restricted access Former Slum Dwellers, the Communist Youth, and the Lewis Project in Cuba, 1969–1971

This article examines a three-year oral history project focusing on former slum dwellers, that US anthropologists Oscar and Ruth Lewis directed in Buena Ventura (pseudonym), a new public housing development, beginning in 1969 and ending in 1971. This article reveals the Cuban government’s interest in using Oscar Lewis’s work as an opportunity to surveil and ideologically evaluate the most impoverished and, ironically, least politically active and grateful citizens as well as the Lewises themselves. Asking how the specific political vision and intelligence mission of the Communist Youth affected their interactions and conversations with former slum dwellers, this work demonstrates that citizens rejected state efforts to impose the Revolution’s narrative of harmonious inclusion and empowerment on their experience and identity, consistently and creatively contesting the centralized, top-down and often racist formulas of liberation adopted by the Cuban government in everyday life.