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Speaker: Michael J. Bustamante is assistant professor of history at Florida International University
Discussant: María de Los Angeles Torres is a Professor of Latin American and Latino Studies at the University of Illinois in Chicago
Moderated by: Alejandro de la Fuente, Robert Woods Bliss Professor of Latin American History and Economics; Professor of African and African American Studies; Chair, Cuba Studies Program
For many Cubans, Fidel Castro’s Revolution represented deliverance from a legacy of inequality and national disappointment. For others—especially those exiled in the United States—Cuba’s turn to socialism made the prerevolutionary period look like paradise lost. Michael J. Bustamante unsettles this familiar schism by excavating Cubans’ contested memories of the Revolution’s roots and results over its first twenty years. Cubans’ battles over the past, he argues, not only defied simple political divisions; they also helped shape the course of Cuban history itself. As the Revolution unfolded, the struggle over historical memory was triangulated among revolutionary leaders in Havana, expatriate organizations in Miami, and average Cuban citizens. All Cubans leveraged the past in individual ways, but personal memories also collided with the Cuban state’s efforts to institutionalize a singular version of the Revolution’s story. Drawing on troves of archival materials, including visual media, Bustamante tracks the process of what he calls retrospective politics across the Florida Straits. In doing so, he drives Cuban history beyond the polarized vision seemingly set in stone today and raises the prospect of a more inclusive national narrative.
Dr. Bustamante specializes in modern Cuba, Cuban America, and the Caribbean. His scholarly work has appeared in the Journal of American Ethnic History, Latino Studies, Cuban Studies, and the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of American History, among other publications. With Jennifer Lambe, he is coeditor of the volume The Revolution from Within: Cuba, 1959–1980, published in 2019. In 2019, he joined the editorial board of Cuban Studies. Dr. Bustamante’s current book project, "Cuban Counterpoints: Retrospective Politics in Revolution and Exile," tracks how contested understandings of national history and memory shaped Cuban political cultures after 1959. In following the interplay and complexity of such contests across the Florida Straits, the manuscript pushes Cuban history beyond the dualistic visions associated with either side, exposing the contradictions of both. Prior to pursuing academic work, Dr. Bustamante served as Research Associate for Latin America Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C. His commentary on contemporary Cuban and Cuban-American affairs has appeared in publications like Foreign Affairs and The Washington Post and also has been featured in media outlets like NPR, the BBC, the New York Times, and the Associated Press. His writings have appeared in Cuban publications such as Temas, Espacio Laical, and Cuba Posible. Dr. Bustamante's work has been supported by the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation, the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale, and Casa de las Américas in Havana. He was a two-time research fellow at the Cuban Heritage Collection (University of Miami). His 2016 doctoral dissertation won Yale's Arthur and Mary Wright Prize (2017). At FIU, he teaches courses on Latin American, Latina/o, Caribbean, and U.S. histories. Recent Publications "Cultural Politics / Political Cultures of the Cuban Revolution: New Directions in Scholarship". Cuban Studies 47 (2019):3–18. The Revolution from Within: Cuba, 1959–1980, ed. with Jennifer Lambe. Durham: Duke University Press, 2019. "Chronicle of a Failure Foretold: Trump Turns the Screws on Cuba". War on the Rocks, May 3, 2019. "Cuba after the Castros". Washington Post, April 18, 2018.
María de Los Angeles Torres is a Professor of Latin American and Latino Studies at the University of Illinois in Chicago. She received her PhD from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She taught political science at DePaul University in Chicago from 1987 to 2005. She was a faculty Associate at Notre Dame's Institute for Latino Studies, 2000-2001 and was a research fellow at Chapin Hall University of Chicago 2002. She is author of two books, The Lost Apple: Operation Pedro Pan, Cuban Children in the US and the Promise of a Better Future. Boston, Mass: Beacon Press, 2004 and In the Land of Mirrors: The Politics of Cuban Exiles in the United States. Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 1999. She is co-author of Citizens in the Present: Youth Civic Engagement in the Americas, University of Illinois Press, 2013. She edited By Heart/De Memoria: Cuban Women's Journeys in and Out of Exile. Philadelphia: Temple University, 2002 and co-edited, Global Cities and Immigrants: A Comparative Study of Chicago and Madrid, Peter Lang, 2015 and Borderless Borders: Latinos, Latin American and the Paradoxes of Interdependence. Philadelphia, Penn.: Temple University Press, spring 1998. She has published chapters and essays on issues of diversity, US/Cuba relations, and immigration. Currently she is working on a manuscript titled The Elusive Present: Time and Politics in Cuban Thought.