“A highly original and comprehensive study of the role of the guerrilla ethos in Cuban revolutionary history. Clayfield skillfully weaves together themes of duty, struggle against overwhelming obstacles, and cubanía to illustrate the profound roots of guerrillerismo in Cuban history. Essential reading.”—John M. Kirk, author of Healthcare without Borders: Understanding Cuban Medical Internationalism
In this extensively researched book, Anna Clayfield challenges contemporary Western views on the militarization of Cuba. She argues that, while the pervasiveness of armed forces in revolutionary Cuba is hard to refute, it is the guerrilla legacy, ethos, and image—guerrillerismo—that has helped the Cuban revolutionary project survive. The veneration of the guerilla fighter has been crucial to the political culture’s underdog mentality.
Analyzing official discourse, including newspapers, history textbooks, army training manuals, the writings of Che Guevara, and the speeches of Fidel Castro, Clayfield examines how the Cuban government has promoted guerrilla motifs. She traces this rhetorical strategy from the beginnings of the Rebel Army in the 1950s and the implementation of Soviet-style management in the 1960s and 1970s, through the shifting ideologies of the 1980s and the instability of the 1990s Special Period, until the present day. By weaving the guerilla ethos into the fabric of Cuban identity, the government has garnered legitimacy for the political authority of former guerrilleros, even decades after the end of armed conflicts.
The Guerrilla Legacy of the Cuban Revolution chronicles how guerrilla rhetoric has allowed the Revolution to adapt and transform over time while appearing to remain true to its founding principles. It also raises the question of just how long this discourse can sustain the Revolution when its leaders are no longer veterans of the sierra, those guerrillas who participated in that armed struggle that brought them to power so many years ago.
Anna Clayfield is a lecturer in Spanish and Latin American studies at the University of Chester.