THIS WORK REPRESENTS the fulfillment of a promise that I made to myself when I first seriously considered dedicating my life to the pursuit of scholarly knowledge. In the nearly two years I spent in Cuba researching the dissertation that formed the basis for this book, I came to realize that my own pursuit of history was as much personal as academic. In Cuba, I discovered a dynamic community of intellectuals who embraced me and my project, whatever their differences of interpretation and opinion. I also found over 200 relatives who opened their doors and hearts to me as if they had always known me and as if they had always expected that I would one day “come back,” despite the fact that I was not born in Cuba but in the United States. “Technically,” as one relative said to me, his eyes twinkling, “that means that you never left.” This book expresses the sense of love for Cuba and commitment to its sovereignty that I found not only in all the Cubans whom I met in Cuba but that I also share.
Indeed, since that first extended and unforgettable stay from 1996 to 1998, I have never really left. Going to Cuba regularly and weaving the complex halves of my life together has become the center of my being and the well of my inspiration. Given the historic and unjust divides that separate not only Cuba from the United States but also many Cubans from one another, not a day goes by that I do not recognize how privileged I am. Unlike most Cubans, who do not have the luxury to travel back and forth or see both sides of Cuba’s reality for themselves, the national and the imperial, I can count large, extended families as well as vibrant, intellectual communities of friends and colleagues on both sides of my own daily divide.
At a time when monies for research projects in Cuba were still hard to come by, the Institute for the Study of World Politics and a special fund for previous recipients of the Mellon Minority Academic Careers Fellowship provided funds for the fieldwork portion of this project. The University Fellowship of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and two further semesters of support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation provided the funds that enabled me to focus on writing. I am grateful to all of these institutions. I am especially grateful to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for designating me a