Few events in the twentieth century have had as great an impact as the Cuban Revolution. Fidel Castro’s success changed the outlook, the meaning, and the stakes of revolutionary movements across the world. This sea change was particularly powerful in Latin America. This panel decenters the study of the Cuban Revolution, moving away from the all-too-familiar ground of the island’s relations with the United States and onto more fertile soil. It asks: How and why did the Cuban Revolution affect Latin America? How did the people of Latin America engage with and understand the Cuban Revolution?
In the panel’s first paper, Dr. Thomas C. Wright provides a concise explanation of how and why the Cuban Revolution became the primary driving force of Latin American politics in the second half of the twentieth century. His paper lays the necessary groundwork for the other panelists’ case studies of specific moments or movements in which the Cuban Revolution played an important role. The second paper, by Renata Keller, compares two international conferences that leftist leaders from Latin America, Africa, and Asia organized in an attempt to harness the momentum of the Cuban Revolution. This presentation analyzes these efforts to build a transnational community of revolutionaries, asking how and why the revolutionaries’ strategies changed over time. The final two papers in the panel depart from the international and transnational methods of analysis, moving to the local level. Dr. Jaime Pensado examines the connections between the Cuban Revolution and the rise of the New Left in Mexico during the “long sixties.” Drawing on his expertise in Mexican student politics, Dr. Pensado focuses on how a group of intellectuals in the National University used the Cuban example to decry the degeneration of their own country’s revolution. Finally, Dr. Alison J. Bruey brings the voices of armed revolutionaries to the conversation in her paper on resistance to the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile. Her interviews with participants in the armed struggle shed new light on how everyday people negotiated the influences of local conditions, Church teaching, and Cuban training. Political scientist Dr. Eric Selbin will comment and Dr. Stephen G. Rabe will chair.
This panel will engage and inform scholars who are interested in a wide range of subjects and methodologies, including Latin American history, popular movements, revolutionary struggle, and local, national, transnational, and international approaches to the study of history.