4.0 out of 5 stars
A Fascinating Look at Modern Cuba, Nov 30 1999
Nonexperts are more likely to delight in this history of the struggle for racial justice in Cuba--and how they interweave with the U.S. freedom struggle--if they read it from the back to the front. The authors focus on sports, journalism, poetry, feminism, religion, Black nationalism and U.S.-Cuban contacts--and they do so "from the bottom up," that is, by looking at how "regular folks" have sought to improve and enjoy their lives.
The higher percentage of enslaved and free Africans in the Cuban population and the difference between Anglo-American and Spanish-American political and economic approaches to slavery and segregation have resulted in many points of contrast that NorthAmericans--especially high school and college students--would do well to examine. This book is full of such points of comparison and contrast.
The anthology ends with historian Van Gosse's brief and clear account of how and why the Afro-American press greeted the 1959 Cuban Revolution with warmth and optimism. The hypocrisy of the official top-down U.S. condemnation of Revolutionary Cuba sticks out in all of its cruel arrogance after you become familiar with the crimes of the dictatorship that the "Castroites" overthrew.
The preceding final four chapters trace similarities between the two neighboring countries' racial histories and how these experiences created cultural and political bonds throughout the century:
* Geoffrey Jacques recounts the personal and musical connections between Bebop and mamba forms.
* Carmen Gomez Garcia analyzes the tradition of patriotic and anti-racist poetry in Cuba.
* Lisa Brock and Bijan Bayne cover the strong links between U.S. and Cuban Blacks in baseball.
* And Keith Ellis focuses on the two exemplary Cuban and American poets of African descent, Nicolas Guillen and Langston Hughes, and overturns the notion that the Cuban depended upon the American for inspiration.
The anthology's first six essays deal with earlier Cuban history, covering the Cubans' long struggle to get out from under the thumb first of Spain and then of the U.S. These chapters explain much about the post WW II and Castro eras. But to get the most out of them, it helps first to get a bearing on the recent past, which has not been well-covered in U.S. news media and schools.
The complexity and richness of Cuba's social experience shows that, geographically speaking, grand histories can come in small packages.