This course examines the past 100+ years of Cuban history and the life of Cubans today. The year 1898 marks the end of Spanish rule of the island, Cuba's shift from colony to nation, and the rise of the U.S. to global prominence and significant influence in that country. The class will consider these early years of Cuba's dubious independence, the roots of revolution, and the Cuban revolution itself. Several weeks before the March break and trip to Cuba, we will begin to focus on contemporary life in Cuba with an emphasis on the everyday life in the capital city of Havana. Topics covered will include education, health, religion, politics, women, urban agriculture, and the arts (music and visual). The course will also deal with topics such as national identity, the role of Cuba in global politics, and Cuban immigrants in the United States.
A key element of the class will be a research trip to Havana during spring break. The first part of the class (before the break) will focus on a couple of general books on the history of Cuba. We’ll also organize a number of classes around themes—the topics of your research—and ask you to suggest readings and help lead class. During these weeks you will need to complete the major portion of the library research for your term paper, and this term paper will need to be a topic on which you can do a modest amount of fieldwork when we are in Cuba. When we return from break, you’ll have time to write up. We’re also thinking of having an evening (or two) of public presentations on your research findings. Finally, the class will finish a week or two before the official end of the semester as we’re trying to compensate for the time you’ll have spent in Cuba.