Owning the Revolution: Race, Revolution, and Politics from Havana to Miami, 1959–1963
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.5070/T842015752
“Owning the Revolution” explores the role that conversations about race and racism played in defining the 1959 Cuban Revolution both on the island and in South Florida, where over half of the exiles fled. It highlights how revolutionary leaders challenged internal and external opposition movements by publicly labeling dissenters “counterrevolutionaries” and “racists.” Using the label “racist” to attack an opponent was not altogether new in the 1960s, but by linking the term to counterrevolution, national discussions occurring in newspapers, magazines, and on television defined public racism as existing outside of the norms of a new Cuba. Exiles disagreed with this identification and accused the revolution of betraying the nineteenth-century colorblind goals of Jose Martí. Exile leaders in Miami argued that Castro invented racial tensions and claimed that their fight was not with blacks or mulatos but with “red” or communist Cubans. The politics expressed by white exile newspapers, however, did not always fit with the concerns of Afro-Cubans in the United States. Miami Cubans failed to acknowledge the persistence of racism in new exile communities in the same way that the revolutionary government dismissed racism on the island. These parallel silences exemplify the dangers of polarized narratives that imagine the revolution as antiracist and the exile community as racist.