The Socialist Sixties: Crossing Borders in the Second World

By Anne E. Gorsuch; Diane P. Koenker | Go to book overview

12 Listening to los Beatles
Being Young in 1960s Cuba

Anne Luke

THE PICTURE OF a socialist 1960s cannot be complete without exploration of the small Caribbean island that bucked the regional trends and chose to follow a political model from the other side of the world rather than the one on offer on its doorstep. Beyond a Cold War political appraisal of a bipolar world lies a story where a fluidity of exchange is in evidence, where transnational cultural flows meld with national cultural distinctiveness to create a new texture of the everyday in Cuba. In cases where imported cultural motifs have an impact, they reemerge, “Cubanized,” as new hybrid cultural expressions. These reflect the effervescence of a 1960s culture that allowed for the fluidity of meanings and that could thereby cross national boundaries and be transformed.

The rehabilitation of the Beatles in Cuba in 2000, when Fidel Castro unveiled a sculpture of John Lennon seated on a bench in a park in Havana, led to a resituating of 1960s youth culture on the island. The term los Beatles is now used in Cuba to represent the imported music—accessible but of ambiguous official standing—of Cuban youth cultures in the 1960s. This article will plot the coordinates of some of these youth cultures in Havana in that decade, including the culture of the young poets of the El Puente group, the growing popularity of foreign music, the emergence of new styles and public spaces, and finally the importance of a new Cuban music, nueva trova. The texture of 1960s life can most readily be found by examining Havana’s public spaces, and quite literally to plot these coordinates is to go on a journey of just a few blocks around the public spaces of the Vedado zone of the city.

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