Neighbors in Revolution: Mexican-Cuban Relations in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

AHA Session 247
Conference on Latin American History 73
Sunday, January 5, 2014: 11:00 AM-1:00 PM
Columbia Hall 4 (Washington Hilton)
Gilbert M. Joseph, Yale University
Gilbert M. Joseph, Yale University

Session Abstract

Revolutionary processes in Cuba and Mexico were intimately intertwined throughout the course of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The proximity of the two countries, and the strength of the artistic, commercial, political, and personal ties between them meant that events in one country were reflected through the prism of domestic disagreements and debates in the other. Although diplomatic relations between the two countries were often ambivalent, they were leveraged by successive governments in their own state-building projects.  As Dalia Muller argues, Cubans and Mexicans used transnational discourses of inter-American solidarity to reflect on national politics and to construct national movements in the wake of Cuban independence.  Similarly, as Amelia Kiddle shows, the regimes of Lázaro Cárdenas and Fulgencio Batista appealed to a common rhetoric of reform to legitimate their contested claims to authority in the tumultuous decade of the 1930s. Likewise, Eric Zolov argues that the government of Adolfo López Mateos supported the Cuban Revolution in an effort to manage the threat to his authority posed by the Cuban Revolution and former president Lázaro Cárdenas’s affinity with it.  In a parallel fashion, Renata Keller shows that Fidel Castro exploited Mexico’s “exceptional” relationship with Cuba in order to support his efforts to spread revolution in Latin America (including Mexico), thereby legitimating the Cuban regime’s claim to revolutionary leadership.The papers that make up this panel argue that this legitimating role has been a frequent feature of Mexican-Cuban relations that helps historians understand the transnational roots of state formation and political authority. Gilbert Joseph, a leading scholar on Latin American politics and international relations, will comment.

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