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Out of Havana

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I was raised between two families and two conflicting worlds, between my biological Spanish family and my adoptive Cuban family that migrated to Spain as refugees after the Cuban Revolution.

I lived my childhood full of contradictions. On the one hand, I profoundly admired the Cuban Revolution and rejected the Spanish regime of dictator Francisco Franco. On the other hand, I was constantly reminded that the Cuban communism was the most evil of all, and that the order and militarism of General Franco was what a country needed. I had to see for myself what the Cuban Revolution had brought to the Cuban people. I needed to feel what my Cuban family despised so much. I needed to experience the world of those young rebels that I had deeply idealized. But I didn’t just want t o visit Cuba, I wanted to observe, analyze, and live the Revolution from within. Doing research for my dissertation was an ideal occasion to achieve my goal. The book is based on that research. Answering more directly to your question about what truly motivated me to write the book: the Cuban people!! Those Cubans who left the island and those who remained in the island, they are the ones who motivated me and inspired me to write this book.

It was extremely difficult. The first three months of my stay in Havana I thought several hundred times to give up for good. Life was hard, understanding Cuban logic was hard, uncovering layers of truth was hard, eating was hard, transportation was hard, housing was hard; everything was hard! Of course, I was not living in a hotel, I was not going to the beach in Varadero, I was not a tourist, I was an anthropologist trying to understand. I spoke the same language than Cubans but my mind did not comprehend the contradictions of the Cuban Revolution in the words of Cubans because every contradiction was a reality and every reality was a contradiction. There was a time when I felt I was living in a state of paranoia as I immersed myself in the official discourses of the Revolution and I lost track of the purpose of my stay in the island; I became Revolution as everything in the island was that, “Revolution!”
It was then or never. I had invested so much energy, time, dedication, money as well. I had invested my own family in the process too. I went to Havana to do the research with my husband and my four-year old daughter. It was not just myself. Besides, there were many people waiting for that research, many people who had trusted me and supported me. Deep inside I didn’t want to give up, but the circumstances forced me to think about it. The instability of life for us in Havana provoked severe nightmares in my daughter, but instead of giving up the research I gave up my daughter; I decided to send my daughter alone back with my family in Spain so that I could stay in Cuba for one more year.

Do I think Cuban women have achieved gender equality?

That’s not an easy question. It’s not easy because the answer cannot be just “yes” or “no.” The Cuban Revolution gave the opportunity to all women to leave the home and serve to higher causes such as to the Cuban Revolution. But that had a high cost as well. Some women just didn’t want to leave the home, they were housewives and were happy about that role, but the new system demanded women’s work and being a housewife was not the work that the Revolution demanded from women. On the other hand, the Revolution gave all women the opportunity to study, to become professionals. Poor families could send their daughters to school to become doctors or engineers. In many ways, the Cuban Revolution tried hard to achieve gender equality, but it didn’t succeed. The woman was the one who had to serve to the Revolution, work outside the home, and also be a housewife and a mother. Many women received the changes of the new system with content, but soon found themselves exhausted, overworked and frustrated. Most of the problems that are consequences of gender imbalances are still present in Cuban society today. You only have to see who has the power in the country, who has the real power? The Cuban Revolution has been run by men; well, by one man only.

The manuscript had been used already in some university classes and my colleagues encouraged me to publish it. But that was not the reason I decided to publish the book either. What really caused its publication was the feeling that the voices of the women were being stronger than my will to keep them silent; they were ready to come out, with or without my help. When the voices kept pushing, the publication opportunity aroused through Deep Institute Press: http://www.deepuniversitypress.org/havana.html

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