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Insurgent Cuba: Race, Nation and Revolution, 1868-98 Paperback – 31 Oct 1999

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press (31 Oct 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807847836
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807847831
  • Product Dimensions: 23.5 x 15.5 x 1.8 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,480,911 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Anyone who wants to understand modern Cuba should read Ferrer s account of the Cuban insurgency."Journal of Military History"

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
In the nineteenth century, tens of thousands of people on the island of Cuba made a revolution against a four-hundred-year-old Spanish empire. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
Pathbreaking work on race and revolution 20 Jan 2000
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
Insurgent Cuba tracks the transformation of racial and gendered narratives of the revolution from the abolition of slavery to the war of independence. In this fascinating and pathbreaking book, Professor Ferrer reveals that, with the emergence of late 19th century Cuban nationalism, narratives of race, slavery, and the place of black people in the revolution shift dramatically. Through the voices of leaders like Jose Marti, black insurgents were constructed as color-blind patriots committed to the liberation of Cuba, not slaves and ex-slaves attempting to overthrow the regime of slavery and demand equal rights. Black people were transformed in these three decades from a problem and threat to the republic to the symbols of Cuban nationalism's commitment to multiracial democracy. Anti-racism became a weapon in the hands of Cuban revolutionaries in their battle against Spain, which changed the status of black insurgents, put them on a pedestal in a way, and made their stories fundamental to the narrative of the new republic--one that is colorblind and willing to incorporate everyone as long as they are patriots. For blacks and mulattoes, this discourse gave them a platform to complain about racism in the ranks of the army, in everyday life, everywhere. On the other hand, the ellision of racism in the discourse of Cuban nationalism and the celebration of multiracial republicanism was often used against critics of racism in Cuba. "To speak of race, then," Ferrer writes, "was to challenge the depth of racial and national unity." Any attempts to mobilize on the basis of racial solidarity was then dismissed as divisive and unpatriotic. By reconstructing these different narratives in the context of specific revolts and campaigns, Ferrer offers us a stunning alternative narrative of the struggle for Cuban Independence. Insurgent Cuba is perhaps the best book available on race and Cuba.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The Allure of Racelessness 27 April 2012
By tatertot - Published on
Format: Paperback
As a professor of Latin American and Caribbean history at New York University, Ada Ferrer's research focuses upon the social dimensions of themes such as race, slavery, nationalism, and revolution. In her first novel Insurgent Cuba, Ferrer tells the story of the thirty-year multiracial movement for Cuban independence. She examines the participation of black and mulatto Cubans in the nationalist insurgency from 1868-1898. Through this investigation Ferrer notes the aspirations and limitations of citizenship and nationality for African Cubans. In her analysis Ferrer demonstrates that the enlistment of former slaves fueled the revolution, but consequently permitted the Spanish and later the Americans to expose racial issues, which then undermined the goals of Cuba libre.

Ferrer's social account is organized chronologically and broken up into three sections. The first piece of the narrative is dedicated to the Ten Year's (1868-1879) war and the Guerra Chiquita (1879-1880). Ferrer describes the combination of racial and nationalist factors that led to the rapid enlistment of slaves and Spain's success in characterizing the rebellion as a race war. The second segment of Insurgent Cuba analyzes the peace between the Guerra Chiquita and the final rebellion. During this period (1880-1895) insurgents disassociated the issue of race from the revolution and promoted the image of a raceless Cuba. The third section discusses the final war for independence. The rhetoric of racial egalitarianism played a strong role in the ultimate insurgency, (1895-1898) but the peace that followed failed to end racial inequality in Cuba.

Ferrer's investigation of racial tensions within Cuba's nineteenth century revolution is surprisingly in-depth despite the general lack of Afro-Cuban literature from this time period. Many slaves, with the exception of Ricardo Batrell, were either illiterate or did not document their memoirs of the wars. Despite the absence of personal accounts, Ferrer paints a detailed portrait of the movement using a variety of other sources. Excerpts from newspapers, poems, rebel legislation, memoirs, essays, speeches, and patriotic intellectuals capture the social development and demise of the Cuban revolution. In a sense the lack of personal Afro-Cuban information may actually enhance Ferrer's argument. Social historians often rely too heavily upon "human documents, which render the topic of discussion too subjective. In the face of too few personal Afro-Cuban documents, Ferrer employs sophisticated quantitative and demographic methods. The use of concrete data has the effect of solidifying her social argument.

True to Ferrer's roots as a social historian, Insurgent Cuba is presented as a piece of literature accessible to a common audience. Ferrer informs the reader of all information necessary to comprehend the progressions of the Cuban revolution without loosing sight of the racial tensions or becoming bogged down in personal details. The appearances of dates mark only the major events such as the outbreak of the Guerra Chiquita, which allows the reader to maintain a simple and coherent internal timeline. Maps and photos appear at least twice within each of the three sections and act as a short break from the text. The pictures function as a means to attach faces to the prominent historical figures and the charts typically organize a bundle of statistical data. Pictures can provide a wealth of historical information, however Ferrer seemed to use the illustrations more as visual aids than primary sources.

A weakness of Ferrer's book is the apparent ambiguity surrounding words such as racelessness and antiracist. In the introduction Ferrer contends that, "to frame the revolution in this light- as an...antiracist project-forces us to reconsider certain questions" (Ferrer 5). There is a degree of vagueness surrounding the term antiracist, which could imply either the rhetoric of racelessness or the literal practice of it. The evidence that Ferrer puts forth in the body of the narrative suggests that the antiracism of the Cuban revolution was both symbolic and literal; however in certain contexts it is difficult to understand which definition is being stressed. Perhaps Ferrer employs racelessness ambiguously in order to suggest the dual meaning of the word. Nevertheless moments arise, such as in the introduction, that require further clarification.

Ferrer's racial perspective on the Cuban independence movement represents a significant contribution to the historiography on Cuban nationhood. More significantly for her American audience, Ferrer places the social analysis in the framework of reconstruction in the United States. In doing so, Ferrer contrasts the multiracial Cuban army with the segregated policies of the US. In light of the inequality that remains intact during and following the revolution, Ferrer overstates Cuban racial egalitarianism when drawing comparisons to American reconstruction. Regardless, this juxtaposition engages the popular audience and draws the historical racial debate into a global context.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
nice book on Cuba 23 May 2014
By NATASHA - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this book for my Latin America class it was interesting an not so hard to read good description too
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