To Change the World: My Years in Cuba

By Margaret Randall | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 11
EL QUINQUENIO GRIS

SO FAMILIAR, YET SO ETERNALLY OTHER

The term quinquenio gris (five-year gray period) is a common reference for those Cubans who stayed and those who left, for those most painfully repressed and those who managed to remain at the margin of events. It loosely refers to a period beginning at the end of the 1960s and running through the early seventies. Perhaps because those affected generally remained silent about what they were going through, perhaps because the art world was so exciting (despite the restraints), or perhaps because I was slow to grasp certain cultural cues and many of us came to understand the era better in retrospect, I was barely aware of the excessive control and what it meant for Cuban creatives at the time.

A few years ago, Arturo Arango published a brief chronicle in the University of Havana magazine Alma Mater. It accompanied a photograph taken in 1976 or 1977. Arturo refers to each person in the photograph, reminiscing about how they met and the years they shared. In this context he mentions La Brigada Hermanos Saíz, the brigade of young writers where Bladimir offered me my first poetry reading among peers. His piece also gives his vision of me within the cultural climate of the times:

Margaret Randall was close to the brigade. She had led an adventurous life,
for many years linked to the Latin American revolutions, and had lived in
Cuba since the late 1960s (her opposition to the massacre of Tlatelolco

-171-

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To Change the World: My Years in Cuba
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iv
  • Contents viii
  • Acknowledgments xii
  • Prologue - Some Reflections before I Begin 1
  • Chapter 1 - Scarsdale to Havana 7
  • Chapter 2 - Transition 25
  • Chapter 3 - Settling in 41
  • Chapter 4 - Food, Food, Food 61
  • Chapter 5 - Ten Million Tons of Sugar and Eleven Fishermen 71
  • Chapter 6 - A Poetry Contest and a Beauty Pageant 83
  • Chapter 7 - Women and Difference 95
  • Chapter 8 - Information and Consciousness 115
  • Chapter 9 - Changing Hearts, Minds, and Law 125
  • Chapter 10 - "Poetry, like Bread, Is for Everyone" 145
  • Chapter 11 - El Quinquenio Gris 171
  • Chapter 12 - The Sandinistas 191
  • Chapter 13 - A Question of Power 217
  • Chapter 14 - Epilogue 237
  • Notes 257
  • Index 263
  • About the Author 274
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