The Cuba Reader: History, Culture, Politics / Edition 1

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Cuba is often perceived in starkly black and white terms—either as the site of one of Latin America’s most successful revolutions or as the bastion of the world’s last communist regime. The Cuba Reader multiplies perspectives on the nation many times over, presenting more than one hundred selections about Cuba’s history, culture, and politics. Beginning with the first written account of the island, penned by Christopher Columbus in 1492, the selections assembled here track Cuban history from the colonial period through the ascendancy of Fidel Castro to the present.

The Cuba Reader combines songs, paintings, photographs, poems, short stories, speeches, cartoons, government reports and proclamations, and pieces by historians, journalists, and others. Most of these are by Cubans, and many appear for the first time in English. The writings and speeches of José Martí, Fernando Ortiz, Fidel Castro, Alejo Carpentier, Che Guevera, and Reinaldo Arenas appear alongside the testimonies of slaves, prostitutes, doctors, travelers, and activists. Some selections examine health, education, Catholicism, and santería; others celebrate Cuba’s vibrant dance, music, film, and literary cultures. The pieces are grouped into chronological sections. Each section and individual selection is preceded by a brief introduction by the editors.

The volume presents a number of pieces about twentieth-century Cuba, including the events leading up to and following Castro’s January 1959 announcement of revolution. It provides a look at Cuba in relation to the rest of the world: the effect of its revolution on Latin America and the Caribbean, its alliance with the Soviet Union from the 1960s until the collapse of the Soviet bloc in 1989, and its tumultuous relationship with the United States. The Cuba Reader also describes life in the periodo especial following the cutoff of Soviet aid and the tightening of the U.S. embargo.

For students, travelers, and all those who want to know more about the island nation just ninety miles south of Florida, The Cuba Reader is an invaluable introduction.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“What a beautiful journey through five hundred years of Cuban history, culture, and politics! The Cuba Reader is a sumptuous medley of poetry, song, speeches, interviews, and vignettes from novels new and old. You’ll hear the voices of santeros and sugar workers, prostitutes and politicos, revolutionaries and reporters, dissidents and dancers. It’s the next best thing to being in Cuba, so sit back with a mojito and enjoy the masterfully guided tour.”—Medea Benjamin, activist and cofounder of Global Exchange

"The Cuba Reader offers a splendid overview of the Cuban experience, past and present, through a dazzling array of points of view. The voices of participants and observers and perspectives on the extraordinary and the commonplace—with imagery conveyed by way of photography and poetry, through the lyric of music and the nuance of the novel—make for a compelling collection of material. The very fullness of its vision makes The Cuba Reader an indispensable book for courses—of every academic discipline—on Cuba.”—Louis A. Pérez, Jr., author of On Becoming Cuban: Identity, Nationality, and Culture

The Latin American Review of Books - Gavin O'Toole

"[A] classic. The editors of this book and their many accomplices deserve nothing but praise for producing the best introduction to Cuba one can possibly find."
The Guardian - Julie Schwietert Collazo

"[A] crash course in Cuban history. If you’re looking for a single (hefty) volume to get you up to speed about the past 500 years of Cuban politics and culture, this is it."
The Miami Herald - Susan Fernandez

"[An] ambitious and impressive anthology, a sweeping collection of source materials by and about Cubans both on the island and living in other countries. The editors . . . have wisely chosen songs, paintings, photographs, short stories, essays, speeches, government reports, cartoons and newspaper articles that span Cuban history. . . . What The Cuba Reader does extraordinarily well is to reveal the nuances and complexity of the Cuban experience. All shades of politics are here, and they infuse Cuban dance, music, film and religion."
The Americas - John J. Dwyer

"[T]he editors should be congratulated for their Herculean effort. The reader will be most useful for undergraduate courses where it will provide students with an impressive overview of the Cuban experience over the last five centuries. In fact, anyone interested in obtaining a comprehensive and multifaceted firsthand account of Cuban history will benefit from this book."
Journal of Latin American Studies - Jonathan Curry-Machado

"This Reader provides a wonderfully eclectic selection of writings from and about Cuba. . . . [A] very useful resource for the teaching of courses relating to Cuba, providing a taster of many aspects of the island's history that should encourage those who dip into it to come away with a more nuanced understanding of an island that has been plagued by caricature."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822331971
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books
  • Publication date: 12/1/2003
  • Series: The Latin America Readers Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 736
  • Sales rank: 186,386
  • Product dimensions: 6.36 (w) x 9.26 (h) x 1.72 (d)

Meet the Author

Aviva Chomsky is Professor of History and Coordinator of Latin American Studies at Salem State College. She is the author of West Indian Workers and the United Fruit Company in Costa Rica, 18701940 and coeditor of Identity and Struggle at the Margins of the Nation-State: The Laboring Peoples of Central America and the Hispanic Caribbean (published by Duke University Press).

Barry Carr is Director of the Institute of Latin American Studies at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. He is the author of Marxism and Communism in Twentieth-Century Mexico and coeditor of The Latin American Left: From the Fall of Allende to Perestroika.

Pamela Maria Smorkaloff is Director of Latin American and Latino Studies and Assistant Professor of Spanish at Montclair State University. She is the author of Cuban Writers on and off the Island: Contemporary Narrative Fiction and Readers and Writers in Cuba: A Social History of Print Culture, 1830s1990s and editor of If I Could Write This in Fire: An Anthology of Literature from the Caribbean.

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Read an Excerpt

The Cuba reader

History, culture, politics
By Aviva Chomsky

Duke University Press

ISBN: 0-8223-3197-7

Chapter One

Christopher Columbus "Discovers" Cuba Christopher Columbus

When Christopher Columbus arrived in the Caribbean in 1492, he was convinced that he was near the coast of Japan and China. Europeans termed his landfall a "discovery," though in recent years those more critical of Europe's endeavor have pointed out that while it was a discovery for Europe, the terms encounter or even invasion more accurately capture the nature of the event for the inhabitants of the Americas.

The natives Columbus encountered in the Bahamas indicated that a large island lay to the south, and he concluded that it must be Japan (which he called Chipangu) they were talking about. Although there may be some wishful thinking in his comment about Cuba's trade and wealth, it does indicate that the Caribbean natives had a good knowledge of the region's geography and were less isolated than some accounts have suggested. The following excerpts from Columbus's logbook constitute the first written accounts of Cuba and give the first European impressions of the island.

Wednesday, 24 October

Last night at midnight I raised anchor from Cabo del Isleo on the north side of the island of Isabela, where I had lain, and set sail for the island of Colba, which these people tell me is very large and has much trade. They say that itcontains gold and spices and large ships and merchandize and have told me by signs that I should steer west-southwest to find it, and I think this is right, for if I am to believe the indications of all these Indians and those I have on board-I do not know their language-this is the island of Chipangu of which such marvelous tales are told, and which in the globes that I have seen and on the painted map of the world appears to lie in this region.

So I steered west-southwest till day, and at dawn the wind dropped and it rained, as it had done almost all night, and I lay there with very little wind until after midday and then it began to blow very gently. I then raised all sail, the mainsail and two bonnets, and the foresail and spritsail, the mizzen, main topsail, and the boat's sail on the poop. I continued on my course till nightfall and then Cabo Verde at the western end of the south coast of Fernandina lay to the northwest seven leagues away. It was now blowing hard and I did not know what course to follow for the island of Colba.

I did not want to go looking for it at night, for these islands lie in very deep water and no soundings can be taken at more than two lombard [an early high-powered cannon] shots from the shore. The bottom is patchy, with rocks in some parts and sand in others, and so it is not possible to anchor safely except where you can see. I therefore decided to lower all sails, except the foresail, and to proceed under it. After a while the wind became much stronger and I made a considerable distance, which disturbed me as the clouds were thick and it was raining. I ordered the foresail to be furled and that night we went less than two leagues....

Sunday, 28 October

They sailed on south-southwest in search of the nearest point in Colba and he entered a very beautiful river, very free from shoals and other dangers. And all along the coast the water was very deep up to the shore. The mouth of the river was twelve fathoms and wide enough for ships to beat about. He anchored as he says a lombard shot upstream. The Admiral says he had never seen a more beautiful country. It was covered with trees right down to the river and these were lovely and green and different from ours, and each bore its own fruit or flowers. There were many birds, large and small, which sung sweetly, and there were a great number of palms of a different kind from those of Guinea and from ours. They were of moderate height with no bark at the foot, and the Indians cover their houses with them. The land is very flat.

The Admiral got into the boat and went ashore, where he found two houses which he believed to belong to fishermen who had fled in terror. In one of these he found a dog that did not bark, and in both houses there were nets of palm fiber and lines and horn fishhooks and bone harpoons and other fishing tackle, and there were many hearths. He believed that many people lived in each house. He gave orders that nothing should be touched in either, and his order was obeyed. The vegetation was as abundant as in April and May in Andalusia. He found much purslane and wild amaranth. He returned to the boat and went some distance up the river. He said that it was such a great joy to see the plants and trees and to hear the birds singing that he could not leave them and return. He says that this island is the most beautiful that eyes have ever seen. It has many good harbors and deep rivers, and it seems that the seas are never rough because the vegetation on the shore grows almost to the sea's edge, which is unusual where the seas are rough. So far, he had not encountered rough seas anywhere in these islands. He says that the island contains very lovely mountains, which do not form long chains but are very high. All the rest of the land is high also, like Sicily. It has plenty of water, as he gathered from the Indians from Guanahani whom he had with him, who told him by signs that it was ten large rivers and that they cannot go round it in their canoes in twenty days.

When he brought the ships close to shores two boats or canoes came out, but on seeing the sailors entering the boat and rowing about to take soundings for an anchorage, they fled. The Indians said that there are gold fields and pearls in the island and the Admiral saw that this was a likely place for pearls, since there were mussels, which are a sign of them. The Admiral understood that the Grand Khan's ships come there and that they are large and that the mainland is a ten days' journey away. The Admiral called this river and harbor San Salvador.


Excerpted from The Cuba reader by Aviva Chomsky Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction 1

I Indigenous Society and Conquest

Christopher Columbus "Discovers" Cuba / Christopher Columbus 9

The Devastation of the Indies / Bartolome de Las Casas 12

Spanish Officials and Indigenous Resistance / Various Spanish Officials 15

A World Destroyed / Juan Perez de la Riva 20

"Transculturation" and Cuba / Fernando Ortiz 26

Survival Stories / Jose Barreiro 28

II Sugar, Slavery, and Colonialism

A Physician's Notes on Cuba / John G. F. Wurdemann 39

The Death of the Forest / Manuel Moreno Fraginals 44

Autobiography of a Slave / Juan Francisco Manzano 49

Biography of a Runaway Slave / Miguel Barnet 58

Fleeing Slavery / Miguel Barnet, Pedro Deschamps Chapeaux, Rafael Garcia, and Rafael Duharte 65

Santiago de Cuba's Fugitive Slaves / Rafael Duharte 69

Rumba / Yvonne Daniel 74

The Trade in Chinese Laborers / Richard Dana 79

Life on a Coffee Plantation / John G. F. Wurdemann 83

Cuba's First Railroad / David Turnbull 88

The Color Line / Jose Antonio Saco 91

Abolition! / Father Felix Varela 94

Cecilia Valdes / Cirilo Villaverde 97

Sab / Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda y Arteaga 103

An Afro-Cuban Poet / Placido 110

III The Struggle for Independence

Freedom and Slavery / Carlos Manuel de Cespedes 115

Memories of a Cuban Girl / Renee Mendez Capote 118

Jose Marti's "Our America" / Jose Marti 122

Guantanamera / Jose Marti 128

The Explosion of the Maine / New York Journal 130

U.S. Cartoonists Portray Cuba / John J. Johnson 135

The Devastation of Counterinsurgency / Fifty-fifth Congress, Second Session 139

IV Neocolonialism

The Platt Amendment / President Theodore Roosevelt 147

Imperialism and Sanitation / Nancy Stepan 150

A Child of the Platt Amendment / Renee Mendez Capote 154

Spain in Cuba / Manuel Moreno Fraginals 157

The Independent Party of Color / El Partido Independiente de Color 163

A Survivor / Isidoro Santos Carrera 167

Rachel's Song / Miguel Barnet 171

Honest Women / Miguel de Carrion 180

Generals and Doctors / Carlos Loveira 186

A Crucial Decade / Lolo de la Torriente 189

Afrocubanismo and Son / Robin Moore 192

Drums in My Eyes / Nicolas Guillen 201

Abakua / Rafael Lopez Valdes 212

The First Wave of Cuban Feminism / Ofelia Dominguez Navarro 219

Life at the Mill / Ursinio Rojas 226

Migrant Workers in the Sugar Industry / Levi Marrero 234

The Cuban Counterpoint / Fernando Ortiz 239

The Invasion of the Tourists / Rosalie Schwartz 244

Waiting Tables in Havana / Cipriano Chinea Palero and Lynn Geldof 253

The Brothel of the Caribbean / Tomas Fernandez Robaina 257

A Prostitute Remembers / Oscar Lewis, Ruth M. Lewis, and Susan M. Rigdon 260

Sugarcane / Nicolas Guillen 264

Where is Cuba Headed? / Julio Antonio Mella 265

The Chase / Alejo Carpentier 270

The Fall of Machado / R. Hart Phillips 274

Sugar Mills and Soviets / Salvador Rionda 281

The United States Confronts the 1933 Revolution / Sumner Welles and Cordell Hull 283

The Political Gangster / Samuel Farber 287

The United Fruit Company in Cuba / Oscar Zanetti 290

Cuba's Largest Inheritance / Bohemia 296

The Last Call / Eduardo A. Chibas 298

For Us, It Is Always the 26th of July / Carlos Puebla 300

Three Comandantes Talk It Over / Carlos Franqui 302

History Will Absolve Me / Fidel Castro 306

Reminiscences of the Cuban Revolutionary War / Che Guevara 315

The United States Rules Cuba, 1952-1958 / Morris Morley 321

The Cuban Story in the New York Times / Herbert L. Matthews 326

V Building a New Society

And Then Fidel Arrived / Carlos Puebla 337

Tornado / Silvio Rodriguez 340

Castro Announces the Revolution / Fidel Castro 341

How the Poor Got More / Medea Benjamin, Joseph Collins, and Michael Scott 344

Fish a la Grande Jardiniere / Humberto Arenal 354

Women in the Swamps / Margaret Randall 363

Man and Socialism / Ernesto "Che" Guevara 370

In the Fist of the Revolution / Jose Yglesias 375

The Agrarian Revolution / Medea Benjamin, Joseph Collins, and Michael Scott 378

1961: The Year of Education / Richard R. Fagen 386

The Literacy Campaign / Oscar Lewis, Ruth M. Lewis, and Susan M. Rigdon 389

The "Rehabilitation" of Prostitutes / Oscar Lewis, Ruth M. Lewis, and Susan M. Rigdon 395

The Family Code / Margaret Randall 399

Homosexuality, Creativity, Dissidence / Reinaldo Arenas 406

The Original Sin / Pablo Milanes 412

Where the Island Sleeps Like a Wing / Nancy Morejon 414

Silence on Black Cuba / Carlos Moore 419

Black Man in Red Cuba / John Clytus 424

Post-modern Maroon in the Ultimate Palenque / Christian Parenti 427

From Utopianism to Institutionalization / Juan Antonio Blanco and Medea Benjamin 433

Carlos Puebla Sings about the Economy / Carlos Puebla 443

VI Culture and Revolution

Caliban / Roberto Fernandez Retamar 451

For an Imperfect Cinema / Julio Garcia Espinosa 458

Dance and Social Change / Yvonne Daniel 466

Revolutionary Sport / Paula Pettavino and Geralyn Pye 475

Mea Cuba / Guillermo Cabrera Infante 481

In Hard Times / Heberto Padilla 488

The Virgin of Charity of Cobre, Cuba's Patron Saint / Olga Portuondo Zuniga 490

A Conversation on Santeria and Palo Monte / Oscar Lewis, Ruth M. Lewis, and Susan M. Rigdon 498

The Catholic Church and the Revolution / Ernesto Cardenal 505

Havana's Jewish Community / Tom Miller 509

VII The Cuban Revolution and the World

The Venceremos Brigades / Sandra Levinson 517

The Cuban Revolution and the New Left / Van Gosse 526

The U.S. Government Responds to Revolution / Foreign Relations of the United States 530

Castro Calls on Cubans to Resist the Counterrevolution / Fidel Castro 536

Operation Mongoose / Edward Lansdale 540

Offensive Missiles on That Imprisoned Island / President John F. Kennedy 544

Inconsolable Memories: A Cuban View of the Missile Crisis / Edmundo Desnoes 547

The Assassination Plots / Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities 552

Cuban Refugee Children / Monsignor Bryan O. Walsh 557

From Welcomed Exiles to Illegal Immigrants / Felix Roberto Masud-Piloto 561

Wrong Channel / Roberto Fernandez 566

We Came All the Way from Cuba So You Could Dress Like This? / Achy Obejas 568

City on the Edge / Alejandro Portes and Alex Stepick 581

Singing for Nicaragua / Silvio Rodriguez 588

Cuban Medical Diplomacy / Julie Feinsilver 590

VIII The "Periodo Especial" and the Future of th

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