Visions of Power in Cuba: Revolution, Redemption, and Resistance, 1959-1971

Visions of Power in Cuba: Revolution, Redemption, and Resistance, 1959-1971

Visions of Power in Cuba: Revolution, Redemption, and Resistance, 1959-1971

Visions of Power in Cuba: Revolution, Redemption, and Resistance, 1959-1971

Synopsis

In the tumultuous first decade of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro and other leaders saturated the media with altruistic images of themselves in a campaign to win the hearts of Cuba's six million citizens. In Visions of Power in Cuba, Lillian Guerra argues that these visual representations explained rapidly occurring events and encouraged radical change and mutual self-sacrifice.
Mass rallies and labor mobilizations of unprecedented scale produced tangible evidence of what Fidel Castro called "unanimous support" for a revolution whose "moral power" defied U.S. control. Yet participation in state-orchestrated spectacles quickly became a requirement for political inclusion in a new Cuba that policed most forms of dissent. Devoted revolutionaries who resisted disastrous economic policies, exposed post-1959 racism, and challenged gender norms set by Cuba's one-party state increasingly found themselves marginalized, silenced, or jailed. Using previously unexplored sources, Guerra focuses on the lived experiences of citizens, including peasants, intellectuals, former prostitutes, black activists, and filmmakers, as they struggled to author their own scripts of revolution by resisting repression, defying state-imposed boundaries, and working for anti-imperial redemption in a truly free Cuba.

Excerpt

In the fall of 1996, as President Bill Clinton began his second term in the White House, a wildly popular joke circulated through Havana. It focused on a man who takes out his trash late one night and discovers a new can of black spray paint by the curb. Spotting a recently whitewashed wall near his home, the man then writes the word “Abajo [down with]” in large block letters while continually glancing over his shoulder to make sure no one from his local CDR, or Committee for the Defense of the Revolution, is looking. With no members in sight, the man sighs with relief and completes the letter “F” next to the word “Abajo.” Just as he starts writing the letter “I” a police car screeches to a halt behind him. “¡Oye, compañero!” shouts a patrol officer from behind the wheel. “What are you doing there? Put that spray paint down!” Panicked, the man’s life flashes before his eyes as he remembers the minimum two-year prison sentence mandated for any public display of opposition to the Revolution and its leaders. Suddenly, the man gets a brilliant idea. Feigning calmness, he turns around with a quizzical expression on his face and asks the officer: “Hey, officer, maybe you know. Because the truth is, I just can’t remember: is it F linton or is it Clinton?”

When I first heard this joke at a Christmas party in 1996, I had just completed the initial leg of an intensive thirteen-month research stay that ultimately provided me with the raw material for a book on the Cuban Republic. Caught in the warm embrace of new friends, colleagues, and well over a hundred relatives whom I had never met before, I was fascinated by the ease with which island Cubans of all political persuasions exchanged critical jokes like this one. No experience was more surprising, however, than the party where . . .

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