The Revolution from Within: Cuba, 1959-1980.

Author:Deaver, William O., Jr.

Bustamante, Michael J., and Jennifer L. Lambe, eds. The Revolution from Within: Cuba, 1959-1980. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2019.

The editors of this ambitious volume, history professors at Florida International University and Brown University, respectively, have compiled essays by twelve historians from Mexico, Cuba, the United States, and the United Kingdom to give a balanced perspective on the first two decades of the Cuban Revolution. The essays are well-crafted analyses that are devoid of propagandistic conclusions or platitudes since the historians have assumed the roles of "both critic and philosopher" (33). The book's three sections smoothly transition and overlap in an enjoyable and informative format. The scholars overcame the obstacles of bilateral travel restrictions and the lack of readily available source material in Cuba due to "bureaucratic, financial, or procedural matters" (48). They emphasize that these hurdles have often led to a unilateral perspective, since "Cuban histories written through and exclusively in reference to the United States risk hyperbolizing and even reifying that power." As such, "U.S.-centrism, even when critical and well-intentioned, has sometimes run dangerously close to rewriting Cuban history in its own political and ideological image" (307). By including Cuban scholars in the discourse, history becomes a collaborative field of play rather than an ideological competition.

The essayists explore such diverse topics as deterministic geography, which limits human development, versus "possibilist" geography, which seeks to transform the environment to benefit humanity. The chapter on this topic evaluates the efforts to increase potable water reservoirs, reclaim wetlands, and prevent deforestation or erosion. These efforts met with varied levels of success and failure. Another historian explores the effective use of media to lionize Fidel Castro while undermining the Fulgencio Batista dictatorship by contrasting the former's public benevolence with the latter's tyranny. Another scholar illustrates the dichotomy between state-sanctioned activities such as ballet, which was taught by instructors in battle fatigues complemented by a sidearm to signal masculinity and militancy, and more subversive forms of dance such as cabaret, which recalls the profligate lifestyle that was rampant prior to the revolution that had to evolve in order to survive under new political constraints. The author concludes...

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