Vietnam Heroico by Roberto Salas, 1967

The portrayal of the Vietnam War was predominantly influenced by Western journalists and reporters. However, the reporting of the war in the Communist Bloc, particularly in countries like the Soviet Union, China, and Eastern European nations, was markedly different. There, the war was seen primarily through the lens of ideological struggle: a heroic fight of the Vietnamese people against American imperialism and capitalist aggression.

Roberto Salas, son of the celebrated photographer Osvaldo Salas, was born in New York City, but after the Cuban Revolution, he returned to Cuba among a small group of photographers sanctioned by the Cuban government and worked for its leading newspaper, Revolución. In the spring of 1967, Salas spent several weeks in Vietnam to produce a special report for Cuba magazine. His essays documented Ho Chi Minh, the historic ruins of Vietnam, the life in Hanoi, and the peasant army in the South with whom he travelled through the jungle.

Salas’s work differed somewhat from the other images of the war made by local North Vietnamese photographers in that he followed the style of classic photojournalism, as opposed to the propagandist tendencies of the local photographers. His work was published in June 1967 speical edition of the magazine, and a special show was staged in Hanoi in December for his photos.

Cuba’s involvement in the Vietnam War was complex. Both governments had not divulged much details about it, but there were many Cuban military, intelligence, medical staff in advisorial roles in North Vietnam during the war, and some reports indicated that Cuban fighter pilots flew MiGs in aerial combat over North Vietnam and manned some of the prisoner of war camps.

(All the volumes of the short-lived Cuba magazine are archived here, at University of Florida)

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