Randall, Margaret: "Haydee Santamaria, Cuban Revolutionary: She Led by Transgression."(Book review)

Author:McSherry, J. Patrice

Randall, Margaret. Haydee Santamaria, Cuban Revolutionary: She Led by Transgression. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2015.

Margaret Randall's book about one of the few women who participated in all facets of the Cuban revolution, Haydee Santamaria, is a lyrical tribute, an impressionistic history, and a personal reminiscence. Randall lived in Cuba in the 1970s and worked with Santamaria in various literary endeavors. The book was in part motivated by Randall's sense that Santamaria had not been remembered or honored as a hero of the revolution as she should have been, largely due to the fact that she committed suicide, and perhaps also due to her gender. Suicide was not understood or accepted in the revolution and Cuban authorities displayed ambivalence regarding the commemoration of her role and her accomplishments, despite the fact that Santamaria fought with Fidel Castro in the Sierra; was a member of the leadership that included Castro, Che Guevara, and others; was a skilled and effective political organizer; and was the founder and director of the internationally-known Casa de las Americas in Havana. As director, she interacted with world-renowned political figures, painters, novelists, musicians, poets, and dramatists, and under her leadership the institution became a cultural magnet and prestigious center for Latin American artists and intellectuals.

Randall is sympathetic to the Cuban revolution and presents its significant achievements. Perhaps because she wanted to avoid direct criticism, especially in light of general anti-Cuban and anticommunist sentiments common in the United States, she sometimes treads lightly regarding weaknesses or errors made by the revolutionary government. She mentions several cases of cultural conformism or intolerance of artistic expression in the cultural field, citing as one example the Padilla affair and its negative consequences. Heberto Padilla was a writer who was imprisoned for work considered critical of the government; his detention and subsequent mea culpa caused a worldwide reaction (pp. 14348). But her references to the Nueva Trova movement are quite ambiguous. Nueva Trova was part of the continentwide New Song movement that appeared in the 1960s in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, and elsewhere, introducing vibrant and socially-conscious music that rejected the old order and cried out for a new one of social justice. Based in folk music traditions and instruments, the young musicians created...

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