Cuban oral history is one of the embarrassing gaps of contemporary Latin American historiography. Collections published by Cuban historians have usually been commissioned by the Communist Party’s “Department of Revolutionary Orientation,” predictably furnishing only the politically correct interpretation of the lives of workers, peasants, women, and blacks. On the American side, productivity has been scarce. The three revealing volumes of interviews conducted in the 1960s by Oscar Lewis, Ruth Lewis, and Susan Rigdon—Four Men (1977), Four Women (1977), and Neighbors (1978)—are sadly out of date, and José Yglesias’s beautiful bucolic, In the Fist of the Revolution: Life in a Cuban Country Town (1968), regrettably out of print. Oral histories recorded by foreigners during the “special period” of economic decline since the 1990s make for grim reading and tell us little we cannot learn from the mass media.

The recollections of María de...

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