By Ana Serra
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Additional info for The New Man in Cuba: Culture and Identity in the Revolution
The closeness of events to the time of writing and the need for critics as well as writers to demonstrate political commitment hamstrung the analysis of literature produced in the first thirty years of the Revolution. For instance, Rogelio Rodríguez Coronel claimed that an essential characteristic of any criticism of literature written during the Revolution should be its partidismo or commitment to the Marxist ideology that in his view inspired the literature of the Cuban Revolution (17). Ineke Phaf ’s Novelando La Habana demonstrated the influence of sociological approaches to literature in an attempt to make literary criticism more “objective”: her book reads the corpus of novels written during the Revolution as a survey of life in Havana, providing a scrupulous compilation of the details of daily existence in the city but disregarding theoretical and textual concerns of these novels.
While in terms of freedom of form and themes the current era might seem more interesting than the early years, my interest lies in the revolutionary discourse that was foundational to the Cuban Revolution as it was originally conceived, not as it has evolved after the fall of the Soviet bloc. Thus, though the epilogue refers to the Special Period, it is aimed at connecting this phase of the Revolution with the discourse of the early years. From “Words to the Intellectuals” (1961) to the speech at the closing of the The Culture That the Revolution Created 17 First National Congress of Education and Culture, these landmark speeches delineate the development of cultural policy in the first years of the Revolution, which proved to be defining for the following two decades.
Reprinted by permission of Grupo Nuevo Milenio, Havana, Cuba. literacy teacher and peasant student. The poster that proclaimed this formula illustrated an additional aspect of this relationship, as it depicted two hands locked in a handshake: the white hand was labeled “literate” and the black one “illiterate” (see Fig. 1). Following the racial motif that the poster portrayed, Che Guevara revealed his idea of education at the University of Havana in these terms: “I have to ask it [the university] to paint itself black, to paint itself mulatto, not only among students but also among professors; let it paint itself the color of workers and peasants, let it paint itself the color of the people, because the university is not the property of anybody, it belongs to the people of Cuba” (“Que la Universidad,” Nuiry Sánchez 11).