C. Wright Mills and the Cuban Revolution: An Exercise in the Art of Sociological Imagination

By A. Javier Treviño | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ONE

The Cuban Summer of C. Wright Mills

On encountering the numerous writings and communications by C. Wright Mills on the Cuban Revolution, the unwary reader could be forgiven for thinking that Mills had spent many long years immersed in its study. Quite the contrary; from the time Cuba first came to Mills’s political awareness— when he began clipping newspaper articles about the situation on the island—until his death—by which time he had published Listen, Yankee and delivered many talks on the subject—was only a two-year period. Shortly after the victory of the Revolution, Mills had frequently been questioned in Latin America about his and his country’s stand on the new government of Fidel Castro: “Until the summer of 1960, I had never been in Cuba, or even thought about it much. In fact, the previous fall, when I was in Brazil, and in the spring of 1960, when I was in Mexico for several months, I was embarrassed not to have any firm attitude towards the Cuban revolution. For in both Rio de Janeiro and Mexico City, Cuba was of course a major topic of discussion. But I did not know what was happening there, much less what I might think about it, and I was then busy with other studies.”1

The impassioned interest of Latin American intellectuals and journalists on the subject, which seemed fundamental in Latin American life, kindled Mills’s desire to go to the Caribbean island and write about its revolution in the making. Indeed, of the three Western revolutions of the twentieth century, the Mexican (1910), the Russian (1917), and the Cuban (1959), only the latter was temporally accessible to Mills. And while Mills was not a political journalist in the manner of John Reed, he nonetheless wanted to report on—wanted to understand—the social forces that had produced the Cuban Revolution, and that were still in operation. And so after intensive preparation, he journeyed to the Caribbean that summer of 1960 to be an authentic witness to the incipient Cuban experiment.


Preparing for Cuba

Prior to his Cuban sojourn, Mills’s two principal Latin American concerns had been Mexico, where he had spent several months in early 1960 teaching a seminar in Marxism at the National University of Mexico, and be

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