Broadcasting Modernity

Cuban Commercial Television, 1950-1960

Broadcasting Modernity

Console-ing Passions: Television and Cultural Power

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Book Pages: 264 Illustrations: 20 illustrations Published: March 2015

Author: Yeidy M. Rivero

Caribbean Studies, Latin American Studies, Media Studies > TV

The birth and development of commercial television in Cuba in the 1950s occurred alongside political and social turmoil. In this period of dramatic swings encompassing democracy, a coup, a dictatorship, and a revolution, television functioned as a beacon and promoter of Cuba’s identity as a modern nation. In Broadcasting Modernity, television historian Yeidy M. Rivero shows how television owners, regulatory entities, critics, and the state produced Cuban modernity for television. The Cuban television industry enabled different institutions to convey the nation's progress, democracy, economic abundance, high culture, education, morality, and decency. After nationalizing Cuban television, the state used it to advance Fidel Castro's project of creating a modern socialist country. As Cuba changed, television changed with it. Rivero not only demonstrates television's importance to Cuban cultural identity formation, she explains how the medium functions in society during times of radical political and social transformation.


"Rivero has written an important book, rich with new information and original insight. It is a welcome addition to the expanding scholarship on Cuba media studies." — Louis A. Pérez Jr., American Historical Review

"Yeidy M. Rivero’s work is an important contribution to the study of television, modernity, identity, and politics in the second half of the twentieth century in Latin America and the Caribbean.... [T]his is a book of impeccable quality whose content will generate great interest." — Fernando Purcell, Hispanic American Historical Review

"Yeidy M. Rivera's Broadcasting Modernity is a much-needed analysis of Latin American television during this time. The author's highly researched analysis provides a unique perspective on the development of Cuban television." — Nathan Widener, North Carolina Association of Historians

"Broadcasting Modernity is an engaging and important addition to the historical literature on television—particularly international television. The book would be an excellent addition to graduate-level seminar courses and perhaps even undergraduate courses." — Jim Foust, Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly

"This is a well-researched and wide-ranging account of Cuban television in the period leading up to 1959 and a valuable contribution to South American media scholarship." — European Journal of Communication

"This is a timely volume. Recommended." — R. A. Santillan, Choice

"[A] welcome addition to the literature." — Emiel Martens, European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies

"Broadcasting Modernity is an important, well-written and researched book, highly recommended reading for Cuba and media scholars alike." — Christine Ehrick, Journal of Latin American Studies

"Broadcasting Modernity delivers a comprehensive and historically accurate picture of the roots and expansion of Cuban television in the 1950s. The narrative is well-structured and organized, and provides a neutral, comprehensive vision of the importance of Cuban television as a political and ideological tool that reflected Cuban society and popular culture. Broadcasting Modernity's meaningful contribution sheds light on the creation and transformation of Cuban TV during an acute historical period and its significant influence not only in Latin America but also worldwide." — Adriana Alcina Gómez, Journal of Peripheral Cultural Production of the Luso-Hispanic World

"[Rivero's] well-grounded and theoretically sophisticated work raises crucial academic and political issues such as the corrosive effects of state censorship on cultural creativity; the competition between the commercial and educational functions of the mass media; and the ideological clashes among various sectors of the population as they seek to define and control the media." — Jorge Duany, Cuba Counterpoints

"A fascinating insight into the role of television in shaping Cuban identity and visions of modernity that offers a way to examine broader theoretical questions about how this medium functions in society during times of radical and social transformation." — Gavin O'Toole, Latin American Review of Books

"Through her careful examination of how discursive statements about Cuba, Cubanness, race, and gender are articulated within the television archive, Rivero examines the changing disciplinary projects that defined, redefined, and defined again what it meant/means to be a modern Caribbean nation-state." — Susan Harewood, H-Caribbean, H-Net Reviews

“With the proliferation of studies of Cuban media, such as [Broadcasting Modernity], a path appears for scholars to look across and within the audiovisual terrain and work toward a greater understanding of the incursion of multiple forms of media in everyday life.” — Alejandra Bronfman, New West Indian Guide

"Rivero succeeds in developing a complex, fluid, and readable account of the emergence and evolution of television in Cuba in a time of huge political and social transformations without falling into generalization and political dogmatism. Broadcasting Modernity is about the interweaving of modernity and television, yet its reach goes beyond Cuba; it encourages the reader to reflect on how television is shaped by the outside world, but more significantly, how it served (and still does in certain parts of the world) to stage our everyday life." — Alexandrine Boudreault-Fournier, Canadian Journal of History

"Yeidy Rivero’s work is a bold and penetrating examination of the phenomenon of television and its transformative social and political role in Cuba. . . . Broadcasting Modernity fills a hole in not only the historiography of the role of television in Latin America and the world, but in the historical analysis of the Cuban Revolution itself." — Eric Walls, JHistory, H-Net Reviews

"Yeidy M. Rivero delivers a riveting account of the complex struggles over the introduction of television as both a symbol and site of Cuban modernization during the 1950s. Set against the backdrop of hemispheric politics and Cold War struggle, television proved to be a linchpin of political and cultural transformation throughout the island nation and ultimately across the Americas. Lively, imaginative, and thoroughly researched, Broadcasting Modernity offers a provocative account of how a media revolution became revolutionary media." — Michael Curtin, author of Playing to the World's Biggest Audience: The Globalization of Chinese Film and TV

"Broadcasting Modernity is the definitive and most comprehensive account of Cuban television during the decade immediately preceding the Revolution of 1959. Simply brilliant at all levels, this is one of those books that changes the way in which we make sense of one of the most important social processes of the Latin American twentieth century. Yeidy M. Rivero has made an enormous contribution to Latin American and U.S. media scholarship."
— José Quiroga, author of Cuban Palimpsests


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Price: $26.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Yeidy M. Rivero is Associate Professor of Screen Arts and Cultures at the University of Michigan. She is the author of Tuning Out Blackness: Race and Nation in the History of Puerto Rican Television, also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix

Introduction. Broadcasting Modernity, Spectacles, and Television  1

1. Prelude to the Spectacles: Constituting a Modern Broadcasting System through the Law, 1923–1950  23

2. Spectacles of Progress: Technology, Expansion, and the Law  45

3. Spectacles of Decency: Morality as a Matter of the Industry and the State  75

4. Spectacles of Democracy and a Prelude to the Spectacles of Revolution  102

5. Spectacles of Revolution: A Rebirth of Cubanness  129

6. From Broadcasting Modernity to Constructing Modernity  163

Epilogue  176

Notes  181

Bibliography  221

Index  233

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Winner, 2016 Katherine Singer Kovacs Award, presented by the Society for Cinema and Media Studies

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5871-8 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5859-6
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