Debating Cuban Exceptionalism (Studies of the Americas) by Laurence Whitehead, Bert Hoffmann

By Laurence Whitehead, Bert Hoffmann

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P. 317. 17. , p. 150. 18. , p. 140. Neither Cuba nor Russia nor China conformed to this model in the twentieth century, nor indeed did Nazi Germany. 19. , p. 311. 20. The point of this observation is not to gloss over the fundamental differences separating ancient Sparta from contemporary Cuba but only to suggest that even in a world two centuries more "modern" than the one known to Benjamin Constant, we continue to encounter an unexpectedly wide variety of political experiments and trajectories.

This is hard to verity, but we do know that the revolutionary leader has ruled far longer, and has persisted with more vigor than most in attempting to project his legacy into his country's future. " They lack much historical depth, and try to homogenize processes that are in reality long-term, complex, and partially open-ended. 14 But if Cuban politics has followed a distinctive trajectory for over a century of sovereign national existence, and if there are grounds to expect Cuba's historical legacy to exert a particularly strong constraining influence on future developments, then the most useful way to bring comparative political insights to bear on this case may be to extend the time frame and range of examples taken to be relevant.

This may seem a banal observation in the case of Spain, since Cuba was after all a colonial possession at the time. However, even then, the emotional and symbolic dimensions of the relationship were unusual, since Cuba was the loyal colony that remained after most of the empire had broken away. Moreover, Cuba was an exceptionally wealthy and glorious possession, with a magnificent capital city and an unusually prosperous and modern economy. The Cuban elite had to be wooed by Spain, for if they had chosen annexation by the United States there was little their European rulers could have done to stop them.

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