Citizen Engagement in Cuba: Neighbors and the State in Pogolotti examines citizen engagement at the local level in Cuba through projects initiated by the community since the 1990s. The nature of citizen participation in Cuba is not clearly understood by many in the United States, where the communist government is conflated with the Soviet states of Eastern Europe as a totalitarian regime in which the people of Cuba are helpless to confront, and punished when they do. The reality in Cuba is much more nuanced. This book discusses this reality through a focus on Pogolotti, reflecting on its history as the first low-cost housing community in Cuba in 1910. This community is but one example of a neighborhood where projects represent active participation by citizens. The willingness of communist authorities to work with officially sanctioned workshops and partner with civic groups indicates a level of citizen participation that has not been studied fully and provides an understanding of the relationship between citizens and the state in Cuba.
James A. Baer is emeritus professor of Latin American history at the Alexandria Campus of Northern Virginia Community College.
Chapter One: Citizen Engagement in the Cuban Republic
Chapter Two: Mass Organizations and Citizen Engagement
in the Revolutionary State
Chapter Three: Housing, Revolution, and Citizen Engagement
Chapter Four: Dino Pogolotti and the History of his Neighborhood
Chapter Five: Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Center and Cuban NGOs
Chapter Six: Projects in Pogolotti
Chapter Seven: Summary and Evaluation
The book provides an important window into how participation in local politics takes place in contemporary Cuba. Its nuanced understanding of on-the-ground participatory governance provides a thoughtful counter argument to notions of Cuba as an inflexible totalitarian society. This study depicts a people enmeshed in lively political participation and with the ability to make local-level change. Grounded in the history and legacy of Cubans refashioning politics from below, James A. Baer’s critical engagement with hard questions about its contemporary reality illuminates the everyday forms of citizen engagement that keep Cuban society running today.