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Colonial Rule: Influence in Cuban History

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The question for the 3,000 word paper: Was colonial rule an unmitigated disaster for the people of Cuba, or can one argue that the colonial legacy in Cuba contained some positive elements from the viewpoint of the colonial subjects and their descendants?

The class: Politics of the Developing World, 2nd year level


1. Correct focus?
-done much research on general conditions of Spanish colonial rule, the Spanish-American War, Cuban independence and American imperialism
-question is involves many complex elements, not just Spanish "colonial legacy"
-how am I to assume the perspective of the colonial subjects and their descendants?
-do I write the paper while considering the context of Cuba's current government, or do I just focus on the political instability and American imperialism right after Spanish decoloniazation?
-what types of elements could be considered positive and to which subjects (creoles, slaves, freed blacks, pennisulares)?
-it is obviously impossible to isolate "colonial rule" as a factor contributing to the people's post-colonial experience--especially since there is no point of comparison, ie. one can't ask what the situation might have been without the Spaniards because the majority of the population had actually been brought there by them

2. Historiography?
Speaking in terms of historiography, how do I take this question? It seems I must take a stand on the 1959 revolution and Cuba's contemporary society in order to form an opinion of the positives and/or negatives of the Spanish "colonial legacy"-- ie. the instability previous to the revolution could be seen as positive if I happen to believe Castro's government is doing good things, because the instability led to the revolution

3. Imperialism?
-To further complicate matters, I'm not sure whether I should deal with the American imperial actions--it seems to be necessary though, because that is the time during which the "colonial legacy" would make itself known
-The US interventions can be seen as a type of colonial action themselves--perhaps I should discuss the US contribution to the instability of newly decolonialized, "independent" Cuba

My initial ideas about how to possibly structure the paper are as follows:

-intro: topic intro, discussion of historiography and outline of how the present affects my reading of the past (my stance on Castro and its affect on my findings), thesis (no positive elements to be found in "colonial legacy"), outline of arguments

-body: examination of 3 major areas, either political institutions/phenomena (such as corruption/personalismo) or social phenomena (hidden racial issues, class and labour relations, etc) and the ways in which both the Spaniards and the Americans can be implicated in such "negative elements"

Additional Notes to this Question:
-I have not yet found any positive elements to the Spanish colonial legacy--AM I CORRECT?
-I am inclined to view many of the social changes in the Castro era positively (though not the repression)
-Any ideas about focus, including which political institutions and social phenomena to concentrate on would be helpful (corruption, class and race seem to be good ones)
-Any ideas about historiography and how to properly address the question in light of the '59 revolution and my appraisal of contemporary Cuba would be helpful
-Please don't feel the need to respond to all questions!

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Solution Summary

The solution provides guidance in tackling the complex issues presented in the original posting (see long description) where a student was to prepare a 3,000-word paper taking on the influence of Colonial Rule in Cuban History.

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I think this question needs to be considered from the aspect, of why? Why is Cuba the way it is right now? Of course this answer will be tainted depending on whether you view Cuba's current situation in a positive or negative light. Like you, I do not agree with Cuba's policy on repression, however, I feel that like democracy, communism in politics is an ideological perspective. It would need to be viewed with it's positive and negative aspects and perhaps the current political situation is much too broad for a 3000 word paper.

As such, I might recommend going with your instinct regarding race and class structure. There are many theories as to why Cuba took the path it did. Within your context you might want to look at class dependency in Cuba. The pre-1958 Cuban state was distorted and Corrupted. It's class structure was equally distorted and corrupted by a history of first colonial rule, and then of neo-colonial domination. The bourgeoisie, the class that gives form to the capitalist state in the Marxist model, was confused by Spanish and British rule, neither having a positive or negative effect on the ...

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