Lillian Guerra is professor of Cuban and Caribbean history at the University of Florida. She is the author of several poetry collections, a short story collection, and four books of history, including Visions of Power in Cuba, which received the Bryce Wood Book Award from the Latin American Studies Association.
Authorities in postrevolutionary Cuba worked to establish a binary society in which citizens were either patriots or traitors. This all-or-nothing approach reflected in the familiar slogan “patria o muerte” (fatherland or death) has recently been challenged in protests that have adopted the theme song “patria y vida” (fatherland and life), a collaboration by exiles that, predictably, has been banned in Cuba itself. Lillian Guerra excavates the rise of a Soviet-advised Communist culture controlled by state institutions and the creation of a multidimensional system of state security whose functions embedded themselves into daily activities and individual consciousness and reinforced these binaries. But despite public performance of patriotism, the life experience of many Cubans was somewhere in between. Guerra explores these in-between spaces and looks at Cuban citizens’ complicity with authoritarianism, leaders’ exploitation of an earnest anti-imperialist nationalism, and the duality of an existence that contains elements of both support and betrayal of a nation and of an ideology.