NEIGHBORS: Living the Revolution by Oscar; Ruth M. Lewis & Susan Rigdon Lewis

NEIGHBORS: Living the Revolution

Email this review


The five families residing at 411 Cristal Street in the once-exclusive Havana district of Miramar are the subjects of this, the concluding volume of Oscar Lewis' study of the new Cuban regime's effect on the ""culture of poverty."" But the study transcends the concept as the Lewises illuminate both resistance and integration within the new order. The families at 411 range from middle-class officials with a car, phonograph, and TV, to old soldiers of the Revolution, to transplanted and politically ignorant country people unaccustomed to amenities like indoor toilets. The Lewises' detailed interviews convey the ""ordinariness of daily life in an extraordinary time""; family conflicts, sexual rivalties, racial bigotry, class snobbism, holier-than-thou revolutionary sentiments, and resentment over another's bureaucratic pull or luck. Though there is contact between all the families--borrowing food items, some joint shopping--the relations by and large are superficial. Overcrowding and issues like keeping chickens provoke much rancor. A particularly involving section concerns the children, virtually all of whom (unlike their parents) are attending school and exhibiting a greater degree of socialization into the new regime than their elders. Cuba's stated goal of ""a childhood for every child"" seemed to the Lewises, even in 1969, to be making progress; not surprisingly, they picked up generational tensions between kids who believed in a ""new kind of future"" and parents bound to pre-revolutionary habits and attitudes. Cuba is now eight years further along than in 1969 when this material was gathered; withal, it provides an instructive glimpse of the spectrum of revolutionary accomplishments and failures.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1978
Publisher: Univ. of Illinois Press