Sexual Revolutions in Cuba: Passion, Politics, and Memory

Sexual Revolutions in Cuba: Passion, Politics, and Memory

Sexual Revolutions in Cuba: Passion, Politics, and Memory

Sexual Revolutions in Cuba: Passion, Politics, and Memory

Synopsis

In Sexual Revolutions in Cuba Carrie Hamilton delves into the relationship between passion and politics in revolutionary Cuba to present a comprehensive history of sexuality on the island from the triumph of the Revolution in 1959 into the twenty-first century. Drawing on an unused body of oral history interviews as well as press accounts, literary works, and other published sources, Hamilton pushes beyond official government rhetoric and explores how the wider changes initiated by the Revolution have affected the sexual lives of Cuban citizens. She foregrounds the memories and emotions of ordinary Cubans and compares these experiences with changing policies and wider social, political, and economic developments to reveal the complex dynamic between sexual desire and repression in revolutionary Cuba.
Showing how revolutionary and prerevolutionary values coexist in a potent and sometimes contradictory mix, Hamilton addresses changing patterns in heterosexual relations, competing views of masculinity and femininity, same-sex relationships and homophobia, AIDS, sexual violence, interracial relationships, and sexual tourism. Hamilton's examination of sexual experiences across generations and social groups demonstrates that sexual politics have been integral to the construction of a new revolutionary Cuban society.

Excerpt

The Cuban Revolution inspired fervent, often acrimonious arguments about its achievements and failures. For some, it was the last bastion of the communist dream; for others, a repressive, authoritarian regime. Largely missing from those debates were the voices of ordinary Cubans living on the island. As the Revolution approached its fiftieth anniversary, I put together a research project to find out what people across the island, from different walks of life and generations, had to say about the achievements and failures of socialism in Cuba. It was the first large oral history project permitted by the Cuban government in more than thirty years.

In 1968, a decade after the revolutionary triumph, Fidel Castro invited Oscar Lewis, the renowned U.S. anthropologist, to interview Cubans about their experiences living the Revolution. “It would be an important contribution to Cuban history to have an objective record of what people feel and think…. This is a socialist country. We have nothing to hide; there are no complaints or grievances I haven’t already heard,” Castro told Lewis. Despite this inspirational beginning, top officials acting for Fidel summarily closed the project eighteen months later. In 1975, another oral history endeavor of sorts came to an untimely end. Gabriel García Márquez, close friend and confidant of Castro, set out to write a book about daily life in the Revolution. After a year conducting interviews across the island, the Nobel laureate abandoned his plans. What people said didn’t fit the book he wanted to write, he told friends. Following these fiascos, doing oral history research in Cuba was taboo.

Hopeful that by the twenty-first century the ghosts of oral history had been laid to rest, I brought together a team of some twelve Cuban and British scholars to develop a project we called “Cuban Voices.” When we sought permission from an array of top officials, all were enthusiastic about the importance of recording ordinary Cubans’ life stories, but none agreed to support our research. However, instead of saying no, each one sent us to a colleague higher up the . . .

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