Margaret Randall’s Years in Cuba

By Circles Robinson

Argentine journalist Rodolfo Walsh and Margaret Randall, Havana 1968.
Argentine journalist Rodolfo Walsh and Margaret Randall, Havana 1968.

HAVANA TIMES, September 13, – I am one of those dreamers who want to believe that a movie or a book can move mountains of consciousness among viewers or readers.

Each time I have read a work by Margaret Randall I have been very impressed by her ability to edge her way into any open mind.

When Hugo Chavez handed Barack Obama Eduardo Galeano’s classic The Open Veins of Latin America, at the America’s Summit last April in Trinidad and Tobago, I was overjoyed that the publicity would give Galeano’s book many new readers in the United States, in the same way that Noam Chomsky’s Hegemony or Survival got a big boost when Chavez recommended it at the UN General Assembly in 2006.

Now I’d like to recommend a book to all those who care about the Cuban Revolution, with all its accomplishments and defects.  I also hope that both Chavez and Obama get the chance to read it.

Margaret Randall has written several books about Cuba including “Cuban Women Now,” “Cuban Women Twenty Years Later” and “Breaking the Silences: 20th Century Poetry by Cuban Women.”   Her latest book To Change the World: My Years in Cuba is a must-read to better understand what’s been happening on this Caribbean island since 1959. The blend of national and international events and Randall’s personal story is totally compelling.

From Cuba it’s impossible to order books from U.S. companies, because of the US economic blockade on the island.  So, a few months ago I asked a close friend in the United States who was coming to visit me in Havana to bring me a copy of To Change the World.

My friend – a very perceptive individual, but one who didn’t know a whole lot about Cuba – took the liberty of reading the book in the days before his trip and finishing it just after he arrived.

As I led him on a daily walking tour of Havana I immediately realized from his comments that Randall’s book had given him some important tools for understanding a complex country, far different than any place he had ever been.

After my friend left, I read the book myself and was captivated by the experiences of the author, her commitment and ethics, and by the similarity of some things I experienced three decades later in Cuba to her experiences in the period 1968-1980.

Havana Times asked Margaret Randall if we could run excerpts from the book.  With the author’s approval and that of the publishers, we begin a 6-part series of excerpts to be published over the next two weeks starting Tuesday, September 15th.

On the back cover of To Change the World is a statement by Maria Lopez Vigil, author of Cuba: Neither Heaven Nor Hell:  To know Cuba, neither analyses nor statistics nor official declarations nor diatribes by its adversaries are enough.  One needs eyes infused with heart, passionate eyes, with which to look at the Cuban people in their daily life.  In this book Margaret Randall looks at Cuba through such eyes.”

For those who would like to order the book, it was published by Rutgers University Press, ISBN 978-0-8135-4432-8 (Paperback) and ISBN 978-0-8135-4431-1 (hardcover).

6 thoughts on “Margaret Randall’s Years in Cuba

  • Glen Roberts says, “Feminism isn’t the only issue in the world”. I say this is a typical patriarchal response. Women do most of the free labor (read unpaid labor) in the world, 75% of it, and are still on the bottom of all social classes. This is the longest and oldest oppression – thousands of years old. Women did and still do the free labor in Cuba (housework and childcare) and everywhere else. Randall was correct in writing about this
    and in her books Cuban Women Now and Cuban Women revisited. If we women do not hear about sexism in Cuba, we might get a false idea of the revolution and start to trust any socialist revolution.

    Every country has it’s own brand of sexism, of keeping women poor, under attack from men, prostituted.
    Feminism is the only movement that respects women, children, animals, nature and men.
    No other movement has ever challenged patriarchy.

    If we are to survive on this planet, feminism is the answer.
    And women know better than to trust a revolution run by men.
    Go read your history, Glen.

  • I am in search of the family of Margaret Vigil, wife of Dr. Vigil, who once lived on N. 14th Street in Havana. The reason for my search is to perhaps return a painting of Mrs. Vigil to her family or friends who love or loved her. Is there anyone who could point me in the right direction?

  • I don’t think those who love the Cuban culture and maintain respect for a man who challenge the imperial powers that be is a “biased love”. I give them “propers” because it has never been this successful. I am just wondering what would have accomplished with this “experienmental society” had he had support (monetary wise) globally. I give them “propers” because the conditions of Afro-Cubans improve a great deal after Bautista was ousted.

  • True internet and international telephone from Cuba is costly due to lack of infrastruture, although one can call Cuba from overseas and send emails both ways. Internat is extensive, however.

  • Where I live in the US, I had to order the book and wait a long time for it, but I’ve read it now and I can’t say it met my expectations all the way. It begins well, and there’s a lot of good information in it, but I think Margaret came under the influence of US pseudo progressives when she returned to America, and toward the end of the book she’s equivocating too much. Feminism isn’t the only issue in the world. The Cuban revolution isn’t perfect. But Cuba is an exceptionally civilized place because of it. Too few people know that and too many people believe anti-Cuba propaganda. I’m sorry Margaret has chosen to reinforce those people’s misconceptions. My fear for Cuba is that they may be diluting their revolution in response to that kind of misguided pressure.

  • This is fabulous!

    Don’t forget to mention that Cubans do not have international phone service or access to internet. THat has nothing! to do with the economic embargo of Cuba. Perhaps the blockade you speak about is the one the Cuban government has on their own people to move around and access information freely. Don’t forget to mention that not all literature was allowed or is allowed in Cuba. If you lived in Cuba during the 60–=90’s you will know that having “enemy propaganda” was equivalent to being a felon. So save your biased love for a 50 year dictatorship and open your eyes!

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