Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-544b6db54f-vq995 Total loading time: 0.202 Render date: 2021-10-21T16:19:48.812Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": true, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true, "newEcommerce": true, "newUsageEvents": true }

Transnationalism and Feminist Activism in Cuba: The Case of Magín

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 January 2006

Sujatha Fernandes
Princeton University


The emergence of the feminist network Magín in Cuba in the mid-1990s challenged the monopoly of the official women's organization over issues related to women. Magín came into being as a result of encounters with feminists in international meetings, and it grew and developed through transnational support. Yet the organization did not extend beyond a small group of professional women and eventually the state closed it down. This article probes the question of why autonomous feminist organizing did not succeed in Cuba, particularly given a window of opportunity presented by the collapse of the Soviet Union. I suggest that the nature of transnational networks, combined with the political hegemony of the Cuban government, limited the scope of Magín as an independent women's organization. Although transnational advocacy networks helped Cuban feminists to create new spaces for dialogue, they also encouraged tendencies of specialization and professionalization that led the women to forgo the possibility of building a broad-based autonomous movement. An analysis of feminist networks in Cuba can contribute to our knowledge of the pitfalls and promises of transnationalism, particularly in nonliberal democratic contexts.This research was made possible by support from the Social Sciences Research Council, the University of Chicago, and Princeton University. I am grateful to the women of Magín who gave generously of their time to share their experiences and ideas. In particular, I would like to thank Norma Guillard for providing materials and carrying out investigations for me long distance. Thanks to Mervyn Bain, Matt Cleary, Elisabeth Friedman, Kathryn Hochstetler, Catherine Murphy, Hairong Yan, and anonymous reviewers and editors of Politics & Gender for crucial feedback and/or enlightening conversations. An earlier version of this article was presented at the American Political Science Association meetings in Chicago, September 2004.

Research Article
© 2005 The Women and Politics Research Section of the American Political Science Association

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Acosta de Armas, Carmen, and Irene Ruiz Narváez. 1996. “¡Di, mamá! ¿Tú sabes qué cosa es género?” In ¡Di, mamá! ¿Tú sabes qué cosa es género?, ed. Magín Comité Gestor, 1421.
Alvarez, Sonia. 1990. Engendering Democracy in Brazil: Women's Movements in Transition Politics. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Alvarez, Sonia. 1998. “Latin American Feminisms ‘Go Global’: Trends of the 1990s and Challenges for the New Millennium.” In Cultures of Politics, Politics of Cultures: Re-visioning Latin American Social Movements, ed. Sonia Alvarez, Evelina Dagnino, and Arturo Escobar. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 293324.
Alvarez, Sonia. 1999. “Advocating Feminism: The Latin American Feminist NGO ‘Boom.’ International Feminist Journal of Politics 1 (2): 181209.Google Scholar
Alvarez, Sonia. 2000. “Translating the Global Effects of Transnational Organizing on Local Feminist Discourses and Practices in Latin America.” Meridians 1 (1): 2967.Google Scholar
Alvarez, Sonia, Elisabeth Jay Friedman, Ericka Beckman, Maylei Blackwell, Norma Chinchilla, Nathalie Lebon, Marysa Navarro, and Marcela Ríos Tobar. 2002. “Encountering Latin American and Caribbean Feminisms.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 28 (2): 53779.Google Scholar
Artiles, Leticia. 1996. “Autoestima.” In ¡Di, mamá! ¿Tú sabes qué cosa es género?, ed. Magín Comité Gestor, 4652.
Azicri, Max. 2000. Cuba Today and Tomorrow: Reinventing Socialism. Gainesville: University Press of Florida.
Baldez, Lisa. 2001. “Coalition Politics and the Limits of State Feminism in Chile.” Women & Politics 22 (4): 128.Google Scholar
Baldez, Lisa. 2002. Why Women Protest: Women's Movements in Chile. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Banaszak, Lee Ann, Karen Beckwith, and Dieter Rucht. 2003. “When Power Relocates: Interactive Changes in Women's Movements and States.” In Women's Movements Facing the Reconfigured State, ed. Lee Ann Banaszak, Karen Beckwith, and Dieter Rucht. New York and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 129.
Barlow, Tani. 2001. “Globalization, China, and International Feminism. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 26 (4): 128691.Google Scholar
Bengelsdorf, Carollee. 1997. “(Re)Considering Cuban Women in a Time of Troubles.” In Daughters of Caliban: Caribbean Women in the Twentieth Century, ed. Consuelo Lopez. Springfield, Bloomington, and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.
Brand, Laurie. 1998. Women, the State, and Political Liberalization: Middle Eastern and North African Experiences. New York: Columbia University Press.
“Cartas de Triunfo: Intuición, Sensibilidad y Experiencia.” 1995. Informe de UNICEF a la Conferencia de Mar del Plata. Magín, Numero 0: 14.Google Scholar
Chun, Lin. 2001. “Whither Feminism: A Note on China.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 26 (4): 128186.Google Scholar
Craske, Nikki. 1999. Women and Politics in Latin America. Cambridge, MA: Polity Press.
Dilla, Haroldo. 1999. “Sociedad Civil en los 90: el Debate Cubano.” Temas 16–17 (October 1998–June 1999): 15575.Google Scholar
Dilla, Haroldo. 2005. “Larval Actors, Uncertain Scenarios, and Cryptic Scripts: Where Is Cuban Society Headed?” In Changes in Cuban Society Since the Nineties, ed. Joseph Tulchin et al. Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, No. 15, 3550.
Domínguez, Jorge. 2000. “Cuban Foreign Policy and the International System.” In Latin America in the New International System, ed. Joseph Tulchin and Ralph Espach. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 183206.
Fernandes, Sujatha. 2005. “Proven Presence: The Emergence of a Feminist Politics in Cuban Hip-Hop.” Princeton University. Typescript.
Fernandez, Nadine. 1999. “Back to the Future? Women, Race, and Tourism in Cuba.” In Sun, Sex, and Gold: Tourism and Sex Work in the Caribbean, ed. Kamala Kempadoo. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 8189.
Friedman, Elisabeth. 1999. “The Effects of ‘Transnationalism Reversed’ in Venezuela: Assessing the Impact of UN Global Conferences on the Women's Movement.” International Feminist Journal of Politics 1 (3): 35781.Google Scholar
Friedman, Elisabeth. 2000. “State-Based Advocacy for Gender Equality in the Developing World: Assessing the Venezuelan National Women's Agency.” Women & Politics 21 (2): 4780.Google Scholar
Fusco, Coco. 1998. “Hustling for Dollars: Jineterismo in Cuba.” In Global Sex Workers: Rights, Resistance, and Redefinition, ed. Kamala Kempadoo and Jo Doezema. New York and London: Routledge, 15166.
Gilmartin, Christina. 1995. Engendering the Chinese Revolution: Radical Women, Communist Politics, and Mass Movements in the 1920s. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Gonzalez Gutierrez, Alfredo. 1997. “Economía y Sociedad: Los Retos del Modelo Económico.” Temas 11 (July–September): 429.Google Scholar
Guillard, Norma. 2003. “La Imagen de la Mujer Negra Cubana Ante Los Retos de la Globalización.” Paper presented to the XXIV Congress of the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) Conference, April, Dallas.
Herrera, Georgina. 2000. “Poetry, Prostitution, and Gender Esteem.” In Afro-Cuban Voices on Race and Identity in Contemporary Cuba, ed. Pedro Pérez Sarduy and Jean Stubbs. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 11825.
Howell, Jude. 1997. “Post-Beijing Reflections: Creating Ripples, But Not Waves in China.” Women's Studies International Forum 20 (2): 23552.Google Scholar
Howell, Jude. 1998. “Gender, Civil Society and the State in China.” In Gender, Politics, and the State, ed. Vicky Randall and Georgina Waylen. London: Routledge, 16684.
Kampwirth, Karen. 2004. Feminism and the Legacy of Revolution: Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chiapas. Athens: Ohio University Press.
Keck, Margaret, and Kathryn Sikkink. 1998. Activists Beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press.
Lee, Karen. 1995. “Changing the Image: Cuban Women and Media.” NY Transfer Collective. (October 23, 2005).
López Vigil, Maria. 1998. “Cuban Women's History: Jottings and Voices.” Envío 17 (208): 2743.Google Scholar
Luis Acanda, Jorge. 1997. “Releyendo a Gramsci: Hegemonia y Sociedad Civil.” Temas 10 (April–June): 7586.Google Scholar
Magín's Managing Committee. 1995. “Cuban Women Communicators Networking at Beijing, (April 19, 2005).
McAdam, Doug, John McCarthy, and Mayer Zald. 1996. “Introduction: Opportunities, Mobilizing Structures, and Framing Processes—Toward a Synthetic, Comparative Perspective on Social Movements.” In Comparative Perspectives on Social Movements: Political Opportunities, Mobilizing Structures, and Cultural Framings, ed. Doug McAdam, John D. McCarthy, and Mayer Zald. Cambridge and London: Cambridge University Press, 120.
Mesa-Lago, Carmelo. 2003. Market, Socialist, and Mixed Economies. Comparative Policy and Performance: Chile, Cuba and Costa Rica. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
Moghadam, Valentine. 1996. “Feminist Networks North and South: DAWN, WIDE and WLUML.” Journal of International Communication 3 (1): 11126.Google Scholar
Moghadam, Valentine. 2005. Globalizing Women: Transnational Feminist Networks. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
Molyneux, Maxine. 2000. “State, Gender, and Institutional Change: The Federación de Mujeres Cubanas.” In Hidden Histories of Gender and the State in Latin America, ed. Elizabeth Dore and Maxine Molyneux. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 291321.
“Nuevas Amistades.” 1995. Magin, Numero 0: 24.
Randall, Vicky. 1998. “Gender and Power: Women Engage the State.” In Gender, Politics, and the State, ed. Vicky Randall and Georgina Waylen. London: Routledge, 185205.
Rodríguez Calderón, Mirta. 1996. “Comunicadoras de Cuba: Fraguar alianzas para estrechar brechas de género.” In ¡Di, mamá! ¿Tú sabes qué cosa es género?, ed. Magín Comité Gestor, 413.
Sawyer, Mark. 2000. “Unlocking the Official Story: Comparing the Cuban Revolution's Approach to Race and Gender.” UCLA Journal of International Law and Foreign Affairs 5: 40317.Google Scholar
“Seis meses que se han hecho sentir.” 1995. Informe Narrativo, Bulletin No. 1.
Shayne, Julie. 2004. The Revolution Question: Feminisms in El Salvador, Chile, and Cuba. New Brunswick and London: Rutgers University Press.
Smith, Jackie, Ron Pagnucco, and Charles Chatfield. 1997. “Social Movements and World Politics: A Theoretical Framework.” In Transnational Social Movements and Global Politics: Solidarity Beyond the State, ed. Jackie Smith, Charles Chatfield, and Ron Pagnucco. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 5977.
Smith, Lois, and Alfred Padula. 1996. Sex and Revolution: Women in Socialist Cuba. New York: Oxford University Press.
Snow, David, E. Burke Rochford, Steve Worden, and Robert Benford. 1986. “Frame Alignment Processes, Micromobilization, and Movement Participation.” American Sociological Review 51: 46481.Google Scholar
Sperling, Valerie, Myra Marx Ferree, and Barbara Risman. 2001. “Constructing Global Feminism: Transnational Advocacy Networks and Russian Women's Activism.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 26 (4): 115586.Google Scholar
Sternbach, Nancy Saporta, Marysa Navarro-Aranguren, Patricia Chuchryk, and Sonia Alvarez. 1992. “Feminisms in Latin America: From Bogotá to San Bernardo.” In The Making of Social Movements in Latin America: Identity, Strategy, and Democracy, ed. Arturo Escobar and Sonia Alvarez. Boulder, CO: Westview, 20739.
Stetson, Dorothy McBride, and Amy Mazur. 1995. “Introduction.” In Comparative State Feminism, ed. Dorothy McBride Stetson and Amy Mazur. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 121.
Thayer, Millie. 2000. “Traveling Feminisms: From Embodied Women to Gendered Citizenship.” In Global Ethnography: Forces, Connections, and Imaginations in a Postmodern World, ed. Michael Burawoy et al. Berkeley: University of California Press, 20333.
Thayer, Millie. 2001. “Transnational Feminism: Reading Joan Scott in the Brazilian Sertão.” Ethnography 4: 141.Google Scholar
Valdés, Nelson P. 1997. “El Estado y la Transición en el Socialismo: Creando Nuevos Espacios en Cuba.” Temas 9 (January–March): 10111.Google Scholar
Vargas, Virginia. 2003. “Los feminismos latinoamericanos y sus disputas por una globalización alternativa.” In Políticas de Identidades y Diferencias Sociales en Tiempos de Globalización, ed. Daniel Mato. Caracas: FACES-UCV, 193217.
Waylen, Georgina. 1997. “Women's Movements, the State and Democratization in Chile: The Establishment of SERNAM.” In Getting Institutions Right for Women in Development, ed. Anne Marie Goetz. London and New York: Zed Books, 90103.
Waylen, Georgina. 1998. “Gender, Feminism, and the State: An Overview.” In Gender, Politics, and the State, ed. Vicky Randall and Georgina Waylen. London: Routledge, 117.
Cited by

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Transnationalism and Feminist Activism in Cuba: The Case of Magín
Available formats

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Transnationalism and Feminist Activism in Cuba: The Case of Magín
Available formats

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Transnationalism and Feminist Activism in Cuba: The Case of Magín
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *