Syllabus: Inside the Classroom

By Mary K. Zajac

The Culture of a Revolution

“Being Cuban is a highly contentious condition,” says Professor Eduardo Gonzalez. “Students need to know the forces in contention in interpreting things in creative works.”

They get ample opportunities in Gonzalez’s class, Cuba and Its Culture Since the Revolution. Gonzalez is director of the Spanish and Latin American subdivision in the Department of German and Romance Languages and Literatures.

arts

Havana, Cuba

Gonzalez’s class, which he teaches in Spanish, looks at the dissonance between the arts and politics in Cuba since the revolution of 1959, and includes the study of fiction, musical performance, and film. Gonzalez characterizes the authors and performers studied in class as “rebels of a sort, dissidents, nonconformists.” Some have been imprisoned or left Cuba; others stayed and criticized the state in less radical ways. Whether seen as revolutionary or counterrevolutionary, he says, all the works demonstrate “a resistance to politics and ideologies at their base.

“We are committed to the study of music, literature, and film from a political perspective because it is all subjected to a very strong political reading from the state, and artists are reacting to this,” explains Gonzalez, who for several years has taken students to Cuba during Intersession. “We are also constantly addressing the changing relationship—the rapprochement [between the United States and Cuba]—in class.”

Among the 21 students in the class are several who were born in Cuba.For them, the class has prompted deep reflections about identity, history, and nationality. For public health studies major Camila Montejo-Poll ’19, the class “has challenged my thinking of what is the revolution and really, just
what is culture?

“It makes me understand why we Cubans are so unique in our thinking.”

  • Eric

    Proud to be an alumnus of a school that offers a class like this. Would have loved to take Prof Gonzalez’s course.

    Cool piece…but just wanted to point out that the revolution happened in ’59.

  • Arts & Sciences Magazine

    Eric, thank you so much for your comment. We regret the error and have corrected the online version.