Where the Boys Are: Cuba, Cold War America and the Making of a New Left

Where the Boys Are: Cuba, Cold War America and the Making of a New Left

Where the Boys Are: Cuba, Cold War America and the Making of a New Left

Where the Boys Are: Cuba, Cold War America and the Making of a New Left


The ignominious failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 marked the culmination of a curious episode at the height of the Cold War. At the end of the fifties, restless and rebellious youth, avant-garde North American intellectuals, old leftists, and even older liberals found inspiration in the images and achievements of Fidel Castro's revolutionary guerrillas. Fidelismo swept across the US, as young North Americans sought to join the 26th of July Movement in the Sierra Maestra.

Drawing equally on cultural and political materials, from James Dean and Desi Arnaz to C. Wright Mills and Studies on the Left, Gosse explains how the peculiar conjuncture of 1950s America produced the first great Third World solidarity movement, the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, which became a locus for the New Left emerging from the ashes of Kennedy's New Frontier.

Where the Boys Are captures the strange essence of that much-abused decade, the 1950s, at once demonstrating the perfidy of Cold War American liberal opinion towards Cuba and its revolution while explaining why Fidel and his compañeros made such appealing idols for the young, the restless, and the politically adventurous.


In its simplest terms, this book deals with what Fidel Castro and the Cuban revolution meant to the many North Americans who cheered the bearded hero before and after the fall of Fulgencio Batista on 1 January 1959. It has a particular focus on those who kept cheering even when the hero became a demon to everyone else, and who thereby helped spark the era of renewed social and political struggle known as 'the sixties'.

In excavating this forgotten foundation of the New Left, my goal has been to show how fidelismo was a destabilizing and eventually radicalizing force in the United States, as well as in Cuba. the initial terrain for this destabilization, however, had nothing to do with radical politics, which makes this book more than a story of the left, old or new. the grounding of Yankee fidelismo was the extrapolitical world of spontaneous action for its own sake, what Norman Mailer defined as Hipsterism. This fertile space was opened up to Castro's 26th of July Movement in 1957 and 1958 not by leftists, who evinced very little interest in the Cubans, but by a diverse alliance of liberal journalists, activists, and fervent anti-Communists like Henry Luce, who believed they could defuse a hostile Third World by appropriating the appeal of rebellion for both domestic and foreign consumption. At a delicate conjuncture of the Cold War, Fidel became their Rebel With a Cause on a grand scale, but his popularity in the us, especially among young men, exceeded expectations. in this context, I trace how the collapse and reinvention of traditional boyhood and manhood provided the raw material for behavior that was not subversive or oppositional in any political sense, but simply nonconformist. Thus also the book's title, taken from a novel that accurately (and riotously) showed how collegiate wanderlust might sketch a short line between libidinal urges and joining Fidel's boys in a 'tropic, coeducational Valley Forge'.

Besides making an argument about the Cold War's politics of culture, however, I also examine a largely unexplored area within the more prosaic culture of politics, specifically the tripartite (albeit grossly unequal) relationship of us

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