Skip to main content


A History of the Cuban Revolution

Aviva Chomsky

ISBN: 978-1-444-32956-8 November 2010 Wiley-Blackwell 224 Pages


A History of the Cuban Revolution presents a concise socio-historical account of the Cuban Revolution of 1959, an event that continues to spark debate 50 years later. 
  • Balances a comprehensive overview of the political and economic events of the revolution with a look at the revolution’s social impact
  • Provides a lively, on-the-ground look at the lives of ordinary people
  • Features both U.S. and Cuban perspectives to provide a complete and well-rounded look at the revolution and its repercussions
  • Encourages students to understand history through the viewpoint of individuals living it
  • Selected as a 2011 Outstanding Academic Title by CHOICE

List of Illustrations viii

Series Editor’s Preface x

Acknowledgments xii

Introduction 1

Talking about Freedom 2

Scholars Weigh In 4

Why Revolution? 6

Comparing Capitalism and Socialism 9

Latin American Attitudes 14

1 Cuba through 1959 18

Colonial History 18

The Colony in the Republic 25

Revolution: A War, or a Process? 34

2 Experiments with Socialism 44

Analyzing the Situation: Economic Backwardness 45

The 1960s: Experimentation and the Great Debate 48

The 1970s: Institutionalization and the Soviet Model 55

Democracy: U.S. and Cuban Style 56

Cuba in the 1970s: How it Worked 57

1986: Rectification 61

How Democratic was Cuban Socialism? 62

3 Relations with the United States 65

The United States and Cuba 66

In their Own Words: U.S. Policymakers Respond to Revolution 69

Covert War: Up to the Bay of Pigs 76

Covert War: After the Bay of Pigs 79

The Missile Crisis 82

After the Missile Crisis 85

The War Continues 86

4 Emigration and Internationalism 91

Miami 94

Cuba’s Global Reach: Beyond the Cold War 97

Cuba and Black Internationalism 98

Cuba in Africa and Latin America 100

Civilian Aid Missions 103

5 Art, Culture, and Revolution 106

Literature 110

Film 116

Music 120

Sport 122

Dance 125

Political Culture 126

Food 131

6 Cuba Diversa 134

Race 135

Gender 141

Sexuality 144

Religion 149

7 The “Special Period”: Socialism on One Island 153

1993–95: Rapid-Fire Reforms 154

Social Impact of the Market Reforms 157

Limits to Capitalism 159

Charting New Territory 162

Contradictions: Inequality and Jineterismo 164

Opting to Leave: The 1994 Exodus 168

Debate and its Limits during the 1990s 171

8 Cuba into the Twenty-First Century 176

From Perfeccionamiento to Recentralization 177

Civil Society into the New Century 183

Disillusionment 186

Bush-Era Policies 188

Cuba, Venezuela, and the ALBA 189

Cuba after Fidel 190

Conclusion 193

Notes 196

Bibliography 214

Index 228

“Approaching Cuba’s revolutionary experiment with third-world socialism from a decidedly sympathetic, progressive, and anti-imperialist standpoint, Chomsky does not shy away from airing the revolution’s dirty laundry even if she places most of the blame for its troubles squarely at the feet of its more powerful neighbor to the north.” – Latin American in Focus: Cuba (ABC-Clio, 2013)

"This excellent short history covers a number of themes while managing to be exceptionally insightful... Chomsky brings a balanced breath of fresh air that not only informs readers but also illuminates the topic. Summing Up: Essential. All levels/libraries." (Choice, 1 August 2011)

"However, these weaknesses should not detract from what is a welcome, worthy and highly perceptive summary of the evolution of a process that is often baffling to outsiders, as well as to many Cubans on the island itself. It not only avoids many familiar pitfalls but shows a perceptive eye alongside the clear sympathy." (Journal of Latin American Studies, 2011)

"The book will interest instructors and students as well as a general audience." (Booknews, 1 April 2011)

"An overview of the political and economic events is combined with a look at this social impact through an examination of the lives of ordinary people." (Times Higher Education Supplement, 24 February 2011)

“This book is a useful textbook for undergraduate students and a welcome addition to the historiography on the Cuban Revolution. I would even strongly recommend it to any tourist visiting the island since it is concise, very well written, and easy to digest.”  (Hispanic American Historical Review, 1 August 2012)