In the years since Fidel Castro and his compañeros swept down from the Sierra Maestra and drove Fulgencio Batista from power, millions of words have been written about a revolution that, at the time, captivated much of the world. Amid the drabness and conformity of the 1950s, the barbudos – with their commitment to social justice and racial equality and their beatnik aesthetic – appeared as a breath of fresh air. The Harvard historian and future adviser to JFK Arthur Schlesinger Jr noted that his own undergraduate students saw in Castro ‘the hipster who, in the era of the Organization Man, had joyfully defied the system, summoned a dozen friends and overturned a government of wicked old men’. While the idealistic sheen has faded, the Cuban Revolution has retained a powerful hold over the popular imagination.
In The Cubans, Anthony DePalma explores the lived reality of the Cuban Revolution, not through the experiences and actions of the Castro brothers but through the everyday lives of ordinary Cubans. It is, he argues, ‘their personal histories of living with an interminable revolution, their changing priorities and shifting alliances,