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Gender and Democracy in Cuba

Ilja A. Luciak

Publication Year: 2009

In this in-depth view of Cuban gender politics and democracy, Luciak considers the role that women played in the Cuban revolution. The women who joined Castro's revolution were considered indispensable, and a select group of women held leadership roles. Che Guevara in particular recognized the important contribution women could make to the revolutionary struggle. Most women engaged in open civil dissent and staged demonstrations, while some, such as Celia Sanchez, supported clandestine armed operations at great personal risk.

Luciak maintains that Cuba's revolutionary government made great progress in advancing women's social and economic rights and proved successful in guaranteeing women's formal political participation. Ironically this success had an unintended consequence: It inhibited public debate on how to transform prevailing gender relations and preempted the emergence of an autonomous women's movement that could effectively advocate for change. As a result, women hold very limited decision-making power in the current regime.

Sanchez was a lifelong confidante to Fidel Castro, who considered women's emancipation to be a "revolution in the revolution." But Cuban feminists see Sánchez as a symbol of women's invisibility, noting that her image adorning the Cuban 20-peso note is part of the watermark, which can be viewed only when held against the light. Drawing on interviews with high-ranking Cuban officials, Luciak argues that democracy cannot be successfully consolidated without the full participation of women in the political process--and the support of men--both at the party and societal levels.

Published by: University Press of Florida


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Series Page, Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-viii

List of Tables

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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-xii

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pp. xiii-xxii

Cuba has been mired in a serious economic crisis since the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, when its key export market vanished together with billions of dollars in economic aid. Even before these cataclysmic events, the country suffered the impact of an economic embargo—a blockade, from the Cuban view—imposed by the United States more than four decades ago. ...

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pp. xxiii-xxiv

The research for this book was conducted with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed are my own and in no way reflect the official opinion of the European Union. A special thank-you goes to Kristina Gardell, the first EU official to recognize the importance of studying gender in Cuba. ...

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Methodological Note

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pp. xxv-xxviii

Studying Cuba is unlike any experience I have had conducting research in Latin America over the past twenty-five years. Research in violence-torn Colombia or in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala at the height of the revolutionary and counterrevolutionary wars seems easy in hindsight. Cuban authorities greatly restrict independent research on the island. ...

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1. Gender Roles in the Revolutionary War: Initiating Change

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pp. 1-12

Historically, women’s contributions to revolutionary movements have tended to be undervalued; they were generally not documented and thus easily forgotten. This changed in the 1980s and 1990s when women started to join guerrilla movements in massive numbers. Peace accords and the subsequent demobilization of guerrilla movements—those of Central America, for example ...

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2. Changing Gender Relations: The Social and Economic Sphere after 1959

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pp. 13-36

Women’s participation in the revolutionary struggle set the stage for a fundamental change in women’s role in Cuban society following the January 1959 victory of the July 26th Movement, which ousted the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. Fidel Castro recognized women’s participation in the struggle and eloquently advocated for the need to change prevailing gender relations. ...

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3. The Cuban Political System: Competing Visions of Democracy

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pp. 37-62

Polemics regarding Cuba’s political system are as old as the revolution itself. The United States and several European governments consider Cuba a communist dictatorship. Most countries are more nuanced in their views but nonetheless tend to be critical. Several governments in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, however, view Cuba as a model to be emulated. ...

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4. Party and State: Gender Equality in Political Decision-making

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pp. 63-87

In 1966 Cuban leader Fidel Castro publicly recognized the importance of incorporating women fully into the new Cuban social project. At the time women were actively involved in changing the educational and health-care system and started to participate in the workforce in greater numbers. ...

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5. Gender Equality and Electoral Politics: The 2002–2003 National Elections

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pp. 88-99

Eduardo Freire, president of the National Candidate Commission, provides in the statement above a snapshot of the complex process the commission went through in order to arrive at the final candidate lists for the 2002–2003 national elections.1 This selection process is part of Cuban electoral dynamics, which are the topic of this chapter. ...

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6. Conclusion: Gender Equality and Democratization

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pp. 100-112

A decade after knowledgeable observers predicted that the Cuban system of government would emerge essentially unchanged from the crisis of the early 1990s, we know that they have been proven right by history. The Cuban Women’s Federation as well as the Communist party remained basically unchallenged, hegemonic forces.1 ...

Appendix: List of Dissidents Sentenced in April 2003

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pp. 113-116


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pp. 117-128


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pp. 129-136


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pp. 137-143

E-ISBN-13: 9780813045566
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813030630
Print-ISBN-10: 0813030633

Page Count: 176
Illustrations: 27 tables
Publication Year: 2009

OCLC Number: 801844079
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Gender and Democracy in Cuba

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Subject Headings

  • Women -- Political activity -- Cuba.
  • Women -- Cuba -- Social conditions.
  • Women -- Government policy -- Cuba.
  • Women's rights -- Cuba.
  • Democracy -- Cuba.
  • Cuba -- Politics and government -- 1959-1990.
  • Cuba -- Politics and government -- 1990-.
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