Revolutionary Legacies in the 21st Century

On the occasion of the Cuban Revolution’s 50th anniversary, this Report examines legacies of revolution throughout Latin America. Besides the Cuban landmark, the year 2009 also marks other important anniversaries in the Americas: Hugo Chávez’s Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela is now a decade old; the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua took place 30 years ago; and Mexico is approaching the centennial of its 1910 revolution, as well as the bicentennial of its War of Independence. These anniversaries represent an auspicious moment for us to pause and critically reflect on how the region’s revolutionary past lives in the present. This is a particularly useful task today, given the unprecedented political changes under way, with eight South American and, possibly by April, two Central American countries having elected governments generally considered left or center-left.

Revolutionary Legacies in the 21st Century, print edition

Taking Note

Teo Ballvé
The principal focus of U.S. solidarity activism should remain uncovering, denouncing, and fighting U.S. intervention in the domestic affairs of Latin American nations. With the Obama administration, U.S. meddling will likely become less brazen, if only somewhat less insidious. This is why the solidarity movement should also fortify what has rightly been another central aim of its organizing efforts: pressuring the U.S. government to adopt more just policies in the Americas based on respect for sovereignty and self-determination.

Open Forum

David Abdulah
The Summit of the Peoples coincides with the Fifth Summit of the Americas, which since its inception in 1994 has had as its centerpiece the creation of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). Social movements quickly identified this neoliberal plan as a grave threat to the well-being of the hemisphere’s peoples and organized a broad, anti-neoliberal movement known as the Hemispheric Social Alliance (HSA).


By Eduardo Joly
The refusal to employ disabled people in Argentina has persisted for decades. Neither the political and economic orientation of those in government nor periods of economic expansion and job creation have favored the hiring of the disabled. Although the National Congress has passed a series of laws, including job quotas in 1981, an anti-discrimination law in 1988, and constitutional mandates on human rights in 1994, these norms are in practice rarely enforced.


Sinclair Thomson
The explosions of miners’ dynamite in October 2003, as the toppled neoliberal president of Bolivia fled to Miami, echoed the the country’s uprising of April 1952. Yet much had changed, with political protagonism in new hands.
Roger Burbach
Daniel Ortega’s presidency, the “second stage of the Sandinista Revolution,” as he called it, has been characterized by sectarianism, authoritarianism, and intolerance of dissidents. It therefore represents a profound betrayal of the original Sandinista movement, which was committed to popular democracy, openness, and pluralism.
Fred Rosen
Alan Knight, a specialist on the Mexican Revolution, discusses revolutionary icons, the competing claims to revolutionary legitimacy by contemporary political actors, and official amnesia over tensions within the revolution, among other topics.
Laurent Dubois
C.L.R. James’s study of the Haitian Revolution, first published in 1938, remains a touchstone of debate. A founding text in the field of Atlantic history, the book challenges us to grasp how, at rare moments, change becomes possible.
Sujatha Fernandes
In both Cuba and Venezuela, the revolutionary imagination has been free to develop in the domain of culture, preserving the legacy of struggle and serving as the social conscience of leftist governments.
Louis A. Pérez Jr.
In 1959 the proposition of the Cuban nation, with its roots in the 19th-century notion of patria, fused with the purpose of revolution, linking the value of nationality with the virtue of territorial sovereignty. This legacy, more than anything, explains Cuba’s ability to persevere over a half-century of economic sanctions.


Roberto Lovato
Roberto Lovato replies to David Bacon's letter in the January/February issue (“Debating the Raids: A Misstatement and a Disagreement”).


Michelle Chase
In August the Cuban authorities briefly detained a musician, Gorki Águila, 40, and charged him with “social dangerousness,” a crime punishable with up to four years’ imprisonment. Gorki, as he is widely known, is the lead singer and figurehead of Porno Para Ricardo, a punk rock band that has, since its formation in 1998, made increasingly direct and vulgar pronouncements against the Cuban leadership.