Academic journal article The International Journal of Cuban Studies

Revolution within the Revolution: Women and Gender Politics in Cuba, 1952-1962

Academic journal article The International Journal of Cuban Studies

Revolution within the Revolution: Women and Gender Politics in Cuba, 1952-1962

Article excerpt

Michelle Chase, Revolution within the Revolution: Women and Gender Politics in Cuba, 1952-1962 (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2015) pb 310pp. ISBN: 978-1469625003

Reviewed by Denise Baden

This book follows the course of the Cuban revolution over 10 years, starting with the growing resistance to the Coup d'Etat of Fulgencio Batista in 1952 and continuing past the revolutionary victory in 1959 and into the first 3 years of Fidel Castro's revolution.

In her account, Michelle Chase talks about women's role in the revolution, in the process enlightening the reader about gender relations in Cuba and also on hitherto unremarked upon forms of revolutionary protest. Chase highlights the differences in how men and women conceptualised their revolutionary roles and their different sites of participation. While the 'official narrative' of the Cuban revolution focuses upon public acts of protest and armed uprisings, Chase shows us the alternative sites and modes of protest occurring in the more female-associated realms of homes and consumption. In the first three chapters, Chase details how great numbers of women participated in the mass movement to oust Batista in the 1950s. Little is said about the female fighting brigade in the Sierra mountains, and instead Chase focuses her attention on how women used their role as mothers to legitimise their complaints against the increasing barbarity of the Batista government.

In later chapters, Chase focuses more on how the revolution affected notions of family, and relationships between family church and state. In chapters 4 and 5, Chase shows that rather than women responding passively to top-down dictates relating to rationing and policing of consumption, women themselves took the initiative to ensure fair distribution of goods in the wake of shortages caused by the US embargo. It was refreshing to see how the leadership was often simply responding to women's own initiatives and demands. In chapter 6, we get a glimpse into the toxic effect of anti-revolutionary rumours spread by the CIA on family life in Cuba that led parents to believe that the Castro government intended to remove their children to Soviet style indoctrination camps. …

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