Many Americans see life in Cuba in black and white terms, as either a David-vs.-Goliath story of survival over nearly 50 years or constant oppression by a Communist dictatorship.
Amid a thaw in relations between the U.S., author Lillian Guerra offers a broader view. In a discussion of her book Visions of Power in Cuba: Revolution, Redemption and Resistance, 1959-1971, she explains that most Cubans conformed to Fidel Castro’s concept of liberation through authoritarian rule beginning in 1968. His “grassroots dictatorship” was able to mobilize millions for volunteer labor and campaigns against materialism, homosexuality, “hippy culture,” and criminal “ideological diversions.” The legacies of these years continue to shape what happens and what’s possible in Cuba today.
Guerra, raised in Marion, Kansas, is a professor of Cuban and Caribbean history at the University of Florida.