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A Nation for All

A Nation for All: Race, Inequality, and Politics in Twentieth-Century Cuba

Copyright Date: January 2011
Pages: 464
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    A Nation for All
    Book Description:

    After thirty years of anticolonial struggle against Spain and four years of military occupation by the United States, Cuba formally became an independent republic in 1902. The nationalist coalition that fought for Cuba's freedom, a movement in which blacks and mulattoes were well represented, had envisioned an egalitarian and inclusive country--a nation for all, as Jose Marti described it. But did the Cuban republic, and later the Cuban revolution, live up to these expectations? Tracing the formation and reformulation of nationalist ideologies, government policies, and different forms of social and political mobilization in republican and postrevolutionary Cuba, Alejandro de la Fuente explores the opportunities and limitations that Afro-Cubans experienced in such areas as job access, education, and political representation. Challenging assumptions of both underlying racism and racial democracy, he contends that racism and antiracism coexisted within Cuban nationalism and, in turn, Cuban society. This coexistence has persisted to this day, despite significant efforts by the revolutionary government to improve the lot of the poor and build a nation that was truly for all.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0368-1
    Subjects: History, Sociology
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS (pp. ix-xii)
  4. ABBREVIATIONS (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. INTRODUCTION (pp. 1-20)

    More than thirty years had passed when, in the summer of 1993, a white, upper-class Cuban-American woman from Miami returned to the island for a visit. She was greeted there by her former maid, now retired, a black woman who was the mother of two children: an engineer and a medical doctor. It was an emotional encounter, full of common memories and mutual happiness. But when the unavoidable issue of a post-Communist Cuba came up during the conversation, the black ex-maid asked: “Will my children be maids again?”¹

    Will her children be maids again? A reflection of the anxieties typical...

  6. PART I: The First Republic, 1902—1933
    • 1 RACIAL ORDER OR RACIAL DEMOCRACY? Race and the Contending Notions of Cubanidad (pp. 23-53)

      Cuba and Cubanness were represented in vastly different ways in 1899, when the defeated Spain had to relinquish sovereignty over its Caribbean colony. Despite their differences, all these definitions had a common element: the shared belief that ‘‘race’’ was at the very core of the nation. Race was, and remained, central to the process of national construction. The competing visions that by the end of the nineteenth century clashed over the creation of the republic and of the new Cuba disagreed not only on questions of property relations or institutional arrangements but also—indeed, primarily—on how racially inclusive and...

    • 2 ELECTORAL POLITICS (pp. 54-96)

      The definition of the political order was the first and most important step in the creation of an independent Cuban republic. The nature and character of the political system would indeed delineate how “new” the emergent republic was in comparison to the colonial past. An inclusionary polity was unavoidable if the republic was to claim that it was “with all and for all.” Thus it was in the political arena that the strength of the nationalist ideology of racial equality was tested and that different visions of Cubanness and citizenship competed for legal sanction and recognition.

      The military occupation government...

  7. PART II: Inequality, 1900—1950s
    • 3 THE LABOR MARKET (pp. 99-137)

      While it was primarily in the political arena that the nationalist paradigm of a racially egalitarian and inclusive Cubanness was tested, for most Afro-Cubans the meaning of such a paradigm was far more concrete. The republic would be truly for all only if it provided blacks with equal opportunities for employment and advancement in Cuba’s expanding economy.

      Political rights per se did not guarantee economic power, but they were in fact related. A racially inclusive political practice implicitly proscribed the most extreme forms of racial segregation and reduced the barriers that might have otherwise existed for blacks to obtain jobs,...

    • 4 EDUCATION AND MOBILITY (pp. 138-172)

      Access to the professions and white-collar employment depended on several factors. Education, understood as formal schooling, was of course crucial. The republican state was committed to a notion of modernity in which academic merits and formal training were key. On this aspect, both the former members of the Liberation Army and the U.S. occupation government tended to agree. Widespread illiteracy was not compatible with the building of a modern nation. The nature, character, and goals of educational programs and institutions, however, remained contested. Moreover, whereas some white intellectuals, politicians, and employers perceived Afro-Cubans’ lack of education as a manifestation of...

  8. PART III: The Second Republic, 1933—1958
    • 5 A NEW CUBA? (pp. 175-209)

      The first republic ended amid social warfare, economic depression, and political chaos. Machado’s political control unraveled as opposition to his government mounted from within and without. Economic crisis reduced government and national income, limited the president’s ability to distribute patronage and conduct politics as usual, paralyzed his public-works plans, and led to growing unemployment and labor unrest. Displaced by hunger and joblessness, rural workers marched to the cities in search of relief or squatted on lands deemed to be private. Machado’s decision to extend his term in office through a spurious constitutional change in turn alienated a sector of the...

    • 6 STATE AND RACIAL EQUALITY (pp. 210-256)

      Discussions about the need to hold a constitutional convention had taken place since the fall of the Machado government. The 1901 constitution had been mocked by the spurious 1928 modifications implemented by Machado to expand his term in office and was “permanently stigmatized,” as Louis A. Pérez states, by the Platt Amendment and by the inefficiency and corruption of republican institutions.¹ A new Cuba required a new constitution.

      A number of favorable conditions facilitated the constitutional gathering in the late 1930s. Labor mobilization and revolutionary violence receded after 1935 and electoral politics was partially restored, but the army’s interference in...

  9. PART IV: Socialism, 1959—1990s
    • 7 BUILDING A NATION FOR ALL (pp. 259-316)

      In the early morning of January 1, 1959, Batista fled the country. Rebel Army forces moved into the main cities, took control of garrisons and other strategic points, and began filling the vacuum left by the collapse of the previous regime. Although opposition to the dictatorship included a wide spectrum of groups and organizations, the Rebel Army led by Fidel Castro was unquestionably the center of political and military power after the revolution. Fidel Castro moved into Havana among cheering crowds, promising to redress Cubans’ historic claims for social justice, economic independence, and national sovereignty. “This time,” he asserted in...

    • 8 THE SPECIAL PERIOD (pp. 317-334)

      The Cuban economy stagnated in the late 1980s under the “rectification period” launched after the third congress of the Communist Party in 1986. This program called for a reversal of the market-oriented pragmatism that characterized the 1971–85 years, a recentralization in decision making, and the reintroduction of mass mobilizations and voluntary work as forms of labor organization. Then, following the collapse of the Soviet Union and Cuba’s trading partners in Eastern Europe, the economy entered a depression. Between 1989 and 1993 the gross domestic product declined by as much as 40 percent. In 1986, Fidel Castro and the Communist...

  10. EPILOGUE (pp. 335-340)

    Speaking before the grave of Antonio Maceo in 1951, President Carlos Prío elaborated on his vision of cubanidad. “Cuba,” he declared, “has its own voice, which is neither white nor black. Just as Martí is white and Maceo is black, our culture is white with Spain and black with Africa.” Almost fifty years later, in his welcoming remarks to Pope John Paul II, Fidel Castro characterized the nation in similar terms. “They [the Africans] made a remarkable contribution to the ethnic composition and the origins of our country’s present population in which the cultures, the beliefs, and the blood of...

  11. NOTES (pp. 341-414)
  12. BIBLIOGRAPHY (pp. 415-436)
  13. INDEX (pp. 437-449)