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On Becoming Cuban: Identity, Nationality, and Culture Hardcover – September 22, 1999

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 608 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; y First edition edition (October 25, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807824879
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807824870
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,506,393 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Revelatory and engrossing, P?rez's epic of U.S.-Cuban relations and their impact on the development of the Cuban character focuses not on international diplomacy or saber rattling, but on symbiotic personal contact. The study, which concentrates on the century leading up to the revolution of 1959, quickly makes clear that the Cuban presence in the U.S. is not an invention of the late 20th century. In fact, migration began in the 1850s; North Americans were conspicuous in Cuba as well, with industrialists and tradesmen settling there. Well-to-do islanders had their children educated stateside, while Cuban workers were trained on U.S.-built machinery. Thus, the U.S. became the undoing of Spanish colonialism, for Cuba had access to up-to-date technology well before its mother country. Later, during Prohibition, U.S. tourism transformed Cuba into a prime destination for indulgence and excess, while Cuban influences in American sports and music became ubiquitous. A professor of history at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, P?rez argues that this familiarity with and dependence on the United States led, in part, to Castro's revolution, which he portrays as the logical extension of the bourgeois-democratic ideal that had initially attracted Cubans to the U.S. Refreshingly, P?rez (The War of 1898) does not take sides. The clarity of his writing and his extensive research make this an important addition to Latin American studies. 70 illus., 70 maps. (Nov.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Long-time Cuban expert P?rez (history, Univ. of North Carolina) has written an important and groundbreaking historical study of Cuban culture from 1850 through the Cuban revolution in 1959. Showing that Cuban culture was greatly influenced by ever-present American culture and ideas, P?rez argues that the distinction between what was Cuban and what was North American became blurred. Thus, his approach deemphasizes America's historical, political, and military influence in favor of cultural issues. P?rez postulates that the Cuban revolution occurred when Cubans recognized the great distance between the reality of the Cuban economic and social situation and the goals of the Cuban/American dream. An important book on Cuba that will be of interest in most academic and large public library collections.AMark L. Grover, Brigham Young Univ. Lib., Provo, UT
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

Let's decide not to idealize the Revolution.
A reader
I believe that this book provides an excellent background to understand the developments in Cuba of the Cuban Revolution.
Albert L. Garcia, Ph.D.
I must admit it got to me: I couldn't finish the book.
Rafael Morffi

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Rafael Morffi on September 28, 2002
Format: Paperback
That should be the title of this book. The author makes the same mistake many have made: to them Havana=Cuba. If it happened in Havana, it must be so in the rest of the island. From the beginning of the book he attributes to all Cubans what really applies to the upper class of Havana: travelling to the U.S. on vacation; sending their children to be educated on the U.S.; shopping sprees in New York; conducting their businesses on the American model, etc.
I was born in Camagüey and lived in Oriente and still have family in Cuba and I never heard of, much less witnessed many of the "facts" he gives. I've checked with several other Cubans, older than I from all over the island, about some of the authors assertions and everyone assures me Cubans did not celebrate Thanksgiving; kids did not get toys on December 25 (it was January 6); few Cubans spoke English, many Americans spoke Spanish; men did not stop flirting with "mulatas" in favor of blondes; and American supermarkets did not obliterate the neighborhood bodega. Perhaps that's the way it was in the Americanized Vedado neighborhood.
The author quotes from many novels and short stories. The writings of Cuban revolutionaries, the constitution written for the formation of the Cuban nation during the 10-year war, the effects of that 10-year war, and the effects of the war of independence on Cubans' idea of nationality are practically ignored. It seems we Cubans obtained all notion of who we are from the U.S.
Sociologist-like, he ascribes deeper meaning to all kinds of things; for example: the Cubans' enthusiastic adoption of baseball becomes an anti-Spanish, pro-feminist protest and a condemnation of Bullfighting as a bloody, colonial sport.
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41 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Albert L. Garcia, Ph.D. on June 23, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
On Becoming Cuban is more than a book about Cuban Identity. It is a well researched historical work that traces the social and cultural impact of North American culture on Cuba during the period of the 1860's to the 1950's. This is the period prior to the Spanish American War and prior to the Cuban Revolution. The author is able to show how Cubans used American culture, such as acquiring with passion the American pastime of baseball as a way of establishing Cuban identity against Spain. But the Cuban assimilitation of American Culture and the period that followed the Spanish American War point also to the dominant and paternalistic role of North America over Cuba. Professor Perez points out how after the war Americans took advantage of hurting farmers and property owners by buying for a song what was worth more. Also he shows how the American companies created an elitist and discriminatory policy where English was valued more than Spanish in Cuba and where American Sugar conglomerates kept an economic and social wall between the criollos and Americans doing business and working in Cuba. Perez tracing of the development of Cuban music such as the son, rumba, conga,mambo, and cha cha cha points to the paternalistic misused of Cuban artists for the benefit and enrichment of North American entrepreneurs. The same arguments could be made about the misuse and abuse of tourism in Cuba by North Americans. The economic power of North American citizens led to the same kind of abuse in tourism. This book also offers an important historical and social analysis on the question of race. In the early development of the Cuban identity, Cubans were influenced by their North American neighbors view on race, that to be Cuban was equivalent to being white.Read more ›
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By L. L on September 8, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book helped me very much as a source of data on events that happened way before my time, mainly because in Castro's Cuba most of this has been distorted, or in many cases, access has been totally impossible. I found the book very interesting and educational at the same time, very helpful also in making me understand better our influences and roots, as well as that tremendous link, for good or bad, that always existed with the United States and that Castro always persisted and portrayed as something not important and besides , very negative. However I have my problems with this book , especially on the last chapters, the revolution era, which is the one I lived, and know the most. I'm 36 now, and lived 25 years in Cuba, so I have a pretty clear knowledge of how things were and are during this years of "revolution". As many other non-cuban authors, Perez seem to have a problem criticizing the regime for what it's been responsible and on the other hand puts most of the blame on the United states, I think than from a fear point of view we got more positive things than negative ones from them. Corruption and mishandling of the government is constantly mentioned during the republic period; but very little is said about castro's failures. Nothing is said about the assassination and abuses that took place during those first years of revolution, practice that has continued during all these years. Unfortunately it was during these years that many liberals and idealist turned a blind eye to what was happening in the island. Nobody wanted to talk about what was really happening and preferred to accept the idea that the US were to blame for the rupture in the relationships between both countries.Read more ›
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