Joseph Hartman, assistant professor in the UMKC Department of Art and Art History and Latinx and Latin American Studies program, has penned a new book, Dictator’s Dreamscape: How Architecture and Vision Built Machado’s Cuba and Invented Modern Havana. It will be for sale April 16.
Drawing from a decade of archival research in Cuba, France, and the United States, Hartman’s book focuses on the public works campaign of Cuban president, and later dictator, Gerardo Machado. Political histories often condemn Machado as a US-puppet dictator, overthrown in a labor revolt and popular revolution in 1933. Architectural histories tend to catalogue his regime’s public works as derivatives of US and European models. Dictator’s Dreamscape reassesses the regime’s public works program as a highly nuanced visual project embedded in centuries-old representations of Cuba alongside wider debates on the nature of art and architecture in general, especially regarding globalization and the spread of US-style consumerism. The cultural production overseen by Machado gives a fresh and greatly broadened perspective on his regime’s accomplishments, failures, and crimes. The book addresses the regime’s architectural program as a visual and architectonic response to debates over Cuban national identity, U.S. imperialism and Machado’s own cult of personality.