State of Ambiguity

Civic Life and Culture in Cuba's First Republic

State of Ambiguity

Book Pages: 376 Illustrations: 36 photos, 1 table, 2 figures Published: April 2014

History > Latin American History, U.S. History, Latin American Studies

Cuba's first republican era (1902–1959) is principally understood in terms of its failures and discontinuities, typically depicted as an illegitimate period in the nation's history, its first three decades and the overthrow of Machado at best a prologue to the "real" revolution of 1959. State of Ambiguity brings together scholars from North America, Cuba, and Spain to challenge this narrative, presenting republican Cuba instead as a time of meaningful engagement—socially, politically, and symbolically. Addressing a wide range of topics—civic clubs and folkloric societies, science, public health and agrarian policies, popular culture, national memory, and the intersection of race and labor—the contributors explore how a broad spectrum of Cubans embraced a political and civic culture of national self-realization. Together, the essays in State of Ambiguity recast the first republic as a time of deep continuity in processes of liberal state- and nation-building that were periodically disrupted—but also reinvigorated—by foreign intervention and profound uncertainty.

Contributors. Imilcy Balboa Navarro, Alejandra Bronfman, Maikel Fariñas Borrego, Reinaldo Funes Monzote, Marial Iglesias Utset, Steven Palmer, José Antonio Piqueras Arenas, Ricardo Quiza Moreno, Amparo Sánchez Cobos, Rebecca J. Scott, Robert Whitney


“Taken as a whole, this provocative collection reveals that the Cuban republic was a vibrant locus of intellectual ferment ranging from the natural sciences and architecture to medicine and the media. It is proof that the history of the Cuban republic requires much more from historians than simplistic accounts of “doctors and generals.”” — John A. Gutiérrez, Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"Professors and graduate students concerned with the background to the Cuban Revolution of 1959 will find much to ponder in the new approaches and material these noted authors offer in State of Ambiguity. By assembling this collection of outstanding essays-all of which are reader-friendly, free of scholarly jargon, and well-referenced-the editors have amply succeeded in their effort to challenge the three dominant views of pre-Castro Cuba by reframing the central concerns of civic and cultural life during the first republic and by opening up new avenues of investigation." — Jane M. Rausch, Journal of Third World Studies

"State of Ambiguity challenges dominant visions of Cuban history in the first three decades after independence. Much of the U.S. and the post-1959 Cuban historiography has been dominated by concerns with the imperial ties between Cuba and its northern neighbor. The distinguished contributors to this collection break with that obsession, providing refreshing perspectives and exploring dimensions of Cuban history that have been largely neglected to date." — Barry Carr, Institute for Latin American Studies, La Trobe University

"Until now, the early republican period of Cuban history has been remarkably understudied. State of Ambiguity fills the gap. Most of the essays engage aspects of Cuba's early republican era that have rarely been written about before, in Spanish or in English. The highly original essays bring history alive, moving through the local streets and cane fields while never losing sight of the national and international contexts and comparisons." — Gillian McGillivray, author of Blazing Cane: Sugar Communities, Class, and State Formation in Cuba, 1868–1959


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Steven Palmer is Canada Research Chair in History of International Health and Associate Professor at the University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada. He is the author of From Popular Medicine to Medical Populism: Doctors, Healers, and Public Power in Costa Rica, 1800–1940 and coeditor (with Iván Molina) of The Costa Rica Reader: History, Culture, Politics, both also published by Duke University Press.

José Antonio Piqueras is Chair of Contemporary History at Universitat Jaume I in Castellón, Spain. He is the author of several books on Cuban and Caribbean history, including Trabajo libre y coactivo en sociedades de plantación.

Amparo Sánchez Cobos is Assistant Professor of History at Universitat Jaume I in Castellón, Spain, and the author of Sembrando ideales. Anarquistas españoles en Cuba.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Introduction: Revisiting Cuba's First Republic / Steven Palmer, José Antonio Piqueras, and Amparo Sánchez Cobos 1

1. A Sunken Ship, a Bronze Eagle, and the Politics of Memory: The "Social Life" of the USS Maine in Cuba (1898–1961) / Marial Iglesias Utset 22

2. Shifting Sands of Cuban Science, 1875–1933 / Steven Palmer 54

3. Race, Labor, and Citizenship in Cuba: A View from the Sugar District of Cienfuegos, 1886–1909 / Rebecca J. Scott

4. Slaughterhouses and Milk Consumption in the "Sick Republic": Socio-Environmental Change and Sanitary Technology in Havana, 1890–1925 / Reinaldo Funes Monzote 121

5. Attributes for the Capital of an Austere Republic / José Antonio Piqueras 148

6. Transcending Borders: ¡Tierra! and the Expansion of Anarchism in Cuba after Independence / Amparo Sánchez Cobos 181

7. Steeds, Cocks, and Guayaberas: The Social Impact of Agrarian Reorganization in the Republic / Imilcy Balboa Navarro 208

8. Disctrict 25: Rotary Clubs and Regional Civic Power in Cuba, 1916–1940 / Maikel Fariñas Borrego 231

9. El naciente público oyente: Towards a Genealogy of the Audience in Early Republican Cuba / Alejandra Bronfman 251

10. New Knowledge for New Times: The Sociedad del Folklore Cubano during the "Critical Decade" (1923–1930) / Ricardo Quiza Moreno 269

11. Nation, State, and the Making of Cuban Working Class, 1920–1940 / Robert Whitney 292

Bibliography 323

Contributors 349

Index 353
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5638-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5630-1
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