Appointed As

Center for Latin American, Caribbean, and Latinx Studies Postdoctoral Fellow


ACLS Emerging Voices Fellowships program


Vanderbilt University

PhD Field of Study

PhD, Latin American and Caribbean History, New York University

Dissertation Abstract

"Harvest of Revolution: Agrarian Reform and the Making of Revolutionary Cuba, 1958-1970"

Cuba’s 1959 revolution set in motion a series of radical reforms that upended the island’s economy, politics, and society, and caused reverberations around the globe. As the basis for social transformation, Cuba's project of agrarian reform was perhaps the most transformative process within the Revolution. Six decades later, its history and significance remain little understood. This dissertation begins to deepen that understanding. “Harvest of Revolution” traces the development of Cuban agrarian reform from its origins during the guerrilla insurrection to its implementation over a decade of intense agrarian change. It makes two related arguments aimed at rethinking the origins of the revolutionary project and re-conceptualizing the history of the Cuban Revolution. First, it shows that the Agrarian Reform of 1959 was a key driver in the processes of both consolidation and radicalization of the Revolution. Second, it argues that the agrarian reform that played so pivotal a role was substantially driven from below by ordinary Cubans.
If Cuba’s agrarian reform was central to the structural transformation of rural Cuba, it was also central to other major developments of the Cuban Revolution writ large. Beyond the consolidation of power, the very act of implementing the agrarian laws opened new spaces for the incorporation of rural people into the revolutionary process. At the same time, the enactment of agrarian reform accelerated economic and political dynamics that would have their own effects on the revolutionary process: the development of a counterrevolutionary war, the need to ally with the Soviet Union, and a rural-to-urban exodus. As the dissertation shows, a significant part of the transformations that occurred in Cuba from 1958 to 1970 were themselves the result of the enactment of agrarian reform.
Much of the historical scholarship on the Cuban Revolution has focused on political and diplomatic history, Cuba’s outsized leadership—namely Fidel Castro, or has Havana as its center. In centering the rural nature of Cuba’s radical transformation and examining interactions between peasants and the revolutionary state through the enactment of agrarian reform laws, this dissertation not only presents a new history of the Cuban Revolution's first decade, but also reveals the pivotal role played by peasants in taking part in, confronting, and shaping the Revolution from the ground up.