Rachel Hynson

Jun 17, 2021

Laboring for the State

Women, Family, and Work in Revolutionary Cuba, 1959-1971

Cambridge University Press 2020

Contrary to claims that socialism opposed the family unit, in Laboring for the State: Women, Family, and Work in Revolutionary Cuba, 1959-1971 (Cambridge University Press, 2020) Rachel Hynson argues that the revolutionary Cuban government engaged in social engineering to redefine the nuclear family and organize citizens to serve the state. 

Drawing on Cuban newspapers and periodicals, government documents and speeches, long-overlooked laws, and oral histories, Hynson reveals that by 1961, and increasingly throughout this decade, revolutionary citizenship was earned through labor. While men were to work outside the home in state-approved jobs, women found their citizenship tied to affording the state control over their reproduction and sexual labor. 

Through all four campaigns examined in this book - the projects to control women's reproduction, promote marriage, end prostitution, and compel men into state-sanctioned employment - Hynson shows that the state's progression toward authoritarianism and its attendant monopolization of morality were met with resistance and counter-narratives by citizens who so opposed the mandates of these campaigns that Cuban leadership has since reconfigured or effaced these programs from the Revolution's grand narrative.

Dr. Hynson and I sat down to talk about her important book, our positionality as researchers, navigating the challenges and politics of the Cuban archives, living your values, and so much more. Enjoy!

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.

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Rozzmery Palenzuela Vicente

ABD at FIU. Scholar of race, gender, and family in 20th c. Cuba.
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