On January 2, 1959, Fidel Castro, the rebel comandante who had just overthrown Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, addressed a crowd of jubilant supporters. Recalling the failed popular uprisings of past decades, Castro assured them that this time “the real Revolution” had arrived. As Jonathan Brown shows in this capacious history of the Cuban Revolution, Castro’s words proved prophetic not only for his countrymen but for Latin America and the wider world.
Cuba’s Revolutionary World examines in forensic detail how the turmoil that rocked a small Caribbean nation in the 1950s became one of the twentieth century’s most transformative events. Initially, Castro’s revolution augured well for democratic reform movements gaining traction in Latin America. But what had begun promisingly veered off course as Castro took a heavy hand in efforts to centralize Cuba’s economy and stamp out private enterprise. Embracing the Soviet Union as an ally, Castro and his lieutenant Che Guevara sought to export the socialist revolution abroad through armed insurrection.
Castro’s provocations inspired intense opposition. Cuban anticommunists who had fled to Miami found a patron in the CIA, which actively supported their efforts to topple Castro’s regime. The unrest fomented by Cuban-trained leftist guerrillas lent support to Latin America’s military castes, who promised to restore stability. Brazil was the first to succumb to a coup in 1964; a decade later, military juntas governed most Latin American states. Thus did a revolution that had seemed to signal the death knell of dictatorship in Latin America bring about its tragic opposite.
Brown adds rich detail to the international ripples of the Cuban Revolution, often in lively prose. It is fascinating to see how interrelated Latin American revolutionaries were, popping up in several national stories, and equally captivating to see how influential Cuba was.
Brown’s path-breaking book carefully reconstructs virtually unknown episodes of the Cuban revolution and counterrevolution, illuminating the ‘secret wars’ of subversion, sabotage, guerrilla training, and paramilitary expeditions that shook the region in the 1960s. Briskly written, meticulously researched, and sweeping in scope, this book will be required reading for anyone interested in the Cuban Revolution and its impact throughout Latin America.
As in the best works of history, Brown renders vividly real the various figures who appear in his pages—statesman and rogue, patriot and scoundrel. His book is both a good read and an impressive work of scholarship, shedding light on an important question: when does the effect of U.S. policy acquire a life of its own, independent of the original intentions of policymakers?
Offers keen insights into how the John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson administrations dealt with [Latin American] national movements. At times, this history puts readers in the same room with leaders from all sides, offering a front-row seat to diplomatic efforts intended to thwart the spread of communism and revolutionary movements in Latin America…Brown’s well-written book makes for a highly immersive and engaging read.
Jonathan Brown has written a valuable, information-packed book that is refreshingly free of ideological baggage…The book is a stunning reminder of how deeply divided Latin America was in the 1960s, when so many young revolutionaries voluntarily risked their lives, and where military regimes took over brutally to repress them.
Brown is convincing that the Cuban-trained and -inspired guerrillas posed a challenge for democracies in Latin America that was difficult for their elected leaders to solve and that, as a result, created conditions favorable for the right to take dictatorial control…[This book] adds in important ways to our understanding of the world that Cuba created.
- 600 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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