Rebellious affinities: Narratives of community, resistance, and women's participation in the Cuban Revolution (1952–1959)
Relatively little has been written about the people and many of the groups and activist regions involved in the Cuban insurrection of the 1950s. I address three questions about the insurgent movement: (1) how people were drawn into the struggle, (2) the structure of the movement, including its different activist groups and how rebels operated effectively, and (3) the role women played in this struggle.
My primary data consists of interviews I conducted with eight women in Cuba who participated in various capacities in the insurgent struggle from 1952 to 1959. I also consulted the small body of recently published works on the insurgency which are based on extensive primary data. These data shed light on the localized and social aspects of the struggle. I identify cultural, relational, emotional, and experiential factors that affected activists' value formation and recruitment.
The grassroots features of the struggle were a strength of the insurgent movement. The anti-Batista movement in Cuba was extensive. Revolutionaries had at least three social support bases with ties to many local communities in several provinces: the labor, student, and civic resistance movements. These networks facilitated the recruitment of a diverse sector of society, including many women. These connections allowed rebels to effectively utilize many diverse local resources. I analyze features of Santiago de Cuba, a city in which rebels enjoyed considerable support. Cultural values and political traditions shared by dissident members of tightly knit communities were a source of commitment to the struggle. State coercion and dissident, activist populations also contributed to the region's support for the opposition.
Data on the structure of this movement and its support sectors call into question feminists', historians', and sociologists' arguments about women's limited participation. These findings suggest that women participated in large numbers in some cities. In some sectors they performed outreach tasks vital to movement objectives. Many women in various insurgent groups carried out high-risk missions involving violence, knowledge, and skills. These data also indicate that women held positions of responsibility as mid-level cadres.
0453: Womens studies