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Sexual Revolutions in Cuba

Passion, Politics, and Memory

Carrie Hamilton

Publication Year: 2012

Chronicling the history of sexuality in Cuba since the 1959 revolution, this book frames the relationship between passion and politics in the revolution's wider history and argues that the Cuban revolutionary regime intervened in the sexual lives of Cubans in a variety of ways and transformed key areas of Cuban life, including the family, reproduction, sexual values, and sexual relationships. Drawing from a major oral history project--the “Memories of the Revolution” oral history project conducted by a team of British and Cuban researchers (Hamilton was one of the British researchers on the team) between 2003 and 2007--Hamilton explores the experiences and perceptions of sexuality among Cubans across generations and social groups. She contextualizes the oral histories within an array of archival and secondary sources, relating them to issues of race, class, and gender, as well as to social, economic, and political change. Organized thematically, the volume opens with a historical overview that points out that after 1959 revolutionary values continued to coexist with pre-revolutionary ideologies in a potent and often contradictory mix. Succeeding chapters examine discourse on love, romance, and passion on both personal and national levels; male and female homosexuality; sexual repression; and changing gender roles and service to the revolution. Hamilton explores conflicting notions of Cuba as a site of desire on the one hand, and as a place of intense sexual repression, especially with regard to homosexuality, on the other. She identifies many ways in which revolutionary policy affected sexual behavior, including changes to policy and laws, mass education programs, leaders’ pronouncements on the relationship between good revolutionaries and private life, and the provision of incentives to encourage certain forms of sexual union and repressive measures to discourage and punish others. Hamilton argues that sexual politics were central to the construction of a new revolutionary society.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press

Series: Envisioning Cuba


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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv


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p. v

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FOREWORD: Cuban Voices

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pp. vii-xii

The Cuban Revolution inspired fervent, often acrimonious arguments about its achievements and failures. For some, it was the last bastion of the communist dream; for others, a repressive, authoritarian regime.1 Largely missing from those debates were the voices of ordinary Cubans living on the island. As...

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pp. xiii-xvii

This book grew out of a collective oral history project, and much of the research upon which it is based is collaborative. It could not have been written without the initiative, generosity, hard work, and backing of many people. First and foremost, I am indebted and very grateful to Elizabeth Dore, who...

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INTRODUCTION: Sex, Politics, and Oral History in Cuba

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pp. 1-22

Do political revolutions bring changes in sexual values and practices? How do people living under a revolutionary regime perceive the relationship between political revolution, on one hand, and both the persisting and the changing patterns in sexual morality and behavior over time, on the other? How do...

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1 Sexual Evolutions

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pp. 23-50

While there is no single overview of the history of sexuality in Cuba before and after the revolutionary victory of 1959, a number of studies engage with different aspects of that history. This chapter offers a critical overview of some of these works, which come from various disciplines: history, sociology...

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2 Love and Revolution

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pp. 51-74

Near the end of his classic essay “Socialism and Man,” Ernesto “Che” Guevara writes, “Let me say, at the risk of sounding ridiculous, that the true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love.”1 The text, in which Guevara outlines his concept of the “new man” under socialism, has inspired generations of...

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3 New Women, New Men?

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pp. 75-116

We descend into Havana, strings of clouds outside my east-facing window. A “fair” 26 degrees [79 degrees Fahrenheit] on the ground (the same as in Miami, according to my free airport copy of The Sunday Times). Two full hours to get out of Havana airport. At 4:45 I emerge exhausted and...

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4 Memory, Revolution, and Homophobia

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pp. 117-148

In early 2007 the brief appearance on Cuban national television of an aging functionary gave rise to a spirited debate among Cuban intellectuals about the legacy of the country’s cultural policy in the early 1970s.1 Known alternately as the quinquenio gris (five grey years) or the...

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5 Homosexual Histories

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pp. 149-171

This chapter uses an interview with one man as the basis to explore a number of themes in relation to male homosexuality in contemporary Cuba. Pachy is a white, self-identified homosexual man. He was born in rural Cuba in 1964 but at the time of the interview with two female Cuban researchers in 2005...

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6 Listening for Female Same-Sex Desire

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pp. 172-190

This chapter is located at the crossroads of oral history and the history of female same-sex desire. It opens with a series of excerpts from interviews with Cuban women who have relationships with other women in order to highlight the different ways each conceives the very idea of sexual orientation or...

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7 Silence and Taboo

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pp. 191-213

This chapter explores two themes — silence and taboo — often associated with both sexuality and fieldwork. Oral historians, influenced in large part by psychoanalysis and literary theory, have argued that what remains unsaid in an interview is as important as that which is spoken.1 Silences also interest...

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8 Sex in the Special Period

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pp. 214-231

Sex came back into focus in Cuban studies during the 1990s. The “Special Period in Times of Peace,” announced in August 1990, and the ensuing expansion of the tourist industry in an attempt to bring foreign currency to Cuba, gave rise in particular to a series of studies on jineterismo (hustling) and sex...

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pp. 232-236

The Cuban Revolution has had a profound impact on all areas of life, including sexuality. But as I’ve argued in this book, the transformation in sexual values and practices did not happen from one day to the next. Nor did the Revolution sweep away all remnants of conventional sexual mores. Indeed...

APPENDIX: List of Interviews

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pp. 237-238


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pp. 239-268


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pp. 269-282


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pp. 238-298

Further Reading

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p. 299

E-ISBN-13: 9781469601885
E-ISBN-10: 1469601885
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807835197
Print-ISBN-10: 0807835196

Page Count: 320
Illustrations: 2 line drawings, 1 map
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Envisioning Cuba
Series Editor Byline: Edited by Louis A. Pérez Jr., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 778454551
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Sexual Revolutions in Cuba

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Sex -- Cuba -- History.
  • Cubans -- Sexual behavior -- History -- Interviews.
  • Homosexuality -- Cuba -- History -- Interviews.
  • Oral history -- Cuba.
  • Cuba -- Social conditions -- History -- Interviews.
  • Cuba -- History -- Revolution, 1959.
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