Research article

Gendering the revolution: Bohemia, power and culture in post-revolutionary Cuba, 1960–85

  • Isabella Rooney (University of Oxford, UK)


This article presents a gender analysis of power and culture in post-revolutionary Cuba, using Bohemia magazine as a source. It argues that despite the relative paucity of historical research on the subject, gender was integral to the identity, legitimacy and popularity of the Cuban Revolution. This article examines Bohemia as a communicatory tool and a site of dissemination and contestation to demonstrate how the Cuban Revolution both endorsed and criticised the cultural ideals it inherited. Bohemia elucidates a dynamic between grassroots enthusiasm, institutional mobilisation and popular disenchantment, whereby gender discourse functioned to encourage and regulate behaviour. The article first focuses on the construction of national identity through historical narratives in Bohemia, exploring the uses of José Martí and Mariana Grajales to create an ambiguous discourse framing behaviour, both domestically and internationally. It then shifts to the discursive construction of the individual Cuban woman, analysing the multiple contentious identities that existed in this post-revolutionary cultural framework, using this incongruity to evidence fundamental shortcomings in the revolution’s approach. The final section bridges the national and the individual to understand how these discursive frameworks were used to encourage female participation in the workplace, in political organisations and social campaigns. This analysis also highlights that the central dissonance within the revolutionary project’s cultural framework prevented the realisation of gender equality. This article therefore argues that a gender analysis is integral to understanding the nature, legitimacy and longevity of the Cuban Revolution on both a national and international level.

Keywords: gender, history, power, culture, Cuban Revolution, Bohemia, Cuban Women’s Federation (FMC), Mariana Grajales, family code, literacy campaign

How to Cite: Rooney, I. ‘Gendering the revolution: Bohemia, power and culture in post-revolutionary Cuba, 1960–85’. Radical Americas 7, 1 (2022): 3. DOI:

Rights: 2022, Isabella Rooney.



Published on
23 Feb 2022
Peer Reviewed


‘Chovinistas? No! Marxistas-leninistas!’

– Fidel Castro, 1963

The revolution which proclaimed its victory on 1 January 1959 is internationally synonymous with the ultimate sign of masculinity, the barbudo, and its most famous icon, Fidel Castro. Yet the Cuban Revolution, memorialised by these images of bearded revolutionaries, quickly gained legitimacy for its attitude towards women. As emerging transnational networks turned their attention to the position of women, Cuba’s narrative of economic, social and political liberation lent strength to its socialist model during the tension of the Cold War. The significance of women’s position to a historical process so deeply entrenched in masculinity highlights a central tension within the rhetoric of the revolution and opens exploration of a far more complex set of gendered dynamics. The revolution comprised a historical event, an ongoing political and economic process and a national collective imaginary. As Fidel Castro’s movement declared victory over Fulgencio Batista, the ‘revolution’ began to be solidified through cultural and institutional reform, with gender playing a major role.

The experience of a new Cuba cannot be understood without an analysis of gender. Gender, as a system of power and a cultural framework through which meaning is created,1 was intrinsic to the construction of post-revolutionary Cuba.2 Gendered constructions permeated official discourse: conceptions of masculinity and femininity shaped the rhetoric that mediated experience and the contestation of power was played out in the dynamic between old and new cultural symbols. Despite the inalienable nature of gender to the everyday experience of Cubans, the study of gender has been notably slow to emerge. In contrast, the Cuban Revolution was a catalyst for academic study rooted in grand narratives of guerrilla and international warfare, or leadership and political and economic institutions.3 By the 1980s, gender had emerged internationally as a means to analyse historical change, and while Cuban monographs were scarce, important contributions were made within the wider Latin American historiography.4

By the following decade, growing interest in women’s experience of state-building and nationalism saw the eventual publication of the first book analysing women in post-revolutionary Cuba: Lois Smith and Alfred Padula’s 1996 Sex and Revolution.5 The noticeable delay was partly methodological, as greater access to Cuba post-1991 facilitated archival and oral study. This work analysed the revolution’s goal of sexual equality, and alongside other studies that emerged in this period (with the exception of Lumsden’s study of machismo), focused on institutional power and the mobilisation of women.6 This scholarship has provided an important chronology of the key developments towards the revolution’s espoused goal of gender equality. The foundation of the Cuban Women’s Federation (FMC) in 1960 institutionalised women’s participation, gathering it under the leadership of Vilma Espín, the insurrectionary hero and wife of Raúl Castro. Women were also involved in the Committees for the Defence of the Revolution (CDRs), set up in the same year in response to the ongoing fear of counter-revolutionary activity. In 1961, the Cuban government set up the círculos infantiles, state-run nurseries intended to facilitate women’s entry to the workplace by removing the burden of childcare. This year also marked the beginning of the Literacy Campaign, one of the revolution’s most celebrated triumphs. Over 200,000 Cubans mobilised to teach almost one million of their illiterate fellow citizens.7 Many women left the city for the first time as teachers, contributing to the ‘eradication’ of illiteracy on the island, as Castro declared in December 1962. In 1966, the FMC and the National Association of Small Farmers (ANAP) joined to establish a mutual aid group, through which women mobilised in support of the revolution’s sugar harvest efforts.

The key legislative development in this period was the publication of the Family Code on 8 March 1975. The code affirmed that ‘marriage is constituted on the basis of equal rights and duties’ and that ‘both spouses are obligated to care for the family they have created’.8 The following year, Cuba adopted a socialist constitution, which guaranteed equal participation for women in the development of the country. The FMC shaped this legislation and communicated it to the Cuban nation. Alongside this, the organisation held national congresses, where delegates met to discuss domestic and international concerns, such as childcare or the war in Vietnam. Aside from providing a chronology of the organisation, the work of Maxine Molyneux brought to light a dissonance between the character of the paternalistic FMC and the revolution’s narrative of legitimacy through female liberation.9 In this way, this scholarship has crucially recovered the obscured experience of women within the revolution.

While this research provided a critical baseline, a ‘gender’ analysis of power in revolutionary culture remained largely absent from historiography until the more recent publication of works by Michelle Chase and Lorraine Bayard de Volo.10 These studies focus on the insurrectionary period, analysing the discursive construction of gender and how women’s agency contested official narratives. Bayard de Volo has also theorised on the tactical use of race and gender in Cuba’s post-revolutionary foreign policy.11 Lani Hanna and Sara Desvernine Reed have furthered this research in their focus on Mujeres and Tricontinental magazines, exploring the use of gendered symbols to promote solidarity and to encourage participation.12 Going forward, bridging research on the incongruence within gender narratives and the study of gender in print media is necessary in order to understand the reasons for these inconsistencies and their effect on gender relations.

This study takes advantage of the recent digitisation of Bohemia’s volumes by the Digital Library of the Caribbean (DLOC),13 using Bohemia as a source to explore how gender was constructed and how power was contested in popular culture. Founded in 1908, Bohemia is Cuba’s oldest general-interest magazine. The periodical blended domestic and international news with sports reporting, consumer adverts, home-making guides and celebrity gossip.14 The magazine continued to issue weekly volumes throughout the post-revolutionary period, with a circulation of 300,000 in 1989.15 In contrast to the other major magazines in post-revolutionary Cuba (Mujeres, Verde Olivo, Juventud Rebelde), Bohemia was not formally tied to an institution, nor was it set up as the literary arm of a particular organisation (FMC, Revolutionary Armed Forces, Union of Young Communists, respectively). As a popular consumer magazine which actively combined a wide range of content, the study of Bohemia permits a more panoramic view of post-revolutionary Cuba.

Bohemia’s scope should not be confused with indifference to the revolution: indeed, the magazine has its own striking revolutionary history. Bohemia’s official story celebrates the tenacity and ideological integrity of its workers, who ousted their editor after refusing to print anti-Castro material.16 In fact, the magazine was connected to the clandestine press network which informed the Sierra Maestra rebels and legitimised their victory. Bohemia notably refused to accept the subsidies offered by the embattled Batista to the capital’s periodicals in return for support. When Castro came to power, he thanked the magazine for its loyalty and support after Bohemia printed one million copies of its special victory edition.17 Following the flight of its editor Miguel Ángel Quevedo, Enrique de la Osa took over leadership of the magazine. As Yamile Regalado Someillan’s work on Cuban periodicals highlights, de la Osa had been Bohemia’s contact for the Sierra Maestra group, and alongside the other figures who assumed control of Havana’s media organisations he was a member of the circle of intellectuals who had aided in the revolution’s victory.18

The development of Cuban media studies from the 1980s has emphasised the importance of the post-revolutionary communication apparatus. Media outlets were intrinsic tools of the state, used to advance its revolutionary commitments. Che Guevara encapsulated this function in 1961, asserting that ‘the revolutionary idea should be diffused by means of appropriate media to the greatest depth possible’.19 While Bohemia is often incorporated into studies as a descriptive source to illustrate the experience of women in Cuba, it remains relatively underexplored as a constructive tool or a communicatory agent regarding gender. The most significant work to this end is Yamile Regalado Someillan’s 2009 study, which analyses cartoons and adverts across magazines including Bohemia in the first four years following the revolution’s victory. Regalado Someillan’s work explores how the images within the magazine constructed citizenship and nationhood, thereby organising power relationships and framing behaviour.20 This article seeks to expand the focus to Bohemia as a whole between 1960 and 1985, centring gender as a framework by which power was negotiated, constructed and resisted.

Cuban media studies have also mediated our understanding of Cuba’s communication system, emphasising it as having less coherence and power than previously suggested.21 As John Spicer Nichols argued, the media was not ‘an inert link between the Cuban leadership and the masses’, but consisted of ‘integral threads woven into the fabric of Cuban society’.22 The examination of these threads facilitates exploration of the power relationships that structured post-revolutionary Cuba. Bohemia pre-existed the revolution but was itself involved as an actor. After the revolution, it was headed by a member of the informal network of allies directed into the management of the media. As a partially co-opted magazine not formally tied to an organ of the state, Bohemia in particular merged the roles of disseminating, gauging feedback and expressing cultural values. Certainly until 1986, this model of self-censorship was the prevailing dynamic that characterised media support for the revolution.23 Although Bohemia’s content, being mediated by state control, necessarily provides an imperfect view of popular discourse in comparison with more direct methodologies such as oral history, it is nevertheless a rich source to examine the dynamic between official and popular constructions of gender.

Moreover, the longevity of the magazine facilitates a study of the implications of gendered ideology on post-revolutionary change. In order to analyse gender in the construction of post-revolutionary Cuba, this article takes the period 1960 to 1985 as its focus, from the beginning of the development of national institutions and social and economic programmes up to the 1986 rectificación turnabout, a thorough restructuring of Cuban culture in an attempt to purge capitalism, which included restrictions on the press.24 While the expansion of gender scholarship has already highlighted the incoherent, incomplete nature of the revolution, this study seeks to enrich our understanding of this dynamic. In particular, the extended analysis of Bohemia provides awareness of the cultural mechanisms that the revolutionary government used to advance social change and highlights the reasons for shortcomings in this approach, as prioritisation, pragmatism and indifference opened up contradictions. This study demonstrates how gender depictions worked in practice, in particular given the competing and incongruous nature of these discursive concepts. In contrast to magazines like Mujeres or Tricontinental, which had a greater degree of internal consistency in their message, Bohemia displays significant dissonance within its own content. As such, this study also seeks to emphasise the important, unique vantage point offered by Bohemia as a source. It is hoped that this will open up avenues for further study, which could consider the changing composition of the magazine, or position Bohemia in conversation with other media sources.

The first part of this article focuses on the construction of national identity as a primary aim of the revolution, operating in Bohemia through gendered historical narratives. The significance of José Martí and Mariana Grajales to post-revolutionary rhetoric is explored as an ambiguous discursive framework regulating behaviour. This national identity is then applied to an international context, emphasising its legitimating function. The second section analyses the discursive construction of the individual Cuban woman, exploring the dissonance between multiple contentious identities that existed in this post-revolutionary cultural framework. The final section bridges the national and the individual to understand how these discursive frameworks were used to encourage female participation in the workplace, in political organisations and social campaigns. Gender provides a significant means to analyse, through culture, the function and efficacy of the revolution as a whole. Through Bohemia, an assessment of how revolutions can be structured by the use of gender serves to address a central question in Cuban historiography: the longevity of a revolution which was far less coherent than has been supposed. Examining Bohemia expands our understanding of the mechanisms of change as well as the reasons for this lack of coherence.

(En)gendering the nation

The transitionary period that began after the revolution’s victory was characterised by a self-conscious construction of national identity. Alongside new institutions, revolutionary conciencia was built; the development of culture was a primary goal of the Cuban Revolution.25 In Bohemia, mythologisation of Cuban history created la patria, a revolutionary collective identity uniting all Cubans. This section explores the domestic and international implications of this construct as evidence of the significance of gendered discourse to power, demonstrating that the uneasy legacy of colonial Cuba figured centrally in the post-revolutionary period.

A historical nation

The gendered construction of national history is nowhere more visible than with Cuba’s apóstol José Martí. The significance of the nineteenth-century independence hero to the Cuban insurrection is maintained in Bohemia through his essays or narrations of his life. In a 1960 contemplation, Fidel Castro asserted that ‘hoy Martí vive de nuevo … nuestra personalidad de nación se ha logrado’.26 Martí is explicitly articulated as the embodiment of a universal Cuban nationhood and culture, whose ideas on leadership, identity and anti-imperialism inform the revolution’s rhetoric and their cultural expression. As Smith and Padula note, it is difficult to ignore the deeply gendered nature of this framework.27 In a 1965 poem responding to Martí’s classic essay ‘Nuestra América’, Latin America’s anti-imperialist struggle is illustrated (Figure 1) as a mestizo man rising from the continent: ‘rompa las cadenas de ignorancia y la superstición: Que despierte el Gigante’.28 Historicising the categories ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ highlights that this imagery was connected to a masculine identity that emerged from Iberian landholding systems and social values; this cultural framework equated male honour with bravery and female honour with sexual integrity, values ironically reproduced by criollo elites to construct respectable national identities.29 Another section of the poem describes America as ‘hija preclara del gran pueblo español … guarda celosa su dignidad’.30 A pan-American anti-imperialist identity is gendered feminine, invoking dignity and chastity as necessary virtues. In this way, the language of universality framing Martí overlooks his identity as an elite male criollo. Through Bohemia, gender conventions particular to his nineteenth-century milieu are transmitted to a post-revolutionary audience.

The mythologisation of Cuban history within this reproduced ideological framework illuminates tension with the narrative of emancipating women. Jean Stubbs asserts that female participation from the independence era to the present is ‘one of the least recognised facets of Cuban history’.31 Since then, the significance of women’s multifaceted roles in Cuban history has been uncovered.32 While the revolution’s pantheon centred on men, Bohemia communicates the existence of female heroes, too. One article celebrated Candelaria ‘Cambula’ Acosta, mistress of independence hero Carlos Manuel de Céspedes. Cambula is memorialised for sewing Céspedes’ first independence flag, using ‘un mosquitero rosado, un vestido azul y un retazo blanco para coser la enseña que flameó por primera vez’.33 The acts of an individual woman who constructed national identity in a literal sense are celebrated through her kinship to a male hero and the exercise of domesticity. A similar process is also visible in other Latin American revolutions, for instance in Mexico and Nicaragua, where androcentric pantheons dominated the creation of national identity and women were included secondarily.34 While on the one hand these narratives reflect the gendered experience of the time, on the other, the exercise of agency through traditional feminine attributes is not challenged but instead celebrated in Bohemia.

Gendered historical narration is most striking through Mariana Grajales in Bohemia, the Afro-Cuban heroine esteemed as ‘la ilustre matrona’.35 As mother of independence hero Antonio Maceo, Grajales ‘dedicó su vida por … la libertad de la Patria’.36 Celebration of Grajales is not limited to popular culture; it is central to official rhetoric. The FMC’s head, Vilma Espín, asserted that she represents ‘la rebeldía y el patriotismo de la mujer cubana … ejemplo y estímulo para las combatientes, para las madres revolucionarias’.37 During the Sierra Maestra insurrection, Castro’s all-female Mariana Grajales platoon defined the movement’s attitude to women during and after the conflict.38 In Bohemia, her life is invoked as a reference point communicating heroism and revolutionary spirit. One such article discussing the burial of a young Cuban focuses on his mother, ‘La Mariana Grajales de la Revolución Cubana’.39 The endorsement of revolutionary mothers exists within a historic context of evocative maternal protest in Cuba.40 Invoking this culturally recognised symbol reinforces the legitimacy of the revolution for women and mothers.

The active endorsement of maternal protest as intrinsic to nationhood reveals a central paradox: the Cuban Revolution both celebrated and undervalued feminised activism. On the one hand, female participation in voluntary mobilisations was painted as an unbroken heritage of women’s activism. A 1961 article on agricultural labourers in the Oriente province described ‘la valiente y abnegada mujer oriental, que siempre ha estado presente en todas las luchas por la independencia de la patria’.41 On the other hand, the government attributed liberation solely to the revolution. ‘Si no hay Revolución no puede haber derecho de mujer, de niño, de madre, de esposa’, exclaimed Castro during the American Women’s Congress in 1963.42 Revolutionary rhetoric actively contrasted women’s experience before and after 1959: ‘La Cuba de Ayer’ depicts a naked mother beside impoverished and malnourished children.43 Moreover, revolutionary narrative simultaneously created a continuous line and a discursive break with activism and female experience pre-1959. The development of women’s studies in Cuba emphasised the mobilisation of Cuban women towards feminist demands and political organisation. Bohemia itself was involved in this, critical in the campaign to securing the vote for Cuban women.44 However, this experience was obscured, or recast, as the work of wealthy women who did not reflect the revolutionary nation. ‘We never fought for partial demands’, declared Vilma Espín, ‘we hate the feminist movement in the US.’45 To the revolution’s official discourse, feminism was bourgeois and imperialist.46 The dissonance between these narratives supports the argument made by Maxine Molyneux, that the Cuban government relied actively on women’s experience in previous conflicts but distanced itself from this legacy.47

This dissonance is partly due to the revolution’s ideological attitude to female emancipation, which defined female oppression as the result of capitalism and imperialism, in accordance with the Marxist-Leninist theory that the revolution adhered to from 1962. Castro epitomised this ideology concisely: ‘Chovinistas? No! Marxistas-leninistas!’48 Accordingly, female liberation without economic revolution was characterised as divisive and insufficient, a narrative lucidly illustrated by Humberto Solás’s 1968 film Lucía. Three Lucías are positioned as chronological successors in female resistance, but only the final Lucía experiences true liberation, under the 1959 revolution.49 Using female experience in a narration of poverty, injustice and inequity demonstrates how women were key to retrospectively constructing legitimacy.

A revolutionary nation

Alongside institutional and cultural construction, the celebration of an explicitly gendered national history played an important role in creating conciencia. Discussion of the 1961 education brigades in Bohemia was deeply militaristic, revealing the enduring importance of martial masculinity and its discursive cultural power: ‘la brigadistas de alfabetizadores … soldados de la enseñanza sobre la marcha’.50 This discourse is characterised by Carlos Alberto Montaner, an outspoken exiled critic of the revolution, as evidence of its ‘épico-machista’ outlook.51 This language links national identity with a historical experience of anti-American struggle that resulted in associations between masculinity and physical strength.52

However, deconstructing the language of masculinity illuminates a more nuanced relationship. Montaner’s characterisation of a revolution pervaded by hegemonic machismo obscures the importance of multiple masculinities within state-enfranchised identity. This is particularly evident in the context of patriotic defence. Fear of internal and external threats led Castro to create the CDRs in 1960, neighbourhood organisations that administered social programmes and protected local areas. Bohemia juxtaposes the CDRs with a cowardly, treacherous masculinity. Cubans colluding with foreign powers are referred to as gusanos (worms, maggots), a motif which appears in several comics and cartoon strips in 1961.53 Similarly, a CDR advert decried the ‘gusanera terrorista’, opposed to ‘todo afán noble’.54 In an atmosphere of uncertainty, anti-revolutionary behaviour was connected clearly to a rejected masculinity. Citing Ann Stoler’s work on gender and race in the operation of empire, Peter Wade argues that in discourses of nationalism, morality is employed in ‘strategies of inclusion and exclusion … linked to the defence of the social body against denigration and abnormality’.55 Official discourse was permeated by fears over the revolution’s stability and sought to regulate behaviour by condemning such acts dually, as unpatriotic and un-masculine. The CDRs’ expression of masculinity contrasted chivalrous rebel masculinity with the barbarism of Batista, a crucial discursive factor in winning the battle ‘over hearts and minds’.56

This chivalrous masculinity also continued into the revolutionary project with Che Guevara’s ‘New Man’, which organised a new Cuba along lines of honourable masculinity: ‘the true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love’.57 The revolution’s masculinised militarism did not prevent female participation, but women’s inclusion is narrated as a corollary supplement to this masculine framework. For instance, a 1983 article on the Territorial Troops Militia (MTT) described the FMC’s facilitation of female enrolment in the militia after years of requests.58 Enrolling women served as a sign of modernity and legitimacy, a dynamic highlighted by feminist analysis of international relations.59 However, military and national defence retained its masculine essence. As such, an advert for military participation quoted a child asking to be a soldier, mentioning that parents of ‘hijos varones’ surely know this conversation.60

Cuba’s initial post-revolutionary economic plans involved nationalising industry, increasing domestic production and reducing sugar exports, to decrease dependency on the US and because the government’s social reform programme necessitated thorough economic restructuring.61 Bohemia provides evidence of the explicit connection between economic growth and revolutionary patriotism, as the magazine’s adverts and articles were used to encourage consumer activity. A May 1960 Esso advert claimed ‘78 años refinando petroleo en Cuba!’, tying this to the labour of ‘técnicos y obreros cubanos’.62 In the following weeks, foreign-owned firms were nationalised as the revolution shifted towards a new ideological course: Marxism-Leninism.63 However, as these companies left, the revolutionary consumer patriotism they espoused only grew stronger. A 1961 article described the construction of new railways, alongside pictures of muscular men labouring, declaring: ‘ahora, la tensión de los músculos, el sudor de las frentes … no acrecientan el poder económico de monopolios extraños, sino una sola voluntad al servicio de Cuba’.64 This masculine labour is articulated as a foundational element in Cuba’s sovereignty vis-à-vis the United States. As in the construction of national identity, masculinised physical strength emerges from Cuba’s historical struggle and contemporary defence. Similarly, discussion of a hydroelectric plant describes the ‘esfuerzo de los hombres … así trabaja el proletariado cubano de hoy’.65 A working-class, masculine identity is thus constructed as both emblematic and constitutive of a new patriotic Cuban economy.

These masculinities also emerge in political discourse through the ‘underdog’ narrative expressed in Bohemia. David and Goliath imagery is recurrent, as the magazine chastises ‘la amenaza cobarde’ of ‘un imperio gigante contra un pueblo pequeño’,66 and depicts Uncle Sam ejected by a rock labelled ‘socialismo’.67 Cuba’s masculinised heroic national identity was defined against the demonised masculinity of the United States. Caricatures portray US politicians as stock villains with spiked teeth and claws, an aggressiveness linked explicitly to infringement of Cuban sovereignty: ‘En el Pentagono … “Alguna nueva formula para destruir a Castro, señores!”’68 These constructions communicate Cuba’s foreign policy through gendered cultural references drawing on historical experience, offering an accessible interpretation for criticism of the USA.

Feminised victim discourse is a commonly used device to construct actors as legitimate or aggressive.69 This is also evident with Bohemia’s narration of atrocities in Vietnam, recurrently reported on from 1966. Pictures of mothers carrying injured children through rivers and trenches attest to ‘el horror de la Guerra’, reflected ‘en estos rostros de una madre vietnamita y sus hijos, después de un ataque yanqui’.70 These photographs construct an evocative narrative of heroic motherhood in the face of aggressive brutality. In feminising the Vietnamese nation, America’s demonised masculinity is compounded. As such, one satirical comic depicts soldiers arguing in competition about the number of Vietnamese children they have each killed.71 Using women and children in an emotive war narrative undercuts an American claim to justice and implicitly bolsters Cuba’s anti-imperialist stance by presenting its allies as honourable victims.

Bohemia also offers another, seemingly paradoxical, feminine construction of national identity: armed female resistance. Latin American women frequently appear holding guns, as in one image (Figure 2) of ‘la mujer venezolana’, participating ‘por la liberación nacional, como en Cuba’.72 The magazine also provides similar images of female guerrillas in Vietnam.73 In her analysis of the insurrection, Bayard de Volo characterises the ‘even the women’ narrative, framing women’s actions as heroic, transcending ‘normal’ roles under dire circumstances.74 Feminised anti-imperialism is striking compared to the absence of this in a Cuban context. As explored, outside tokenistic examples, militarised defence tends to masculine imagery. When depicted, the experience of women in relation to traditional gender stereotypes simultaneously delegitimises the United States and reaffirms this gender ideology.

In one notable exception to this, a March 1985 volume features a Cuban female soldier on the cover, with her beret and gun in front of red flowers.75 This imagery is replicated inside the magazine too, in an advert encouraging female participation in the MTT: two flowers hold guns in front of a Cuban flag (Figure 3).76 The flower pictured is the white mariposa, the national flower of Cuba. This imagery is therefore explicitly feminine and patriotic. As discussed, feminine images of defence are comparatively rare. This issue was from early March, when Bohemia traditionally marks International Women’s Day with a more focused look at women’s participation. This imagery also bears striking resemblance to the visual language of another Cuban magazine: the Organization of Solidarity with the People of Asia, Africa and Latin America’s (OSPAAAL) Tricontinental Bulletin. Tricontinental was created to promote international solidarity, using emotive iconography to narrate global anti-imperialist struggles. As Lani Hanna highlights, women with guns, feminised with flowers or with children, were a recurring motif.77 Bohemia’s advert should therefore be viewed in the context of an ongoing cultural project to catalyse international solidarity. However, Tricontinental was translated into four languages, designed with foreign output in mind. Bohemia’s advert should be contextualised within the background of the ongoing Angolan War, in which Cuba was playing a major role, having sent thousands of combatants to support an anti-imperialist insurgency. While Lorraine Bayard de Volo indicates that the state did not need to encourage female participation, with enough male militants in the forces sent to Angola,78 Bohemia here attests to a secondary priority: incorporating women into the MTT to replace male combatants, thereby ensuring domestic security. Just as the state employed ‘tactical negrificación’,79 strategically deploying the imagery of race and African heritage to promote participation in Angola, the state here employed gender and femininity strategically, to stimulate participation at home.

Overwhelmingly, women’s participation in transnational solidarity in Bohemia is connected to peace as a feminised concept. The symbolic connection of the Cuban nation to feminised peace is one of the most important and overlooked aspects of the gendered construction of culture, as most analyses of Cuba’s third-world internationalism have focused on the language of brotherhood and martial masculinity.80 In Bohemia, an article describes the murder of 16-year-old América Labadí during the Machado era, while at a protest ‘contra la Guerra y por la paz’.81 The article constructs her death as symbolic of a national (and continental) struggle for peace: ‘vimos caer a América, que llevaba la bandera’. As historians reinstate the importance of the 1970s as a decade of increased international significance, particularly through Cuba’s international medical aid campaigns,82 the feminised rhetoric of these campaigns merits exploration. In Bohemia, a group of mostly female medics are shown waving with a caption invoking feminised imagery: ‘La Hermosa Flor Del Internacionalismo’.83 Like analysis of the military, this does not preclude male participation, as the pictures demonstrate; however, women’s overrepresentation in these images, alongside the language of sisterhood, motherhood and love is significant. A similar article interviewing female Cuban medics in Nicaragua describes the reward of meeting ‘una madre que nos cuenta cómo ya su hijo está bien’.84 Like América Labadí, portrayed as emblematic of Cuban women, peace is depicted as an innately female Cuban attribute, a task to which women of post-revolutionary Cuba are well suited.

This also reinforces the link between international discourse and the structure of post-revolutionary Cuba. One element of this is leadership: Bohemia demonstrates that, of the five high-profile women within the revolution’s inner circle, all are involved in international initiatives, most notably Vilma Espín in connection with the FMC and Elena Gil, ‘Presidente del Movimiento por la Paz y la Soberanía de los Pueblos’.85 The FMC’s leading role in international conferences also illustrates the importance of this mass organisation in connection to peace, a facet overlooked by analysis of the group’s function. For instance, a 1962 draft of the FMC’s agenda placed ‘la lucha por la paz’ above the emancipation of women in a list of the organisation’s goals.86 Within the increasing isolation and tension of the Cold War context, transnational solidarity was particularly important, as attested in a 1971 visit from Elena Lagadinova, a prominent Bulgarian politician who headed the Committee of Bulgarian Women’s Movement: ‘cada nuevo encuentro es una oportunidad para seguir fortaleciendo y estrechando este intercambio’.87 The coverage of the FMC indicates that women’s centrality in constructing and participating in peace was inextricable from legitimating discourse surrounding the Cuban nation as it emerged internationally.

In conclusion, historical narratives are of significant importance within Bohemia, serving to construct national identity. This deeply gendered identity created a framework that framed, rewarded and regulated the behaviour of individuals. However, the state’s mythologisation of Cuban history relied on pre-existing cultural gender norms, and the contradictory rhetoric that emerges emphasises the uneasy relationship between Cuba’s past and present.

Constructing a revolutionary woman

From the stark white of a full-page 1962 Bohemia advert large capitals exclaim: ‘TU QUE ERES FEDERADA’. The following line elaborates for the intended reader: ‘luchadora incansable, madre de familia, que en cuerpo y alma te entregas al servicio de la patria’.88 This encapsulates the Cuban woman imagined by the revolution: a keen multitasker, devoted to her revolutionary nation in all facets of her life. This section explores the ways Bohemia advanced this discursive construction of the individual Cuban woman, and assesses the extent to which this reflected her reality across two decades of change. This section also explores continuity in representations of Cuban women, highlighting how Bohemia can be read as a negotiation between official policy which espoused commitment to gender equality, and the ongoing, persistent cultural perceptions of womanhood and femininity. Having read the advert, if our 1962 federada was to close the magazine, she would see a group of women in glamorous form-fitting clothes, posing among leafy trees in front of the recreational countryside accommodation they were promoting. This analysis emphasises how Bohemia is a critical source for understanding that alongside the housewife-mother presentation, there was an ongoing emphasis on beauty and on sexualised depictions of women; indeed, in some instances, sex was used to sell the revolution.

Ama de casa

Writing for an imagined Cuban woman is nowhere more evident than in Bohemia’s‘ Cosas de Mujer’ section. Formalised in 1962, it expanded on the magazine’s regular recipes to include ‘todo lo que sea de interés femenino’. The inaugural segment celebrates by affirming ‘las palabras del Comandante Guevara: “el socialismo no está reñido con la belleza”’.89‘ Cosas de Mujer’ compiled recipes, style guides and interior decoration tips, offering floral stitching patterns90 and children’s coat hanger cut-outs.91 The guides emphasise practicality and accessibility; indeed, the presentation of this section is enthused with the desire to assist the ama de casa in managing the numerous demands on her time. This section was authored by famous cook Nitza Villapol, whose stated aim was to help women balance multiple obligations while keeping their family healthy.92 A 1962 spread offers the housewife nine ways to use squash in feeding her family, from flan and croquetas to mayonnaise and pie.93 One recipe asserts that ‘una lata de langosta puede ser … solución a esa pregunta que oye a diario la ama de casa: Qué tenemos hoy para almorzar?’94 Villapol prefaces a 1964 collection of fish recipes with the evolutionary history of the fish, its culinary uses around the globe and a breakdown of its nutritional content.95 This also demonstrates a desire to impart information and educate the housewife, in keeping with the revolution’s stated aims of elevating the Cuban people through education and better health outcomes.

The imagined woman that emerges from this segment is fashionable, thrifty and eager to learn how to better serve her family. In projecting this ideal housewife, ’Cosas de Mujer’ at first glance appears to offer little evidence of change; but this ideal housewife was necessarily operating in the rapidly changing socio-economic context of post-revolutionary Cuba. In this vein, one of Villapol’s articles in 1963 offers the ama de casa a guide to understanding imported food products and how to use them, including pictures to help her identify foreign labels.96 Another recipe is described as useful to ‘aprovechar los poquitos de vianda que le quedan de una semana para otra’.97 Villapol’s writing helped Cubans adjust to rationing, shortages and new food imports.98 This emphasises the Cuban government’s reliance on the nation’s housewives and the existing associated discourse; in using Bohemia to transmit information (via housewives) about socio-economic changes and to rationalise these changes, the government actively perpetuated the image of the Cuban woman as ama de casa. This is heightened when placing ’Cosas de Mujer’ in the context of post-revolutionary dissent. Home-makers were a key source of post-revolutionary protest as food shortages swept the nation, most visibly in the repressed 1960 Cárdenas demonstrations, where they banged pots in the street.99 Michelle Chase’s argument that ‘women’s roles as consumers became more conflictive’ in this period, both a source of identification with the revolution and a basis for protest,100 is supported by the content of‘ Cosas de Mujer’ in Bohemia.

In Bohemia, gender constructions were also used to recalibrate consumption as a patriotic, revolutionary act to help the Cuban nation. One of Villapol’s 1964 recipes provided tomato recipes alongside a picture from an earlier article, showing a woman picking them during the nation’s agricultural drives.101 Outside‘ Cosas de Mujer’, adverts targeted female consumers with the language of revolutionary participation. A 1960 advert for Fab detergent linked the brand’s packaging and the Cuban flag: ‘esa linda caja de FAB ES TODO CUBANA en azul, blanco y rojo como la bandera cubana’, emphasising this with a claim to employ 1,030 Cuban labourers.102 This advert is targeted specifically at women, showing a housewife washing up, above a comic strip giving housewives’ reasons for choosing the brand: ‘deja los vasos limpios … los platos brillan!’103 These images largely disappear during the 1970s, as a prolonged period of austerity frustrated consumer culture, but they later return. Inside a 1980 cover, there is an illustration of a woman standing beside flowers and the colours of the Cuban flag, behind a washing machine (Figure 4). The advert advises how to extend the longevity of her beloved machine through proper care.104 It is significant that despite the dissimilarities between the consumerism of the 1960s, still strongly influenced by US capitalism, and the consumerism of the 1980s, such similar imagery is found in both. Far from being superficial, this indicates a profound continuity in discourses of femininity and the construction of the ama de casa.

Exploring the use of adverts to target Cuban women highlights the government’s perception of the country’s women. Outside Villapol’s content, the‘ Cosas de Mujer’ section began to be used to transmit health directives, in the strategically placed MINSAP (Ministry of Public Health) adverts at the end of the segment. These adverts often focused on national health concerns like gastroenteritis105 or tuberculosis, but urged the reader to maintain a clean home or to be attentive to their family’s symptoms. Many MINSAP adverts also provided guidance for mothers.106 Not only does Bohemia’s coverage attest to the prioritisation of maternal and infant health initiatives, the magazine also functioned as a communicatory tool to assist in women’s maternal role. It also advertised this to the Cuban public. A 1964 article on ‘Casa Bonita’ described the activities of this newly established maternity home. The depiction of pregnant women and female nurses explicitly evokes a feminine tranquillity: ‘alegría, serenidad, orgullo de maternidad, charlas sobre idénticos sintomas, planes, proyectos, estudios, canciones, felicidad’.107 This romanticised language ties women’s biological role as mothers to their experience of post-revolutionary health care, as the state supported the individual woman ‘en su función natural de alumbrar un nuevo humano’.108 The language in Bohemia echoes official rhetoric: Castro asserted the need to help women primarily because they are ‘el taller natural donde se forja la vida’.109 The coverage in Bohemia therefore communicated the benefits of the revolution to the nation through the depiction of women as maternal. For example, a report on a new municipal health centre in Guantanamo highlighted unprecedented maternity care to convey a rural population which ‘hoy cuenta con un eficiente servicio de salud pública’.110 The provision of maternal health care equalised health outcomes between the urban and rural areas. Moreover, it provided legitimacy both nationally and domestically.111 Cuba’s health care system began to garner an international impression during the 1970s, and as with medical missions, the communication of these advancements through gender functioned to benefit the revolutionary state.112


The claim of the revolution to have ended women’s sexual objectification by uprooting the racial and sexual legacies of imperialism was another means by which it gained legitimacy.

Writing in 1972, American feminist Margaret Randall juxtaposed the revolution with the sexualised commodification of North American women: ‘desde la niñez, el sexo femenino es seductor para la publicidad en la sociedad de consumo’.113 This was echoed in Bohemia itself: in 1975 the magazine criticised its periodical counterparts across Latin America, deriding their maintenance of ‘el viejo ideal femenino de erotismo y sumisión: la mujer doméstica, decorativa y sobre todo consumidora’.114 However, Randall’s equation of anti-imperialism with anti-commodification is profoundly at odds with the content in Bohemia.

First, Bohemia continued to be heavily influenced by the consumer and celebrity culture of the US and Europe. In 1960, brands like Myrugia and Palmolive continued to use white, conventionally attractive women and their evocation of feminine beauty to advertise products within the magazine.115 The maintenance of inherited gender conventions is also evident in the marketisation of strong, heroic masculinity. Adverts for men’s supplements exclaimed: ‘sientanses jovenes’,116 ‘no seas medio hombre!’117 Foreign companies were expropriated in the same year, and while these disappeared from the pages of Bohemia, the advertising style lingered. Adverts for cosmetic hair removal presented light-skinned women in make-up, declaring a hair-free ‘esencial para el encanto feminino’.118 Into the 1980s, this imagery featured in government adverts in Bohemia. For example, a 1982 programme to encourage Cubans to return used bottles for industrial reuse consistently depicted a mother with make-up and large pinned curls, completely reminiscent of the advertising culture of the 1960s.119 In contrast, from the early post-revolutionary period, the FMC’s magazine Mujeres made a deliberate shift away from materialism and conspicuous consumption in its messaging, epitomised in the magazine’s November 1961 name change from Vanidades. 120

The‘ Pocas Palabras’ section of Bohemia is particularly illustrative of the continuing influence of external celebrity culture, highlighting shortcomings in the claim to have opposed sexual objectification. In this segment, photographs of actresses, models and media personalities consistently featured. For instance, a 1960 article on the English actress ‘Sabrina’ explained that, ‘por donde quiera que va los hombres se vuelven maravillados para mirarla’, comparing ‘la extraordinaria exuberancia de su busto’ to the measurements of Marilyn Monroe and Sofia Loren.121 Bohemia provided its readers with Brigitte Bardot’s swimsuit pictures in 1964122 and Liz Taylor’s in 1969.123 Contrary to common belief and in spite of its official rejection, Cuba was never cut off from popular culture outside the island; in fact, as Ian Lumsden argues, Cuban media remained heavily tied to the images, values and culture of its North American and European counterparts.124

The misogynistic framing of women in Bohemia’s‘ Pocas Palabras’ was not confined to an international context. This is most evident with the ‘Felinas’ comic series which emerged in 1969, a recurring strip with two female characters explicitly sexualised and derided through their depiction. ‘El hecho de yo llevar relaciones con tu novio no te da derecho a coqueteaer con él delante de mi!’, one caption reads.125 The series portrays women as promiscuous, conceited and vindictive: ‘Fantastico mi amiga! Figúrate que encontré un novio que hace una combinación maravillosa con mi vestido nuevo!’ (Figure 5).126 This probably reflects a culture of growing sexual liberation, but also reinforces stereotypes demonising women when their sexuality was not explicitly for male consumption. The comic strips page was renamed from the mid-1960s to ‘Humor Internacional’ or ‘Humor Extranjero’. But while this indicates a desire to distance Cuban culture from misogynistic humour, its continued inclusion in the magazine undermines this.

Even in 1985, Bohemia’s comics still regurgitated these tropes. On the final page of an issue from February 1985, a woman shops for sunglasses and bikinis and asks the shopkeeper to include a well-endowed man who could pay for her spending on the beach. Underneath, a man looks on anxiously at the hammer in the hand of his wife. She assures him not to worry, as she has taken a first aid class.127 This final cartoon is particularly striking given Bohemia’s campaigns to empower housewives to engage in DIY and home improvements. The cognitive dissonance across the magazine’s content illustrates a wider tension, as Cuban culture negotiated the competing gender constructs that emerged as part of the post-revolutionary period.

This is further illustrated by Bohemia’s use of sexualised women to promote revolutionary participation. In 1969, a light-skinned blonde woman undressing among crops was accompanied by the speech bubble: ‘cuando termino de recoger café, siempre leo en Pocas Palabras’.128 A 1974 article praises a group of young Cuban women for their beauty as they enjoy a well-deserved holiday at Varadero. The ‘hermosas jóvenes … heroínas del trabajo’ are pictured in their bikinis, with a photograph at such a low angle that presumably the photographer was lying on the floor.129 Not only is this a far cry from Randall’s ideal, the sexualised depiction of women is tied directly to the experience of economic mobilisation. Similarly, a May 1969 magazine included an illustration (Figure 6) of a male cane cutter fantasising about sexualised female workers.130 The inclusion of these images demonstrates a cultural tension between the change sought by the state and the continued existence of sexualised tropes. For the revolutionary government and some scholars, this misogyny was foreign-imposed.131 Indeed, Castro had encouraged a ‘caballerosidad proletaria’ to combat this sexual and social legacy.132 However, the continuing presence of these images in a Cuban context indicates that it was an implicit feature of Cuban culture which failed to be challenged by the revolution, in spite of its formal rejection.

In a December 1960 article celebrating the 515th anniversary of the invention of the printing press, a series of pictures titled ‘Asi Se Hace Bohemia’ demonstrated the production process of the magazine (Figure 7). Each description is accompanied by a woman pictured in the role, wearing make-up, posed suggestively in tight clothes, either in heels or barefoot.133 The continuity in cultural imagery is significant when considering the ways that the revolutionary government sought to involve women in the workplace. The following section of this chapter explores how, not in a manner dissimilar to this example, the perpetuation of cultural tropes was used as a tool for mobilisation, as a powerful force in regulating behaviour to achieve policy goals.

Enlisting the woman’s heart

The work of women was critical to the success of the Cuban revolutionary project, due to the sheer scope of labour needed to realise its social and economic plans, and because of the revolution’s espoused commitment to the liberation of women. The government exalted the words of its apostól Martí: ‘las campañas de los pueblos solo son débiles cuando en ellos no se alista el corázon de la mujer’.134 The use of Martí’s principle illustrates first the importance placed on recruiting women as a necessary part of post-revolutionary success; second, the explicitly gendered mechanism through which female participation was framed. As such, this section will explore how Bohemia was used to encourage and regulate participation through the use of gendered constructs. The magazine’s content also shows that while women’s work was critical to the revolutionary project, the means by which it was encouraged and resisted indicates central tensions within revolutionary rhetoric and the shortcomings in the official approach. Women’s participation demonstrates simultaneous extension of women’s traditional activities, a dynamic critical to the functioning of the revolution overall, and the reassertion of traditional values about gender; this tension was central to the revolution’s policies.

The new woman

Bohemia gave consistent attention to the actions and events of the FMC, the organisation at the forefront of the revolution’s mobilisation of women. Set up in 1960, this organisation promptly displaced the collection of autonomous women’s groups that existed previously. While Mujeres was the official mouthpiece of the FMC in print, Bohemia provided its readers with reports on the work of the federadas, particularly leading up to its congresses. For example, the magazine interviewed FMC members and leaders regarding the group’s goals ahead of its next congress.135 Subsequent debate on the nature of the FMC reflects wider discussion on the characterisation of the revolution itself, comprising paternalistic groups with little potential to effect change,136 or an albeit restricted organisation that emboldened existing activist enthusiasm.137 At its First Congress in 1962, Vílma Espín made the sense of responsibility that linked women to the revolution through the FMC clear: ‘mis compañeras consideran que todas las mujeres debemos saber cuál es el papel que nos corresponde en la Sociedad que construimos’.138 Espín’s language is infused with a sense of enthusiasm and obligation to serve.

The significance placed on female participation in constructing post-revolutionary Cuba is evident in the recurrent discussion of women’s involvement in Bohemia. The 1961 Cuban literacy campaign dominated the discourse of this year, as 271,000 teachers mobilised to teach nearly one million illiterate Cubans, mostly in the island’s rural provinces: the campaign reduced the illiteracy rate to 3.9 per cent by 1962.139 In Bohemia, both men and women participate in these brigades, but coverage focused on the emancipatory impact on the new Cuban woman: ‘estas dos jóvenes brigadistas … pertenecen a esa nueva generación de la mujer cubana capaz de cualquier sacrificio, como dignas herederas de Mariana Grajales’.140 The inclusion of women was partly due to economic necessity, given the large number of teachers and physicians who left the island in the exile waves of the previous year.141 Moreover, in minimising the vast differences between rural and urban life, it was deeply symbolic, cultivating legitimacy for the regime through the medium of female solidarity. Women’s participation in these programmes, which often took them outside the home for the first time, helped inculcate loyalty to the revolution for a generation.142 Indeed, such processes were consciously replicated in other Latin American countries such as Nicaragua, where mass mobilisation of young women in the 1980s broke down traditional gender roles while also building popular support for the regime.143

Another key focus of women’s involvement was the workplace, a primary task of the inaugural revolution because of the demand of economic and social plans.144 Bohemia’s coverage emphasised the unprecedented participation of women. An article discussing the operation of power factories in September 1961 described how ‘la mujer cubana se ha incorporado activamente al trabajo en fábricas, talleres’.145 In 1974, the magazine contrasted the 670 thousand women in the workforce with only 194 thousand in 1959, the latter being mostly domestic workers who lacked rights like maternity leave.146 Cuban women’s current position is again compared with their previous Ie, particularly for Afro-Cuban women who had made up the domestic workforce during the Batista era.147

Women’s involvement in the workplace was connected to the creation of círculos infantiles, state-run infant facilities embodying a dual role: liberating women’s domestic commitments and bringing up children within a revolutionary ethos. Castro discussed the nationalisation of factories and construction of círculos as crucial to create ‘aquellas circunstancias que permitan a la mujer no ser esclava de la cocina’.148 Moreover, the 1975 Family Code provided legal mechanisms to stimulate female participation, seeking to alleviate domestic burdens by establishing that ‘both spouses are obligated to care for the family they have created’.149 The Bohemia edition published on 7 March 1975, the day before the Code’s introduction, provides a history of women’s revolutionary participation, outlining the ideological imperative for gender equality, before introducing the Code and what it means. The article declares that, having secured equality in the workplace, the battle ahead lies with tackling cultural hangovers and prejudices from the previous generation. It asserts that realising women’s equality is the responsibility of all society, and the man in particular.150

While Margaret Randall celebrated the Family Code as legislation which fundamentally destabilised gender roles in Cuba, particularly for a younger generation of women,151 the emergence of women’s studies scholarship on Cuba highlighted the serious shortcomings with the Family Code. The government fundamentally undervalued women’s domestic labour, and the ultimate objective of the Code was unachievable.152 In Pastor Vega’s 1979 film Retrato de Teresa, the titular character wakes at dawn to carry out the domestic chores, prepares her family for their days at school and work, before she herself leaves for the garment factory where she is employed. Despite the discursive construction of the Cuban woman as an inexhaustible fighter with endless reserves to give to family and to the revolution, this clashed with the reality of domestic life: ‘El día tiene veinte-cuatro horas. Y yo tengo casa … hijos … marido a atender.’153 The weaknesses in the legislation resulted in little impact Ived experience of gender. As Maxine Molyneux has demonstrated, Cuban surveys indicate that the division of labour remained unchanged: the Family Code’s impact on gender divisions in reality was limited.154

In the Bohemia issue the week following the Code’s introduction, only two pages in the middle of the magazine are devoted to a description of the ceremony, as well as the celebrations of International Women’s Day.155 The noticeable marginalisation betrays a lack of attention towards the Code. There also appears to be little desire to tackle cultural hangovers on the part of the magazine’s editors. The cartoons on the penultimate page of the same issue reinforce the presentation of women that the Code sought to overturn: a castaway rejoices, seeing a bikini-clad woman rise from the water, only to be dismayed when her children appear too; at dinner, a husband grimaces at his food, while his wife assures him that she (mostly) followed the recipe.156

However, there are examples of the use of Bohemia to promote cultural change. In November 1974, Bohemia published a collection of interviews with Cuban men, discussing their opinions on women working and men doing household chores.157 The interviews display general agreement on the topic: women have equal capacity to work and have the right to participate in society. Each interview gives the man’s age, job and the length of his marriage, as tIss their own experience of housework, and the reasons they believe in equal distribution of work. In presenting these views as normalised and justified, the interviews are an attempt to stimulate these Iiscussions among male readers in order to change their views. This highlights how Bohemia was used to frame and regulate behaviour.

The only discordant interview in this section is a tongue-in-cheek cautionary tale for the machista reader. The husband discusses his rejection of these new ideals, before his wife apparently leaves as the interview ends. Instead of a photo, the accompanying illustration reinforces this point succinctly, depicting the husband’s cruelty, effectively imprisoning his family (Figure 8). As such, the man is criticised on two counts, for failing to be an honourable man and for failing to be a true revolutionary. In this way, rival concepts of masculinity were used to encourage change in behaviour, drawing from the discursive construction of citizenship and revolutionary nationhood. However, the inclusion of these interviews implies a need to encourage behavioural change; from this, we can read the continuing prevalencI of pre-revolutionary cultural ideas.

I want to be useful

The coverage in Bohemia also suggests a further reason for the failure of the Code: the revolutionary government’s continued focus, indeed reliance, on the construction of the Cuban woman as mother and housewife. While the magazine’s promotion of women in the workplace implies a desire to stimulate economic participation, the advertisement and celebration of women’s work is articulated with reference to traditional, feminised attributes. In a 1961 advert (Figure 9) encouraging women to enrol as nurses, the tagline, ‘Sólo Una Mujer Inspira Esta Confianza’ constructs a link between women’s medical participation and the presumption of innately maternal attributes.158 Similarly, in a 1964 article on female reporters in Cuba, below a picture of a woman playing with a child the caption reads: ‘Mirta Rodriguez Calderón estaba aquí en función de periodista, pero la curiosidad de la repórter cede ante la ternura de mujer’.159 Moreover, the article recounts how the interviewees ‘se pasmaban ante la hermose e inteligente periodista cubana’.160 The economic involvement of women is thus reduced to the value of maternity and beauty, demonstrating a fundamental dissonance between work as women’s liberator and the pursuit of feminised labour.

The endorsement of traditional feminised labour came from both bureaucratic and grassroots sources. On the one hand, it was directly pursued by government organisations. For example, female relatives of workers from the ANAP were incorporated into the FMC–ANAP mutual aid brigades from 1966.161 Bohemia depicts these brigades participating in crop drives,162 highlighting their importance to FMC legislation: the organisation promised in 1974 to ‘trabajar por incrementar la incorporación de la mujer campesina’ to the FMC–ANAP.163 Moreover, the establishment of madrinas (godmothers) for male cane-cutting brigades endorses this maternal femininity for the benefit of agricultural labour. One madrina describes caring for the men she likens to her sons: ‘Yo soy la madrina de la mejor brigada de la província!’, she boasts.164

On the other hand, these examples also demonstrate that enthusiastic feminised participation came from individuals. An article on a female cane cutting brigade places emphasis on working ‘sin olvidar la belleza’, as these women operate their own voluntary hairdressing station: ‘la peluquería es muy importante … no hay que olvidar que somos mujeres’.165 In criticising the government’s failure to incorporate more women into the workforce, Alberto Montaner argued for a need to ‘desmachizar la nación’, maintaining that women’s failure to incorporate was due to fear of having to ‘dejar de ser mujeres’.166 In fact, the government actively endorsed a vision of women working in connection with conceptions of beauty and maternity, thus reinforcing existing cultural codes of femininity. In a culture that remained overwhelmingly patriarchal,167 this necessarily narrowed the scope of participation.

This is reinforced by the invocation of women’s labour as exemplary when it transcended outside traditional boundaries. While within Bohemia the active participation of individuals is highlighted, read against the grain this content implies its exceptionality and therefore the dissent of others. The end of the 1960s saw a return to sugar agriculture as the island’s primary economic output. la zafra, the annual sugar cane harvest season, saw the revolutionary government mobilise workers from across the island to cut cane. The 10 million-tonne target in 1970 required an enormous amount of voluntary labour, but this period was marked by extremely high rates of absenteeism.168 One article discusses the ‘Rosa la Bayamesa’ female brigade, newly formed to cut cane in Camagüey. According to the interviews, the women requested the formation of a female brigade, and the Rosas criticise men who are not meeting targets: ‘me dicen que por esta zona hay un hombre que sólo corta 50 arrobas. Que me lo traigan’.169 The transgression of traditionally feminine timidity and inferior strength is used to emasculate men who are not keeping up with targets. Similarly, a 1985 article chastising labourers asserted that ‘La Indisciplina Laboral Frena La Productividad’, connecting this to revolutionary masculinity with the declaration that all tasks in a man’s life ‘suponen cumplir con un conjunto de obligaciones’.170 On the following page, an advert encouraging industry enrolment depicted a young boy in front of male-held machinery, volunteering ‘Para Forjar un Hombre Nuevo’, linking masculine identity to the participation of revolutionary individuals in economic labour.171 Not only was the New Man discourse used to decry absenteeism as unpatriotic, as Alberto Montaner argues, it was deeply gendered and reliant on traditional connotations of masculinity and femininity to frame behaviour.172

Gendered economic discourse is also prevalent in Bohemia in the articulation of women’s economic contributions through the language of love and sacrifice. In an article interviewing young festival representatives, a mother describes the forces driving her to take on additional voluntary work: ‘es amor por mi familia, el amor por mi trabajo, por el estudio, por la Patria, por la Revolución, por mi tierra’.173 As with conceptions of the nation and female participation in an international sphere, moralistic, familial language uses pre-revolutionary gender conventions to express women’s post-revolutionary role. That this quote comes from a citizen rather than official discourse indicates interplay between grassroots enthusiasm and its harnessing through gendered discourse to stimulate participation. In many cases, women’s involvement in revolutionary activities is attributed to will and the desire to overcome. An article on the first female Cuban aviator, Berta Moraleda, explains that her driving force was ‘voluntad de vencer. Deseó ser útil y lo ha sido y es’.174 The rhetoric of ‘being useful’ emerges in other cultural forms: in the climactic scene in Retrato de Teresa the protagonist fights with her husband who has forbidden her to work, screaming ‘quiero ser útil!’175

Defending the revolution

The ambivalence of endorsing traditional femininity alongside attempts to end women’s domestic role becomes distinctly problematic when considering the CDRs and their reliance on housewives’ labour. As evidenced in Bohemia, the CDRs were crucial to Cuba’s health care programmes: CDRs ‘laboran por la salud popular’, coordinating with MINSAP on vaccination, sanitation and public health campaigns.176 Half of Cuba’s medical staff left the country between 1959 and 1962.177 In the context of a depleted medical workforce, the CDRs were critical to realising the post-revolutionary commitment to improving the nation’s health. For instance, Bohemia shows CDR members going door to door in the countryside to raise awareness of uterine cancer and testing. Both the use of the assumed feminine pronoun (‘compañera’) and the accompanying photographs convey that this was overwhelmingly a voluntary effort by women.178 Indeed, the FMC estimated that 60 per cent of CDR members were women and, crucially, housewives, describing how Cuban women went to ‘una concentración con los hijos en brazos’.179

Within Bohemia, housewives are not only described as the majority within the CDRs – they are presented as uniquely suited to the task of neighbourhood protection because of their domestic and maternal qualities. One article asserted that ‘dentro de los Comités hay activdades que se avienen mejor a la mujer que al hombre’, including public health, education and maintaining vigilant watch over the neighbourhood.180 Similarly, the magazine describes how, ‘en horas diurnas vigilan las mujeres, mientras hacen los quehaceres de la casa o se asoman al balcón’.181 This vigilance is also linked to their role as mothers: ‘protege la mañana de sus hijos/de los hijos de todas’.182 The idea of the heroic, protective self-sacrificing mother clearly invokes the memory and cultural connotations of Cuba’s martyr mothers. The expansion of gender history in Latin America has brought recognition of the informal networks through which women secure pragmatic change in their neighbourhoods, like improvements to water supplies.183 Bohemia offers discussion of how housewives organised road repairs and prepared the removal of antisocial ‘malentes’, highlighting their active participation in local organising.184 The content of Bohemia makes clear that the CDR system thus functioned by taking advantage of these informal networks and institutionalising them.

While Bohemia testifies to the weight of women’s work in the CDRs, this is at odds with official CDR advertisement within the magazine. The masculinised imagery of heroic defence is here emphasised, for example in a 1961 advert which depicted a muscular arm holding a machete (Figure 10).185 Similarly, in Bohemia’s comics, the CDR is personified as a male soldier.186 This dissonance between reality and rhetoric is reinforced by the structure of the CDRs. As in the FMC, women were not represented in the leadership: the government’s reliance on women at a popular level was not reciprocated with representation at the top.187 Bohemia does present an isolated, more realistic representation in a September 1983 front cover illustration of the Cuban people, in which an elderly lady with a CDR band on her arm is centred.188 This presentation perhaps implies greater awareness of the organisation’s make-up, although in a historical context, it suggests that the discursive construction of the CDR was deeply bound up with the revolution’s priorities. Regalado Someillian links the defiant, impassive, masculine imagery of CDR adverts to the volatility of the period.189 Thus, in connection with the construction of national identity, the threats of the 1960s manifested in a desire to boast defensive capabilities through martial masculinity. However, the next two decades saw rising disaffiliation and apathy as generational change combined with social and economic difficulties.190 In this light, a shift in presentation of the CDR may reflect attempts to encourage participation by representing the people who made up its ranks.

The discursive construction of women’s participation therefore displays a fundamental incongruence between the revolution’s message and its means. Elisa Andaya argues that the revolution demonised the unproductive housewife as an example of ‘inferior political consciousness’.191 While this fits with rhetoric which encouraged labour outside the home, it obscures the other half of the paradoxical dynamic towards women: de facto reliance on housewives’ unpaid labour. As acknowledged by Cuban official Teresa Sanchez, a national director of the CDRs, the organisation allowed women to balance ‘la obligación de su casa, la del trabajo … les permite participar, ayudar a la Revolución’.192 This discourse illuminates tension between the active participation of women loyal to the revolution, an official narrative which celebrated their contributions through feminised language, and the implicit assumption that women who do not contribute lack use, and are traitors to the social process which liberated them.

This rhetoric also placed the onus of liberation on women themselves. As Teresa Sanchez stressed, there was no place in post-revolutionary Cuba for the ‘muchacha pobre que espera que su liberación la traiga un día un hombre que llegue a su puerta’.193 Women’s active participation within the new opportunities was encouraged, but no analysis of the wider gendered and cultural structures that prevented female agency was considered. Indeed, Sanchez’s words are deeply ironic in light of Bohemia’s unchallenged reproduction of the narrative that heralded 1959 and Fidel Castro as the bearers of women’s liberation; as communicated in a 1977 article on Cuba’s economic development, ‘te lo prometió Martí, y Fidel te lo cumplió’.194


As a revolution whose image, identity, legitimacy and popularity had so much bound up in gender, an analysis of these themes is integral to understanding the Cuban Revolution. Bohemia, as a communicatory tool and a site of dissemination and contestation, makes clear that cultural forms continue to exist outside the state even when co-opted. Moreover, examining the internal consistencies of the revolution’s rhetoric towards national identity, women and participation indicates that significant ambiguities existed. The revolution both endorsed and criticised the cultural ideals it inherited and at the same time was forced to deal with the continuation of these symbols, behaviours and values outside its rhetoric. Moreover, the dynamic between citizen enthusiasm and popular disenchantment is implied through the use of gendered discourse to encourage and regulate behaviour. As such, an analysis of gender facilitates a better understanding of the role, nature and policies of the Cuban Revolution on a national and international level.

Placing the Cuban Revolution within its chronological and international context, the importance of gender as a discourse that created a legitimate identity and stimulated citizen participation at a time of crisis or uncertainty emerges as a key focus for the state. The use of history in Bohemia, and the prevalence of José Martí and Mariana Grajales indicate that mythologising national experience had important implications in the self-conscious construction of national identity. This identity was multifaceted, demonstrating conscious reflexivity but is also indicative of ambivalence and contradiction. Gendered history and identity were crucial in structuring how the revolution posited itself in relation to women and female emancipation. Moreover, the link between legitimacy and gendered culture has been explored within literature,195 but the international and dynamic way this national identity was constructed has not. Gendered rhetoric of defence, anti-imperialism and international solidarity are crucial in creating an identity and legitimating action, both collectively and individually, thereby structuring power.

Exploring how Bohemia discursively constructed the ‘New Cuban Woman’ highlights how gender was critical to understanding the roles and obligations of the citizen. There were also significant internal inconsistencies within the revolutionary approach. Comparing the representations of Cuban women, has highlighted how Bohemia acted to negotiate between official policy and the ongoing, persistent cultural perceptions of womanhood and femininity. Assessing the experience of women in national participation and the development of plans for post-revolutionary Cuba has demonstrated the central importance of gender to mobilising support through consumerism, mass organisations and workforce involvement. This discourse emphasises that women were crucial to the operation of post-revolutionary policy, in a political, economic and social sense. However, the gendered nature of these campaigns illustrates a fundamental dynamic, in which women’s enthusiasm was both encouraged and co-opted, for a revolution which simultaneously relied on, and undervalued, female labour. Moreover, the continued rhetoric of femininity in connection to female employment undermines the central tenets of the revolution’s ideology, and the examples of resistance to cultural change within Bohemia demonstrate the continuation of cultural values.

While this article has demonstrated the use of cultural sources to analyse gender and power, and their relevance to post-revolutionary Cuba, it remains difficult to convey the thoughts of Cubans themselves. An extension of exploring the dynamic interaction between individuals, institutions and culture would benefit from investigation of oral and archival history, to recover these reciprocal relationships, investigate the use of gender as a system constructing them, and to analyse whether the battle over hearts and minds was ever won in this period.

An analysis of gender indicates that the Cuban Revolution was not all-powerful, entirely coherent or a complete turning point in the liberation of the Cuban nation. Gender formed an important mechanism to enact far-reaching change, through culture and institutions, but it also functioned to reassert traditional ideologies and experiences that clashed with the rhetoric of a new Cuba. Within Bohemia, power and culture are shown to exist within and outside the state, and analysing gender demonstrates that the dissonance between rhetoric and reality is an important site where resistance, dissent and disenchantment emerges. The longevity of the revolution proclaimed by the barbudos in 1959 came from this uneasy partnership between co-opted control, reliance on popular enthusiasm and the continuation of pre-revolutionary culture. Ultimately, the barbudos decided on the revolution’s priorities and trajectory. In doing so, certain goals were prioritised at the expense of others: a radical restructure of gender relations was displaced by the power and utility that these relations offered to a government with a lot that it needed to do.


  1. Scott, ‘Gender: A useful category’, 1053–75.
  2. This article uses both the terms ‘revolutionary’ and ‘post-revolutionary’ when referring to the period of study. It is recognised that the revolution was a historical event, an ongoing process of state-building, socio-economic change as well as a collective imaginary. The term ‘post-revolutionary’ is not intended to flatten or ignore the significant change occurring, rather it is used as a temporal label, to differential the period of study from the pre-1959 insurrectionary phase. The term ‘revolutionary’ is here used to refer to the goals, programmes, projects and identity of the post-revolutionary nation.
  3. For example, see Mesa-Largo, Revolutionary Change.
  4. Caulfield, ‘The history of gender’, 449–90; Stolcke, Marriage, Class and Colour; Kutzinski, Sugar’s Secrets.
  5. Smith and Padula, Sex and Revolution.
  6. Molyneux, ‘Mobilisation without emancipation?’, 227–54; Lumsden, Machos, Maricones and Gays; Molyneux, ‘State, gender and institutional change’, 291–321.
  7. Kapcia, Cuba in Revolution, 47–8.
  8. Randall, ‘The Family Code’, 399–403.
  9. Molyneux, ‘State, gender and institutional change’, 291–321.
  10. Chase, Revolution within the Revolution; Bayard de Volo, Women and the Cuban Insurrection.
  11. Bayard de Volo, ‘A revolution in the binary?’, 413–39; Bayard de Volo, ‘Tactical Negrificación’, 36–49.
  12. Hanna, ‘Tricontinental’s international solidarity’, 169–84; Desvernine Reed, ‘Women, work, and revolution’, 27–54.
  13. See
  14. Luis, Culture and Customs of Cuba, 62.
  15. Bamrud, ‘Cuba’s media’, 15.
  16. See
  17. Regalado Someillan, ‘The cartooned revolution’, 81–3, 99.
  18. Regalado Someillan, ‘The cartooned revolution’, 113–15.
  19. Desvernine Reed, ‘Women, work, and revolution’, 31.
  20. Regalado Someillan, ‘The cartooned revolution’,
  21. Nichols, ‘The mass media’, 71–111; Lent, ‘Cuban mass media after 25 years of revolution’, 609–15; Luis, Culture and Customs of Cuba; Orlando Perez, ‘The media in Castro’s Cuba’, 116–30.
  22. Nichols, ‘The mass media’, 71.
  23. Regalado Someillan, ‘The cartooned revolution’, 109; Bamrud, ‘Cuba’s media’, 15.
  24. Bamrud, ‘Cuba’s media’, 15.
  25. Bunck, Fidel Castro and the Quest, 2, 9.
  26. Bohemia, 22 May 1960, 3: ‘today Martí lives again … our national personality has been accomplished’.
  27. Smith and Padula, Sex and Revolution, 12.
  28. Bohemia, 28 May 1965, 91, ‘Our America’, ‘break the chains of ignorance and superstition: may the Giant wake’.
  29. Wade, Race and Sex in Latin America, 62, 124.
  30. Bohemia, 28 May 1965, 91–2: ‘illustrious daughter of the great Spanish nation … [she] guards her dignity jealously’.
  31. Stubbs, ‘Cuba: Revolutionising women, family and power’, 190.
  32. Chase, Revolution within the Revolution, 43–5; Bayard de Volo, Women and the Cuban Insurrection, 4.
  33. Bohemia, 23 May 1969, 105: ‘a pink mosquito net, a blue dress and a white patch to sew the insignia that fluttered for the first time’.
  34. Vaughan (ed), The Eagle and the Virgin, 8; Fernandez Poncela, ‘Nicaraguan women’.
  35. Bohemia, 28 January 1972, 100: ‘the illustrious matron’.
  36. Bohemia, 28 January 1972, 100: ‘dedicated her life for … the liberty of the fatherland’.
  37. Espín Guillos, ‘Discurso por el 170 Aniversario’, 43: ‘the rebellion and patriotism of the Cuban woman … example and stimulus for the combatants, for the revolutionary mothers’.
  38. Bayard de Volo, Women and the Cuban Insurrection, 238.
  39. Bohemia, 27 September 1963, 64: ‘The Mariana Grajales of the Cuban Revolution’.
  40. Bayard de Volo, Women and the Cuban Insurrection, 144–5.
  41. Bohemia, 22 January 1961, 44: ‘the valiant and self-sacrificing oriental woman, who has always been present in all the struggles for the fatherland’s independence’.
  42. Bohemia, 25 January 1963, 43–51: ‘If there is no revolution, there can’t be rights for women, children, mothers, wives’.
  43. Bohemia, 23 May 1975, 21: ‘Yesterday’s Cuba’.
  44. De Jongh, ‘Feminismo y periodismo’, 3–12.
  45. Espín in Molyneux, ‘State, gender and institutional change’, 299.
  46. Smith and Padula, Sex and Revolution, 4.
  47. Molyneux, ‘State, gender and institutional change’, 313.
  48. Bohemia, 25 January 1963, 51: ‘Chauvinists? No! Marxist-leninists!’
  49. Lucía, dir. Humberto Solás.
  50. Bohemia, 28 May 1961, 2: ‘the alphabetising brigadists … soldiers of teaching on the march’.
  51. Montaner, Informe Secreto, 110.
  52. Lumsden, Machos, Maricones and Gays, 29, 53.
  53. Bohemia, 22 January 1961, 112; Bohemia, 28 May 1961, 146.
  54. Bohemia, 22 January 1961, 3, 112: ‘worm-like terrorism’, ‘all noble zeal’.
  55. Wade, Race and Sex in Latin America, 31.
  56. Bayard de Volo, Women and the Cuban Insurrection, 2.
  57. Guevara, ‘Man and socialism’, 374.
  58. Bohemia, 27 May 1983, 56–63.
  59. Bayard de Volo, Women and the Cuban Insurrection, 5.
  60. Bohemia, 22 May 1981, 58, ‘male children’.
  61. Mesa-Largo, ‘Economic policies and growth’, 281.
  62. Bohemia, 22 May 1960, 48: ‘78 years refining petrol in Cuba’, ‘Cuban workers and technicians’.
  63. Martínez Fernández, Revolutionary Cuba, 70.
  64. Bohemia, 28 May 1961, 12: ‘now, the tension of muscles, the sweat on their fronts … doesn’t increase the economic power of foreign monopolies, if not a single will to the service of Cuba’.
  65. Bohemia, 28 May 1961, 32: ‘the strength of the men … the proletarian Cuban of today works like this’.
  66. Bohemia, 28 May 1961, 24: ‘the coward threat’, ‘an imperial giant against a small nation’.
  67. Bohemia, 25 January 1963, 114.
  68. Bohemia, 28 May 1961, 146; Bohemia, 28 May 1971, 50–1: ‘In the Pentagon … “Another new formula to destroy Castro, sirs!”’
  69. Bayard de Volo, ‘A revolution in the binary?’, 413; MacKenzie, ‘Women, gender’.
  70. Bohemia, 18 January 1966, 87, Bohemia, 27 May 1966, 22: ‘the horror of war’, ‘these faces of a Vietnamese mother and her children, after a yankee attack’.
  71. Bohemia, 28 May 1971, 75.
  72. Bohemia, 18 January 1966, 27: ‘the Venezuelan woman’, ‘for national liberation, as in Cuba’.
  73. Bohemia, 18 January 1966, 45; Bohemia, 22 September 1967, 88.
  74. Bayard de Volo, Women and the Cuban Insurrection, 150–1.
  75. Bohemia, 1 March 1985, 1.
  76. Bohemia, 1 March 1985, 74.
  77. Hanna, ‘Tricontinental’s international solidarity’, 176–7.
  78. Bayard de Volo, ‘Tactical Negrificación’, 42–5.
  79. Bayard de Volo, ‘Tactical Negrificación’, 37.
  80. Lumsden, Machos, Maricones and Gays, 29; Bayard de Volo, ‘A revolution in the binary?’, 415; Sorensen, A Turbulent Decade Remembered, 21–2.
  81. Bohemia, 23 September 1966, 100: ‘against war and for peace’, ‘we saw América fall, carrying the flag’.
  82. Erisman, ‘David rising’, 44.
  83. Bohemia, 23 September 1983, 36: ‘the beautiful flower of internationalism’.
  84. Bohemia, 28 September 1979, 68: ‘a mother who tells us that her child is now healthy’.
  85. Bohemia, 26 January 1979, 48–9: ‘President of the Movement for Peace and the Sovereignty of the Nations’.
  86. Bohemia, 28 January 1962, 86–7: ‘the fight for peace’.
  87. Bohemia, 28 May 1971, 82: ‘each new visit is an opportunity to keep strengthening and tightening this exchange’.
  88. Bohemia, 24 August 1962, 85: ‘You Who Are a Federate: inexhaustible fighter, mother of a family, in body and soul you give yourself to the service of the fatherland’.
  89. Bohemia, 22 June, 1962, 79: ‘all that is in the feminine interest’ ‘the words of Comandante Guevara: socialism is not at odds with beauty’.
  90. Bohemia, 4 January 1960, 100: ‘Women’s Things’.
  91. Bohemia, 25 May 1962, 95.
  92. Garth, ‘Food in contemporary Cuba’.
  93. Bohemia, 24 August 1962, 78–9: ‘Socialism is not at odds with beauty’.
  94. Bohemia, 28 January 1962, 99: ‘one tin of lobsters can be … [the] solution to that question that the housewife hears daily: ‘what do we have for lunch today?’
  95. Bohemia, 17 July 1964, 93.
  96. Bohemia, 22 November 1963, 68–9.
  97. Bohemia, 28 September 1962, 88–9: ‘take advantage of lunch leftovers between weeks’.
  98. Garth, ‘Food in contemporary Cuba’.
  99. Martínez Fernández, Revolutionary Cuba, 83.
  100. Chase, Revolution within the Revolution, 136.
  101. Bohemia, 24 January 1964, 84.
  102. Bohemia, 4 January 1960, 39: ‘this pretty FAB box is ENTIRELY CUBAN in blue, white and red like the Cuban flag’.
  103. Bohemia, 4 January 1960: ‘it leaves the vases clean … the plates shine!’
  104. Bohemia, 25 January 1980, 2.
  105. Bohemia, 18 September 1964, 83.
  106. Bohemia, 25 September 1964, back cover; Bohemia, 28 January 1966, 88.
  107. Bohemia, 25 September 1964, 22–5: ‘Joy, serenity, pride in maternity, chats about identical symptoms, plans, projects, studies, songs, happiness’.
  108. Bohemia, 25 September 1964: ‘In her natural function of giving birth to a new human’.
  109. Fidel Castro speech, ‘Fidel Castro y las mujeres’, 118–19: ‘the natural workshop where life is formed’.
  110. Bohemia, 22 September 1972, 16–20: ‘today count on an efficient public health service’.
  111. Huish, ‘No secret cure’, 90, 100.
  112. Andaya, Conceiving Cuba, 44.
  113. Teresa Sanchez interview by M. Randall, 30–3: ‘since childhood, the feminine sex is seductress for publicity in the consumer society’.
  114. Bohemia, 7 March 1975, 57: ‘the old feminine ideal of eroticism and submission: the domestic woman, decorative and above all a consumer’.
  115. Bohemia, 27 November 1960, 39, 54.
  116. Bohemia, 4 January 1960, 104: ‘feel young’.
  117. Bohemia, 4 January 1960, 123: ‘don’t be a half man!’
  118. Bohemia, 2 February 1963, 95: ‘essential for female enchantment’; 6 July 1962, 113.
  119. Bohemia, 21 May 1982, 72; 19 November 1982, 83; Bohemia, 6 August 1986, 82.
  120. Desvernine Reed, ‘Women, work, and revolution’, 35.
  121. Bohemia, 4 January 1960, 48: ‘wherever she goes men turn in awe to look at her’, ‘the extraordinary exuberance of her bust’.
  122. Bohemia, 22 May 1964, 102.
  123. Bohemia, 23 May 1969, 109.
  124. Lumsden, Machos, Maricones and Gays, 16–17.
  125. Bohemia, 23 May 1969, 108: ‘the fact that I’m in a relationship with your boyfriend doesn’t give you the right to flirt with him in front of me!’
  126. Bohemia, 22 May 1970, 108: ‘Fantastic my friend! I’ve found a boyfriend that makes a marvellous combination with my new dress!’.
  127. Bohemia, 15 February 1985, 98.
  128. Bohemia, 26 September 1969, 74: ‘When I finish picking coffee, I always read Pocas Palabras’.
  129. Bohemia, 9 August 1974, 32.
  130. Bohemia, 23 May 1969, 97.
  131. Bunck, Fidel Castro, 3
  132. Fidel Castro speech, ‘Fidel Castro y las mujeres’, 119: ‘proletarian chivalry’.
  133. Bohemia, 11 December 1960, 40–2.
  134. Guerrero, La Educación Sexual, 9, ‘the people’s campaigns are only weak when the woman’s heart is not enlisted in them’.
  135. Bohemia, 24 August 1962, 56–7.
  136. Molyneux, ‘State, gender and institutional change’, 294.
  137. Smith and Padula, Sex and Revolution, 32.
  138. Bohemia, 28 September 1962, 35: ‘My [female] comrades consider that all women should know which role corresponds to us in the new society that we build’.
  139. Kapcia, Cuba in Revolution, 47–8.
  140. Bohemia, 28 May 1961, 4–7: ‘these two young brigadists … belong to that new generation of Cuban women capable of whatever sacrifice, like worthy heirs of Mariana Grajales’.
  141. Martínez Fernández, Revolutionary Cuba, 65.
  142. Kapcia, Cuba in Revolution, 47–8.
  143. Kampwirth, ‘Gender politics in Nicaragua’, 112.
  144. Smith and Padula, Sex and Revolution, 131.
  145. Bohemia, 24 September 1961, 35: ‘the Cuban woman has actively incorporated herself into factories, workshops’.
  146. Bohemia, 15 November 1974, 5.
  147. Smith and Padula, Sex and Revolution, 13, 39.
  148. Bohemia, 25 January 1963, 43–51: ‘those circumstances which permit the woman to not be a kitchen slave’.
  149. Randall, ‘The Family Code’, 402.
  150. Bohemia, 7 March 1975, 57.
  151. Randall, ‘The Family Code’, 399–403.
  152. Smith and Padula, Sex and Revolution, 104, 131.
  153. Retrato de Teresa: ‘The day only has twenty-four hours. And I have a house … children … a husband to attend to’.
  154. Molyneux, ‘State, gender and institutional change’, 309.
  155. Bohemia, 14 March 1975, 58–9.
  156. Bohemia, 14 March 1975, 98.
  157. Bohemia, 15 November 1974, 40–7.
  158. Bohemia, 22 January 1961, 88: ‘Only a Woman Inspires this Confidence’.
  159. Bohemia, 25 September 1964, 93: ‘Mirta Rodriguez Calderón was here as a journalist, but the reporter’s curiosity cedes before the tenderness of a woman’.
  160. Bohemia, 25 September 1964, 93: ‘stunned before the beautiful and intelligent Cuban journalist’.
  161. Smith and Padula, Sex and Revolution, 43.
  162. Bohemia, 28 January 1977, 34.
  163. Bohemia, 27 September 1974, 66–7: ‘work to increase the incorporation of the peasant woman’.
  164. Bohemia, 23 January 1970, 66–7: ‘I am the godmother of the province’s best brigade!’.
  165. Bohemia, 26 September 1969, 4–7: ‘without forgetting beauty’, ‘hairdressing is very important … we don’t have to forget we are women’.
  166. Alberto Montaner, Informe Secreto, 111: ‘de-macho the nation’, ‘leave being women’.
  167. Smith and Padula, Sex and Revolution, 54.
  168. Martínez Fernández, Revolutionary Cuba, 113–19.
  169. Bohemia, 23 January 1970, 24–8: ‘They tell me that in this zone there’s a man who only cuts fifty arrobas. Bring him to me’.
  170. Bohemia, 25 January 1985, 35: ‘Labour Indiscipline Halts Productivity’, ‘suppose compliance with a set of obligations’.
  171. Bohemia, 25 January 1985, 36: ‘To Forge a New Man’.
  172. Montaner, Informe Secreto, 206.
  173. Bohemia, 27 January 1978, 42: ‘It is love for my family, love for my job, love for my studies, for the fatherland, for the revolution, for my land’.
  174. Bohemia, 24 January 1975, 37: ‘will to succeed. She wanted to be useful, she has been and is.’
  175. Retrato de Teresa: ‘I want to be useful!’.
  176. Bohemia, 24 September 1965, 50: ‘labour for public health’.
  177. Martínez Fernández, Revolutionary Cuba, 65.
  178. Bohemia, 24 September 1965, 22.
  179. Bohemia, 28 May 1961, 84: ‘a meeting with the children in our arms’.
  180. Bohemia, 28 September 1962, 73: ‘within Committees there are activities better suited to women than to men’.
  181. Bohemia, 23 September 1966, 28–30: ‘In daylight hours women watch, while they do their household tasks or appear on the balcony.’
  182. Bohemia, 23 September 1966, 31: ‘[she] protects her children’s tomorrow/those of everyone’s children’.
  183. Poncela, ‘Nicaraguan women’, 47.
  184. Bohemia, 26 January 1979, 4–5: ‘misfits’.
  185. Bohemia, 28 May 1961, 109.
  186. Bohemia, 26 January 1968, 113.
  187. Molyneux, ‘State, gender and institutional change’, 300.
  188. Bohemia, 23 September 1983, front cover.
  189. Regalado Someillan, ‘The cartooned revolution’, 236.
  190. Martínez Fernández, Revolutionary Cuba, 119.
  191. Andaya, Conceiving Cuba, 28.
  192. Randall, ‘Los Comités de Defensa de la Revolución’, 357: ‘her household obligations, those of her job … it permits her to participate, to help the Revolution’.
  193. Randall, ‘Los Comités de Defensa de la Revolución’, 357: ‘[the] poor woman who waits for her liberation to be brought by a man who arrives at her door one day’.
  194. Bohemia, 28 January 1977, 23: ‘Martí promised it to you and Fidel fulfilled it for you’.
  195. Lumsden, Machos, Maricones and Gays, 41.

Declarations and conflicts of interest

This article was adapted from an undergraduate dissertation initially supervised by Dr William Booth, co-editor of the Radical Americas journal. Dr Booth recused himself from the editorial and peer-review process of the article publication. All efforts to sufficiently anonymise the author during peer review of this article have been made. The author declares no further conflicts with this article.

Research ethics statement

Not applicable to this article.

Consent for publication statement

Not applicable to this article.

Conflicts of interest statement

The author declares no conflict of interest with this article.


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Figure 1
Figure 1

Jose Martí essay illustration (Source: DLOC, taken from Bohemia, 28 May 1965, p. 91; © Biblioteca Nacional de Cuba. Permission granted to University of Florida to digitize and display this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder).

Figure 2
Figure 2

Venezuelan guerrilla photograph (Source: DLOC, taken from Bohemia, 28 January 1966, p. 37; © Biblioteca Nacional de Cuba. Permission granted to University of Florida to digitize and display this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder).

Figure 3
Figure 3

Editoria de Propaganda Gráfica advert (Source: DLOC, taken from Bohemia, 1 March 1985, p. 36; © Biblioteca Nacional de Cuba. Permission granted to University of Florida to digitize and display this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder).

Figure 4
Figure 4

Ministerio de la Industria Eléctrica advert (Source: DLOC, taken from Bohemia, 25 January 1980, p. 2; © Biblioteca Nacional de Cuba. Permission granted to University of Florida to digitize and display this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder).

Figure 5
Figure 5

‘Felinas’ comic (Source: DLOC, taken from Bohemia, 22 May 1970, p. 108; © Biblioteca Nacional de Cuba. Permission granted to University of Florida to digitize and display this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder).

Figure 6
Figure 6

Sugarcane harvest cartoon (Source: DLOC, taken from Bohemia, 23 May 1969, p. 97; © Biblioteca Nacional de Cuba. Permission granted to University of Florida to digitize and display this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder).

Figure 7
Figure 7

Bohemia production photographs (Source: DLOC, taken from Bohemia, 11 December 1960, pp. 40–2; © Biblioteca Nacional de Cuba. Permission granted to University of Florida to digitize and display this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder).

Figure 8
Figure 8

Husband interview illustration (Source: DLOC, taken from Bohemia, 15 November 1974, p. 45; © Biblioteca Nacional de Cuba. Permission granted to University of Florida to digitize and display this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permissIon of the copyright holder).

Figure 9
Figure 9

MINSAP nursing advert (Source: DLOC, taken from Bohemia, 22 January 1961, p. 88; © Biblioteca Nacional de Cuba. Permission granted to University of Florida to digitize and display this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder).

Figure 10
Figure 10

CDR advert (Source: DLOC, taken from Bohemia, 28 May 1961, p. 109; © Biblioteca Nacional de Cuba. Permission granted to University of Florida to digitize and display this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder).