Capitalists of Misery: Shantytown Networks and the Cuban Revolution, 1950-1963


Friday, March 2, 2018, 12:00pm to 2:00pm


CGIS South, S216, 1730 Cambridge Street


Speaker: Jesse Horst, Sarah Lawrence College

Challenging the notion of a "great divide" between Republic and Revolution this talk traces contentious interactions between shantytown leaders in Havana and government officials who sought to relocate them. As disputes around shantytown eradication became politicized during the 1950s, public debate came to center on social welfare for the poor, not occupancy rights. Cuban elites were thereby pressured to generate social welfare initiatives in order to make slum clearance politically feasible. Once in place, these initiatives offered material benefits in exchange for relocation, but they also silenced local activists for whom occupancy rights remained important. The policies of the early revolution grew from precisely this compromise.

Jesse Horst is the director of Sarah Lawrence in Cuba, the longest consecutively running US academic semester program in Havana. He earned his Ph.D. in Latin American History from the University of Pittsburgh in 2016, researching the politics of slum clearance, rent control, and housing in Havana from 1930-1965. His dissertation was awarded the University of Pittsburgh's Eduardo Lozano Memorial Dissertation Prize for 2016-17.

Moderator: Alejandro de la Fuente, Robert Woods Bliss Professor of Latin American History and Economics, Professor of African and African American Studies and of History, Harvard University.

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Photo of a shantytown behind the main baseball stadium in Havana by Mark Kauffman for Life Magazine, c. 1950.