Cuba: Island of Dreams

Cuba: Island of Dreams

Cuba: Island of Dreams

Cuba: Island of Dreams

Synopsis

As spiritual home of Che Guevara and arch-enemy of the United States for more than forty years, Cuba exerts a powerful hold over people's imaginations. The Revolution and its leader, Fidel Castro, have survived invasion, repeated external and internal crisis, and most astonishingly, economic collapse and political isolation. What is at the root of the continuity and success of the 'Revolution' and in what sense can it be termed a 'revolution'? This book is the first in-depth study of Cuba to examine its history and revolutionary transformation through the evolution of ideology and myth. Music, political campaigns, street and media propaganda, literature, cinema, and drama have served to establish a cubanista tradition, supported by powerful myths such as Che Guevara and Jose Marti, the New Man, youth, and an Afro-Cuban identity. Challenging preconceptions and conventional wisdoms about Cuba and its leadership, this book presents a remarkable portrait of the distinctive history of the island's culture. The interplay of history, revolutionary action, and ideology through myth and collective experience make this book essential reading for Cuban scholars, Latin American and US historians, political analysts and those generally interested in the history and future of Cuban political culture.

Excerpt

To say that this book is a labour of love may be a cliché but is no exaggeration. It is, or has been, a labour because, from conception to birth, it has taken a great many years to be realized. Even though the actual format and specific theme of the study only emerged clearly in my mind a few years back, it is true to say that it is the culmination of all my study, writings and thinking since I first decided to specialize academically on Cuba, in 1971, when I embarked on my full-study for my Ph.D. in London. From that moment, my focus has followed a logical trajectory, from doctorate, through various new specializations and publications, to the idea of this book, which has been promised to friends and colleagues alike so often that most of them must have despaired of ever seeing it come to fruition. It has therefore been visibly, palpably and painfully a genuine labour.

It has also, however, been a love. For there can be few people who have decided to concentrate their academic or professional attention on Cuba who have not one way or another fallen in love with Cuba and with the Cubans in general. Apart from the evident attractions of the place and the people, it is difficult not to develop at least a degree of affection for the potentially exasperating and always bewildering contradictions of the island and its political process and system. I have observed (so often that they have become personal clichés) that Cuba always manages to surprise you, that no matter how much you may think you understand Cuba you are always likely to discover something unexpected, and that those who claim to understand the Revolution, probably do not, while those who admit to being confused by it, probably do already have some idea of what it is about fundamentally. Certainly, after 28 years of academic specialization in things Cuban, I am all too aware at times of how little I still really know and understand about the process of the Revolution.

Having said that, however, I would like to think that, just as Cuba has got under my skin in one sense over the years, I too have, in another way, got under Cuba's skin, got close to understanding what makes the Revolution tick, what motivates, preoccupies, and annoys Cubans in their daily lives, in their long and painful adaptation to the contradictions, the challenges and the delights of a process that has always demanded as much as it has given. It is therefore that same process that, at risk of being proved very wrong in making any sort of claim to understand it, I am seeking to help explain, whose complexities I am trying to unravel by putting on paper my thoughts about it all. Not that I have not done that already . . .

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