Introduction, by Craig Calhoun

When Fidel Castro announced that he would not continue as President of Cuba some saw the end of an era and others said little had changed. To be sure, Fidel was succeeded by his brother Raul who promised great continuity. But in fact, it would be a mistake to think Cuba hadn’t changed during the four decades of Fidel’s leadership. And the patterns of previous change continue and shape Cuba and its context today. Read more →

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The Essay Forum

Cuba, Citizen Participation and Associational Space: Some Notes
Armando Chaguaceda Noriega
In recent years, Cuba has expanded participation within associational space, contributing to the gradual process of democratization within local government entities. This process has not been exempt from contradictions and setbacks stemming from exogenous (the U.S. threat) as well as domestic variables (legacies of underdevelopment and a statist tradition) that reflect a dynamic tension between the tradition of left democracy and the bureaucratizing tendencies typical of a state socialist regime. Read More →

Waiting for a Bus to Somewhere: Reflections on Cuba and its Context
Eric Hershberg
During the summer of 2006, a month before Fidel Castro stunned the world by temporarily stepping down from his responsibilities as Cuba’s head of state after 47 uninterrupted years at the helm, a companion and I traveled back roads of the Western Cuban province of Pinar del Rio. We picked up dozens of hitchhikers, from many walks of life. Our passengers—students, police officers, homemakers, retirees, farmers, a geologist, veterans of missions to Angola—shared with us their perceptions of everyday existence in their country and their hopes for the future. Read more →

Predicting Change: The Havana, Miami, and Washington Triangle
Lisandro Pérez
Unpredictability has long been the hallmark of social change in Cuba. Just when you think you know what’s going to happen, you are invariably surprised by the twists and turns of a revolution that has always had its own logic, or lack of it. The application of models from somewhere else, the attempts at predictability by looking at the experience of this or that other nation, have long frustrated the forecasters of the island’s future. The appeal, and the agony, of studying the Cuban revolution is precisely its extraordinary, even surreal, nature. Read more →

Thinking Historically About Cuba
Louis A. Pérez, Jr.
We will ponder the meaning of the Cuban revolution for decades to come, and after us, others will reflect on its meaning for many decades more. At present, attention has been given more to predicting the Cuban future (what will happen after Fidel) than to understanding the Cuban past (what happened in Cuba), a tendency that fails to appreciate the ways the latter serves to inform the former. Read more →

Raúl Castro, Team Work and the Search for the Spirit of Capablanca
Nelson P. Valdés
The e-mails have been coming in the last few hours, primarily from print or radio journalists and North American social scientists. They claim that Raúl Castro, who replaced his famous brother in the new government, has appointed a hard-line anti-reformer to be the next person in line to succeed him. Why was José Ramón Machado Ventura selected instead of Carlos Lage? Have the “hardliners” won? Are the “reformers” in retreat? Is Machado Ventura more important to Raúl than Carlos Lage? What evidence, in fact, is there that political and economic differences exist within the new Cuban government? These are the wrong questions. Read more →

Raúl’s Turn at the Helm
Miguel Ángel Centeno
The election of Raúl Castro as president by the Cuban National Assembly did not have quite the same level of tension associated with the Oscars. Nor did it merit anywhere near the same amount of press coverage. Yet the fact that there was even some uncertainty before it and that the results merited front page news indicated that something has happened in Cuba. The question is, what? Read more →

Cuba’s Changing Leadership and the Dynamics of Civil Society
Sujatha Fernandes
In May 2001, the Cuban rap group Explosión Suprema performed their song “Mi patria caray” at the annual Cubadisco music festival. The rappers, from the Alamar housing projects just outside of Havana, did not sugarcoat the tough realities that they were living through as Cuba transitioned away from a Soviet-subsidized socialist model towards greater dependency on tourism, foreign investment, and remittances. Seven years later, they are living through yet another transition, as Fidel Castro steps down and his brother Raúl is named president of the country by Cuba’s parliament. And as before, the recognition that these are hard times has not provoked the kinds of mass uprisings many had predicted would accompany the exit of Fidel from the political scene. Read more →

Cuba: Challenges for an Anniversary
Armando Chaguaceda Noriega
This January marks the half-century anniversary of Cuba’s historic revolutionary triumph of 1959: an arena for discovered passions, ideological myths and social conquests. Cuba will celebrate while confronting contrasting realities. Read more →

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