Exploring Cuba beyond stereotypes

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“Raúl Castro in fact played a central role in shaping the revolution, making his 2008 election perfectly logical,” write Par Kumaraswami and Antoni Kapcia, professors and co-directors of at the Centre for Research on Cuba/Cuba Research Forum at the University of Nottingham. Their letter responds to a review by Lucy Mangan of the two-hour documentary Cuba: Castro vs the World (BBC Two). [See related post Cuba: Castro vs the World review: a triumph of historical illumination.]

Your review (11 August) of the BBC documentary series Cuba: Castro vs The World rightly applauds its well-researched and detailed approach to a subject that is all too often bedevilled by highly polarised and simplistic assumptions. We at the Centre of Research on Cuba have spent many years trying to provide a nuanced perspective of the subject, based on sustained research beyond stereotypes.

How unfortunate, then, that your review reproduces some of those stereotypes and inaccuracies. For example, despite Barack Obama’s thawing of relations after 2014, the US embargo was never lifted by him and, as the programme said, is still very much in place. Equally, the assumption behind the idea that Raúl Castro was “anointed” as Fidel’s successor suggests a dynastic structure. However, despite the documentary’s emphasis on the revolution’s two leaders (Fidel and Che Guevara), Raúl Castro in fact played a central role in shaping the revolution, making his 2008 election (rather than anointing) perfectly logical. We will be recommending the documentary series to our students.

Prof Par Kumaraswami and Prof Antoni Kapcia
Co-directors, Centre for Research on Cuba/Cuba Research Forum, University of Nottingham

[Photo above by Yamil Lage/AFP/Getty Images: Graffiti reading ‘Long live Fidel and Raúl’ in Havana, Cuba.]

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