The book is a comparative history of twentieth-century Cuban campesinos in two regions in Cuba marked by extreme differences in race, gender, and land tenure: Oriente and Escambray.
It explores the ways these differences articulated with state formation from the pre-revolutionary period of 1934-1959 and then 1959-1974 and seeks to explain why campesinos in Escambray, having been active in the insurrection against Batista, later turned to stage a massive counter-revolution against the government headed by Fidel Castro.
Although campesinos in both regions had been equally ignored by pre-1959 governments for different reasons, they developed two distinct understandings of what the role of the state should be in response to political neglect.
Rich archival sources-many of which have not been accessed previously-document the unique shape of land struggles in each region in the 1930s through the 1950s.
The author argues that because of the way race and gender and a collectivist land tenure tradition in Oriente mapped nicely onto the goals of the 1959 Revolution, Oriente became a kind of revolutionary showcase.
In Escambray, on the other hand, a construct of white masculinity, tied to private property ownership, directly contravened the goals of the Revolution, which fueled the counter-revolution and also led to brutal state repression in the area.