Cuba Studies Program: Radio Wars Not Cold Wars: Political Dissidence and Transnational Clandestine Broadcasting


Friday, September 14, 2018, 12:00pm


CGIS South, S216, 1730 Cambridge Street

Speaker: Alejandra Bronfman, Associate Professor in the Department of Latin American, Caribbean and US Latino Studies, at the University at Albany-SUNY

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 
Director, Afro-Latin American Research Institute, Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University

Cuba was a center of the Caribbean “radio wars” of the late 1950s, as activists turned to clandestine broadcasting to mobilize followers. Beginning in February of 1959, Haitian political leaders Daniel Fignolé and Louis Dejoie broadcast anti-Duvalier messages in Kreyòl from Cuban radio station Radio Progreso before Duvalier and Castro negotiated their termination a few months later. This paper argues that the early Cuban revolution was a double-edged sword for anti-dictatorship activists, as it both proffered an atmosphere of utopian aspiration and negotiated working relationships with existing authoritarian, right-wing Caribbean regimes. More broadly, it offers a critique of Cold War scholarship that in its overly narrow focus on the Soviet-US binary, misses the complex and shifting relationships and struggles for power among Caribbean states.

Alejandra Bronfman is Associate Professor of Latin American, Caribbean and US Latino Studies at SUNY Albany. She is the author of Isles of Noise: Sonic Media in the Caribbean (University of North Carolina Press, 2016), which records unwritten histories of broadcasting and sonic technologies in Haiti, Jamaica and Cuba in the early twentieth century. Her current research interests include environmental and material histories of media and transnational clandestine broadcasting networks.