Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of History
This dissertation examines how Cubans mobilized the memory of their wars of independence as the symbolic and narrative foundations of their nationhood. The Blood of Our Heroes argues that the creation of a set of heroes, icons, and parables was crucial to to consolidation of the Cuban republic and to the establishment of political and racial norms that sustained it. Cuban independence was threatened from its outset by the prospect of U.S. intervention. In this context, securing political stability and social unity became matters of national survival. The sanctification of national heroes enabled Cubans to demonstrate the historical legitimacy of their fragile republic, and Cubans circulated narratives emphasizing the cooperation of black and white Cubans in the anti-colonial struggle to deny and forestall conflicts over racial inequality. Because of the authority Cubans assigned to these narratives and symbols, however, memory became a decisive weapon for oppositional movements. Throughout the republic, Cubans reframed the independence wars to undercut the legitimacy of republican governments and assert a claim to power, a process of historical revision that reached its apogee in the successful revolutionary movement of the late 1950s.