Havana’s Knowledge Producers

To support Anglo-American executives and foreign diplomats, a well-funded network of social, educational, religious and business institutions was established by North Americans and British nationals in Havana. Foreign schools were operated by foreign educators. Anglo-American-run Protestant churches held English-language services for this community of privileged outsiders. An Anglo-American hospital was staffed by Anglo-American nurses. Anglo-American-owned restaurants and shops, as well as English language newspapers serviced the needs of foreign diplomats and executives. Anglo-American businesses and social clubs provided refuge to those seeking the familiar comforts of home. Although these institutions were designed largely to recreate the comforts of home, and often strove to remain segregated from their Cuban hosts, many of these establishments developed, eventually, into transnational knowledge-producing institutions; settings in which the children of largely professional Cubans were educated and socialized alongside Anglo-Americans. These cultural institutions that protected Anglo-American identities in Havana, trained Cubans in Anglo-American customs and skill-sets, while also creating spaces where new knowledges, identities, relationships and political imaginations would flourish.
Through daily interactions with Cubans, Anglo-American educators, missionaries and journalists became social bridges between the Anglo-American colony and Cuban society. They often developed significant friendships with Cubans, learning about and taking seriously Cuban demands for democracy during the Batista government. In the early days of the revolution, they appreciated the appointment of men they knew, liked and trusted to the first revolutionary cabinet. It did not take long, however, until the new government began to challenge the structures that enabled them to continue their work in Cuba, and undermine the value their knowledge production offered Cubans. At that point, these foreign knowledge producers in Havana changed political course and worked to support Cubans seeking to leave the island.