A Nation for All: Race, Inequality, and Politics in Twentieth-Century Cuba

By Alejandro de la Fuente | Go to book overview

8
THE SPECIAL PERIOD

People don’t change inside. A strong wind has to blow…. Even so, there are
deep roots that remain and struggle to resurface.

—Manuel Granados, Adire y el tiempo roto (1967)

Tourist firms look like South African companies in times of Peter Botha. You
go there and they are all white. And I wonder: Where am I, in Holland?

—Gustavo, Afro-Cuban singer (1994)

The Cuban economy stagnated in the late 1980s under the “rectification period” launched after the third congress of the Communist Party in 1986. This program called for a reversal of the market-oriented pragmatism that characterized the 1971–85 years, a recentralization in decision making, and the reintroduction of mass mobilizations and voluntary work as forms of labor organization. Then, following the collapse of the Soviet Union and Cuba’s trading partners in Eastern Europe, the economy entered a depression. Between 1989 and 1993 the gross domestic product declined by as much as 40 percent. In 1986, Fidel Castro and the Communist Party had agreed that it was necessary to promote further racial equality in areas in which change had been too slow, but by the early 1990s, it was evident that such advances would have to be made with shrinking resources.1

The problem was not only that resources were not available to eliminate inequality in areas in which previous advances had been modest, however. Resources were lacking even to maintain previous levels of social welfare. Moreover, after 1993 the Cuban government was forced to introduce a number of market-oriented measures to foster productivity and stimulate Cuba’s stagnant economy. These included the legalization of U.S. dollars, different forms of self-employment, foreign investment, and “free” agricultural markets. Although this program led to a modest recovery after 1995, Cuban authorities themselves recognized that it was not without a price. The new economic policies unavoidably provoked increasing inequality and resentment in a population that was used to living in a highly egalitarian social setting. As a high-ranking government official remarked in 1993, “This will create differences among people, greater than what we have now and greater than we are used to having since the revolution…. [T]he inequality or

-317-

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A Nation for All: Race, Inequality, and Politics in Twentieth-Century Cuba
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Figures and Tables viii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Abbreviations xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I- The First Republic 1902-1933 21
  • 1 - Racial Order or Racial Democracy? Race and the Contending Notions of Cubanidad 23
  • 2 - Electoral Politics 54
  • Part II- Inequality 1900-1950s 97
  • 3 - The Labor Market 99
  • 4 - Education and Mobility 138
  • Part III- The Second Republic 1933-1958 173
  • 5 - A New Cuba? 175
  • 6 - State and Racial Equality 210
  • Part IV- Socialism 1959-1990s 257
  • 7 - Building a Nation for All 259
  • 8 - The Special Period 317
  • Epilogue 335
  • Notes 341
  • Bibliography 415
  • Index 437
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