Michael J. BustamanteAug 18, 2021
Cuban Memory Wars
Retrospective Politics in Revolution and Exile
University of North Carolina Press 2021
I had the pleasure of interviewing my mentor, Dr. Michael J. Bustamante on his first monograph, Cuban Memory Wars: Retrospective Politics in Revolution and Exile which was published in March 2021 as part of the Envisioning Cuba series by the University of North Carolina Press.
"For many Cubans, Fidel Castro's Revolution represented deliverance from a legacy of inequality and national disappointment. For others—especially those exiled in the United States—Cuba's turn to socialism made the prerevolutionary period look like paradise lost. In Cuban Memory Wars, Bustamante unsettles this familiar schism by excavating Cubans' contested memories of the Revolution's roots and results over its first twenty years. Cubans' battles over the past, he argues, not only defied simple political divisions; they also helped shape the course of Cuban history itself. As the Revolution unfolded, the struggle over historical memory was triangulated among revolutionary leaders in Havana, expatriate organizations in Miami, and average Cuban citizens. All Cubans leveraged the past in individual ways, but personal memories also collided with the Cuban state's efforts to institutionalize a singular version of the Revolution's story. Drawing on troves of archival materials, including visual media, Bustamante tracks the process of what he calls retrospective politics across the Florida Straits. In doing so, he drives Cuban history beyond the polarized vision seemingly set in stone today and raises the prospect of a more inclusive national narrative."
Dr. Bustamante is the Bacardi Chair in Cuban and Cuban American Studies at the University of Miami and Associate Professor in the Department of History. He is also my mentor, which makes this conversation a special treat for me. He and I talked about the journey from dissertation to monograph, navigating the politics of the Cuban archive, and challenging our own assumptions and biases. It was an AMAZING conversation and a must-listen!
Rozzmery Palenzuela Vicente is a PhD Candidate in the Department of History at Florida International University. Her dissertation examines the cultural and intellectual politics surrounding black motherhood in twentieth-century Cuba.