Louis A. Pérez Jr.'s latest work of intellectual and cultural history is an encyclopedic yet poetic meditation on the origins, political functions, and cultural saliency of Cubans' indefatigable commitment to their own national history. More than simply the foundation of a shared collective identity, argues Pérez, Cubans were and remain obsessed with explaining and elevating their past in a seemingly never-ending search for national sovereignty. Cubans' past is a “source of salvation and means of redemption” that organizes the march of time as much as it documents and propels it (p. 13).

This search for national sovereignty via the past not only generated a master narrative of cubanidad premised on “a special destiny foretold in their history” but also created a collective imperative to fulfill that master narrative in order to become individual members of the nation (p. 7). In an eloquent...

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