The Cartooned Revolution: Images and the Revolutionary Citizen in Cuba, 1959-1963
Someillan, Yamile Regalado
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ABSTRACT Title of Document: THE CARTOONED REVOLUTION: IMAGES AND THE REVOLUTIONARY CITIZEN IN CUBA, 1959-1963 Yamile Regalado Someillan, Ph.D., 2009 Directed By: Associate Professor, Daryle Williams, Department of History "The Cartooned Revolution: Imagery and Political Culture in Cuba, 1959-1963" traces the relationship between cartooning and citizenship in the early phases of the Cuban Revolution. Through a broad analysis of cartoons and advertisements produced in the Havana press between January 1959 and December 1963, this study analyzes the interplay of state-regulated visual communication that fueled cultural transformation and defined a new revolutionary citizenry. A close reading of an "imagined narrative," drawn by the new revolutionary press and consumed by Havana readers, I argue, casts a new light on the fundamental changes in political culture and society that took place in Cuba following January 1, 1959. My choice to analyze cartoons, advertisements as well as the institutions and personalities responsible for their production, draws upon the powerful interplay of revolutionary vision, reform, politics, and ideology within the imagined narrative. The institutional and functional conversion of these forms of revolutionary imagery into official propaganda occurred as a result of a deconstruction of the pre-revolutionary press and an institutional takeover and re-staffing of newspaper offices and printing presses; the deregulation of the cartooning profession; and the reorganization of pre-revolutionary advertising enterprises into a government-controlled, central clearinghouse. Initially, images portrayed the young Castro state as champion of reform within a longer tradition of Cuban liberalism. But in short time, the resistance of holdovers from the deposed Batista political class in combination with the souring of relations with the United States, engendered an emergent revolutionary visual culture. The early forms of its new visuality were exemplified in images cultivating the bearded rebel. As it matured, especially in visual communication associated with the Literacy Campaign of 1961 and the Socialist Emulation Campaign of 1962-63, the rebel image stood alongside a cast of stock characters representative of the new political regime. If, on the one hand, revolutionary imagery projected a dangerous political landscape filled with subversive plots and looming "enemies of the people," it also gave visual clues to the new forms of political belonging. Cartoons and advertisements communicated vital policies and campaigns in which Cubans with varying levels of commitment to the Revolution might be projected into an imagined, yet official revolutionary narrative. As Cubans increased their level of integration into revolutionary society, they began to redefine themselves into a more ideologically sophisticated citizenry both inside and outside of the image world.