflies

Following the success of the Cuban Revolution in early 1959, the dictators of the Caribbean feared that bearded revolutionaries would soon invade their shores and oust them from power. These fears were not unfounded as Castro had made Cuba a safe haven for exiles of the region’s antidictatorial struggle.

In the Spring of 1959, a number of revolutionary movements, inspired by the Cuban Revolution, attempted to overthrow the governments of Haiti, Panama, and Nicaragua. All of these movements proved to be disastrous failures, but they put the region’s tyrants on alert. In the face of possible aggression Generalissimo Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic warned any possible revolutionaries to stay away from his shores unless they wanted “to see their beards and brains flying about like butterflies.”

In June of 1959, Trujillo made good on his word to make the “beards and brains” of his enemies fly when the Dominican National Guard repulsed an invasion of Dominican exiles. Although the invaders were mostly Dominicans, they received logistical and financial support from the governments of Cuba and Venezuela. The incursion exacerbated the already tension situation and resulted in Cuba and Venezuela severing relations with the Dominican Republic. By the end of the 1950s the Caribbean was a hotbed of tensions between the region’s democratic, communist, and dictatorial elements, and would remain that way for decades to come.

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