Mulata Nation: Visualizing Race and Gender in Cuba by Alison Fraunhar (review)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Women on 2019-11-03 03:21Z by Steven

Mulata Nation: Visualizing Race and Gender in Cuba by Alison Fraunhar (review)

The Americas
Volume 76, Number 4, October 2019
pages 727-728

Mey-Yen Moriuchi, Assistant Professor of Art History
LaSalle University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Mulata Nation: Visualizing Race and Gender in Cuba. By Alison Fraunhar. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2018. Pp. 262. $70.00. Cloth.

Alison Fraunhar discerningly examines how the mulata has been represented and performed in Cuban visual culture from the nineteenth century to the present. She analyzes a variety of visual media, from prints and paintings to film and photography, to demonstrate how the identity and stereotypes of the mulata developed within popular culture and the national imagination.

Considered a bridge between European subject and African other, the mulata was “European enough to be visible and beautiful to the white male subject, and African enough to be typologized as sexual, primitive, desirable, and available” (4). Invoking Antonio Benítez-Rojo’s notion of “The Repeating Island,” Homi Bhabha’s concept of colonial mimicry, Stuart Hall’s model of identity based on ambivalence, and Judith Butler’s performativity of identity, along with the work of other theorists, Fraunhar investigates how performance and representation of the mulata and mulataje (performativity of the mulata) are intertwined. The study is not focused on actual life experiences of mulatas but rather their visual representation across media.

Fraunhar begins her analysis through the lens of costumbrismo, a literary and artistic movement popular in Spain and the Americas that represented scenes and types from everyday life. The figure of the desirable mulata, though in existence since the seventeenth century, was cemented during the nineteenth century with costumbrismo. An interesting manifestation of this occurs in marquillas cigarreras, small chromolithographed papers in which cigarettes for the Cuban domestic market were bundled. In this fascinating medium, Fraunhar shows how marquillas served as sites of cubanidad (Cuban identity). Fraunhar argues that the images of mulatas on marquillas demonstrate colonial anxiety and the inability to clearly define racial, social, and spatial boundaries. Unfortunately, the images presented in this chapter were all misnumbered, disrupting the fluidity of the text.

Chapter 2 focuses on the performance of the mulata on the stages, dances, and streets of nineteenth-century Cuba. In popular theater, like teatro bufo and zarzuela, the mulata was one of several principal stock characters performed, along with the negrito (black boy) and the gallego (Spaniard). During this time, the connection between prostitution and mulataje became explicit, thus producing tension between the mulata as a symbol of the nation and desire. Several Cuban actresses found success outside of Cuba in Mexican cabaretera films, performing cultural and racial passing.

Chapter 3 considers the mulata as a sign of femininity, cosmopolitanism, and modernity. Fraunhar examines how the mulata was variously depicted on magazine covers and in avant-garde paintings by early twentieth-century artists such as Jaime Valls, Mario Carreño, Carlos Enríquez, and José Hurtado de Mendoza. Although an icon of modernity, representations of the mulata were still rooted in past tropes of desire and availability. After the revolution of 1959, women’s roles in society were debated as leaders struggled to redefine the nation.

In Chapter 4, Fraunhar investigates how the revolution sought to reform the mulata as a revolutionary citizen. Several Cuban films produced in the 1960s and 1970s have mulata protagonists, presented to showcase how Cuban revolutionary society was constructed upon utopian ideas of equality and community. The mulata became the “new (wo)man” of the revolution (157).

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 and the beginning of the Período Especial, cultural production was disrupted, and economic crisis ensued. Cuba now positioned itself to foreign visitors as an exotic, nostalgic, tropical tourist destination. Mulatas resumed the role of the sensual, the desirable, and available body of the nation. The rise of jineterismo (hustling) and prostitution associated with the mulata became ubiquitous in Cuba in the 1990s, as did the emergence of drag and cross-gender performativity.

In Chapter 5, Fraunhar discusses the work of several photographers who capture the plight and agency of these mulata jinetera, gay, and trans performers.

A strength of this study is the wide range of popular visual culture that is included, though at times this means less in-depth analysis of specific…

Read or purchase the article here.

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Racial Intermarriage in the Americas

Posted in Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2019-10-19 02:25Z by Steven

Racial Intermarriage in the Americas

Sociological Science
Volume 6, (2019-04-23)
pages 293-320
DOI: 10.15195/v6.a12

Edward Telles, Professor of Sociology
University of California, Santa Barbara

Albert Esteve, Director and Adjunct Professor (Department of Geography)
Centre d’Estudis Demogràfics
Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

Sociological Science

We compare intermarriage in Brazil, Cuba, and the United States among the black, white, and mixed-race population using log-linear models with data from newly available anonymized and harmonized individual census microdata for the 2000 round of censuses. We find that black–white intermarriage is 105 times as likely in Brazil and 28 times as likely in Cuba compared to the United States; that Brazilian mulatos are four times as likely to marry whites than blacks, but Cuban mulatos are equally likely to marry whites and blacks; and negative educational gradients for black–white intermarriage for Cuba and Brazil but nonexistent or positive gradients in the United States. We propose a theory of intergenerational mixture and intermarriage and discuss implications for the role of preferences versus structure, universalism and education, and mulato escape-hatch theory.

Read the entire article here.

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Archives of Conjure: Stories of the Dead in Afrolatinx Cultures

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Forthcoming Media, Gay & Lesbian, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Monographs, Religion on 2019-10-16 00:39Z by Steven

Archives of Conjure: Stories of the Dead in Afrolatinx Cultures

Columbia University Press
March 2020
272 pages
Paperback ISBN: 9780231194334
Hardcover ISBN: 9780231194327
E-book ISBN: 9780231550765

Solimar Otero, Professor of Folklore
Indiana University, Bloomington

Archives of Conjure

In Afrolatinx religious practices such as Cuban Espiritismo, Puerto Rican Santería, and Brazilian Candomblé, the dead tell stories. Communicating with and through mediums’ bodies, they give advice, make requests, and propose future rituals, creating a living archive that is coproduced by the dead. In this book, Solimar Otero explores how Afrolatinx spirits guide collaborative spiritual-scholarly activist work through rituals and the creation of material culture. By examining spirit mediumship through a Caribbean cross-cultural poetics, she shows how divinities and ancestors serve as active agents in shaping the experiences of gender, sexuality, and race.

Otero argues that what she calls archives of conjure are produced through residual transcriptions or reverberations of the stories of the dead whose archives are stitched, beaded, smoked, and washed into official and unofficial repositories. She investigates how sites like the ocean, rivers, and institutional archives create connected contexts for unlocking the spatial activation of residual transcriptions. Drawing on over ten years of archival research and fieldwork in Cuba, Otero centers the storytelling practices of Afrolatinx women and LGBTQ spiritual practitioners alongside Caribbean literature and performance. Archives of Conjure offers vital new perspectives on ephemerality, temporality, and material culture, unraveling undertheorized questions about how spirits shape communities of practice, ethnography, literature, and history and revealing the deeply connected nature of art, scholarship, and worship.

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Yuli – The Carlos Acosta Story

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, Family/Parenting, Media Archive on 2019-08-20 13:59Z by Steven

Yuli – The Carlos Acosta Story

Dirty Movies — Your platform for thought-provoking cinema
2019-04-03

Redmond Bacon

Tender portrait of iconic ballet dancer doubles up as an exploration of fatherhood and also of the artist’s home nation Cuba – now available on VoD

Director – Icíar Bollaín – 2019

When I was very young, my parents took me to ballet class. I immediately baulked at the idea and sat on the floor until my mother gave up and took me home. At the time I believed that being a ballet dancer was the worst possible thing on earth; now I see it as a massive lost opportunity. Carlos Acosta’s own father, Pedro (Santiago Alfonso), wasn’t as magnanimous as my mother, completely ignoring his son’s wishes in the pursuit of a higher aim.

His bet paid off, turning Carlos Acosta (nicknamed Yuli) into one of the greatest ballet dancers that ever lived; the first black man to perform at the Royal Ballet in London. Played at three different ages by Edlison Manuel Olbera Núnez, Keyvin Martínez and finally by the man himself, Yuli…

It starts in the poverty stricken streets of Havana; a place where the best options for young men to make something of themselves is through sport or dance. Carlos’ talent, expressed early on through street dance, gives his father an idea, and soon he is dragged to an audition at the National Ballet School of Cuba. But Carlos doesn’t want to perform ballet and mocks both his future teachers and his parents by putting on a tongue-in-cheek Michael Jackson-homage. He derisively describes ballet as something “for faggots”. Yet it is this very same ebullient spirit that lands him a place. His talent cannot be denied.

This is played out against a political and ethnic backdrop that acutely portrays the complexity of the Afro-Cuban experience. In one haunting scene, Carlos’ father takes him to his great-grandmother’s plantation, showing him how he is a direct descendent from the slave trade. Meanwhile his white mother escapes with her white relatives to Miami, benefiting from the same privilege that is denied to the young man. Pedro spins this hardship into a positive, telling Carlos that if his descendants could survive slavery, then he can become anything he wants…

Read the entire review here.

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Becoming Free, Becoming Black: Race, Freedom, and Law in Cuba, Virginia, and Louisiana

Posted in Books, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Law, Louisiana, Monographs, Slavery, United States, Virginia on 2019-07-22 23:50Z by Steven

Becoming Free, Becoming Black: Race, Freedom, and Law in Cuba, Virginia, and Louisiana

Cambridge University Press
January 2020
320 pages
17 b/w illus. 6 maps 2 tables
228 x 152 mm
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1108480642

Alejandro de la Fuente, Robert Woods Bliss Professor of Latin American History and Economics; Professor of African and African American Studies
Harvard University

Ariela J. Gross, John B. and Alice R. Sharp Professor of Law and History
University of Southern California

Highlights

  • Examines the development of the legal regimes of slavery and race in Cuba, Virginia, and Louisiana from the sixteenth century to the dawn of the Civil War
  • Demonstrates that the law of freedom, not slavery, determined the way race developed over time
  • Draws on a variety of primary sources, including local court records, original trial records of freedom suits, legislative case, and petition

How did Africans become ‘blacks’ in the Americas? Becoming Free, Becoming Black tells the story of enslaved and free people of color who used the law to claim freedom and citizenship for themselves and their loved ones. Their communities challenged slaveholders’ efforts to make blackness synonymous with slavery. Looking closely at three slave societies—Cuba, Virginia, and Louisiana—Alejandro de la Fuente and Ariela J. Gross demonstrate that the law of freedom—not slavery—established the meaning of blackness in law. Contests over freedom determined whether and how it was possible to move from slave to free status, and whether claims to citizenship would be tied to racial identity. Laws regulating the lives and institutions of free people of color created the boundaries between black and white, the rights reserved to white people, and the degradations imposed only on black people.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • 1. ‘A Negro and by consequence an alien’: local regulations and the making of race, 1500s–1700s
  • 2. The ‘inconvenience” of black freedom: manumission, 1500s–1700s
  • 3. ‘The natural right of all mankind’: claiming freedom in the age of revolution, 1760s–1830
  • 4. ‘Rules … for their expulsion’: foreclosing freedom, 1830s–1860
  • 5. ‘Not of the same blood’: policing racial boundaries, 1830s–1860
  • Conclusion: ‘Home-born citizens: the significance of free people of color.
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Afro-Cuban Diasporas in the Atlantic World

Posted in Africa, Anthropology, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Monographs on 2019-07-11 20:44Z by Steven

Afro-Cuban Diasporas in the Atlantic World

Boydell & Brewer
July 2010
260 pages
12 black and white illustrations
9×6 in
Paperback ISBN: 9781580464734
Hardback ISBN: 9781580463263
eBook for Handhelds ISBN: 9781580468190
eBook ISBN: 9781580467056

Solimar Otero, Professor of Folklore
Indiana University, Bloomington

A study of the interchange between Cuba and Africa of Yoruban people and culture during the nineteenth century, with special emphasis on the Aguda community.

Afro-Cuban Diasporas in the Atlantic World explores how Yoruba and Afro-Cuban communities moved across the Atlantic between the Americas and Africa in successive waves in the nineteenth century. In Havana, Yoruba slaves from Lagos banded together to buy their freedom and sail home to Nigeria. Once in Lagos, this Cuban repatriate community became known as the Aguda. This community built their own neighborhood that celebrated their Afrolatino heritage. For these Yoruba and Afro-Cuban diasporic populations, nostalgic constructions of family and community play the role of narrating and locating a longed-for home. By providing a link between the workings of nostalgia and the construction of home, this volume re-theorizes cultural imaginaries as a source for diasporic community reinvention. Through ethnographic fieldwork and research in folkloristics, Otero reveals that the Aguda identify strongly with their Afro-Cuban roots in contemporary times. Their fluid identity moves from Yoruba to Cuban, and back again, in a manner that illustrates the truly cyclical nature of transnational Atlantic community affiliation.

Table of Contents

  • Grassroots Africans: Havana’s “Lagosians”
  • Returning to Lagos: Making the Oja Home
  • “Second Diasporas”: Reception in the Bight of Benin
  • Situating Lagosian, Caribbean, and Latin American Diasporas
  • Creating Afrocubanos: Public Cultures in a Circum-Atlantic Perspective
  • Conclusion: Flow, Community, and Diaspora
  • Appendix: Case Studies of Returnees to Lagos from Havana, Cuba
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Cecilia Valdés or El Angel Hill: A Novel of Nineteenth-Century Cuba

Posted in Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Novels, Slavery, Women on 2019-04-04 19:19Z by Steven

Cecilia Valdés or El Angel Hill: A Novel of Nineteenth-Century Cuba

Oxford University Press
2005-09-29 (originally published in 1882)
544 Pages
5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
Paperback ISBN: 9780195143959

Cirilo Villaverde (1812-1894)

Edited by:

Sibylle Fischer, Associate Professor of Spanish, Portuguese, and Comparative Literature
New York University

Translated by:

Helen Lane (1921-2004)

Cecilia Valdés is arguably the most important novel of 19th century Cuba. Originally published in New York City in 1882, Cirilo Villaverde’s novel has fascinated readers inside and outside Cuba since the late 19th century. In this new English translation, a vast landscape emerges of the moral, political, and sexual depravity caused by slavery and colonialism. Set in the Havana of the 1830s, the novel introduces us to Cecilia, a beautiful light-skinned mulatta, who is being pursued by the son of a Spanish slave trader, named Leonardo. Unbeknownst to the two, they are the children of the same father. Eventually Cecilia gives in to Leonardo’s advances; she becomes pregnant and gives birth to a baby girl. When Leonardo, who gets bored with Cecilia after a while, agrees to marry a white upper class woman, Cecilia vows revenge. A mulatto friend and suitor of hers kills Leonardo, and Cecilia is thrown into prison as an accessory to the crime.

For the contemporary reader Helen Lane’s masterful translation of Cecilia Valdés opens a new window into the intricate problems of race relations in Cuba and the Caribbean. There are the elite social circles of European and New World Whites, the rich culture of the free people of color, the class to which Cecilia herself belonged, and then the slaves, divided among themselves between those who were born in Africa and those who were born in the New World, and those who worked on the sugar plantation and those who worked in the households of the rich people in Havana. Cecilia Valdés thus presents a vast portrait of sexual, social, and racial oppression, and the lived experience of Spanish colonialism in Cuba.

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I dig through archives to unearth hidden stories from African-American history

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Religion, Slavery, United States on 2018-12-27 02:48Z by Steven

I dig through archives to unearth hidden stories from African-American history

The Conversation
2018-12-04

Jane Landers, Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of History
Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee


An archivist works with a document from Paraiba, Brazil. David Lafevor, CC BY-SA

Many years ago, as a graduate student searching in the archives of Spanish Florida, I discovered the first “underground railroad” of enslaved Africans escaping from Protestant Carolina to find religious sanctuary in Catholic Florida. In 1738, these runaways formed Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose, the first free black settlement in what became the U.S.

The excitement of that discovery encouraged me to keep digging. After doing additional research in Spain, I followed the trail of the Mose villagers to Cuba, where they had emigrated when Great Britain acquired Florida. I found many of them in 18th-century church records in Havana, Matanzas, Regla, Guanabacoa and San Miguel del Padrón.

Today, those records and others live on in the Slave Societies Digital Archive. This archive, which I launched in 2003, now holds approximately 600,000 images dating from the 16th to the 19th centuries. Since its creation, the archive has led to new insights into African populations in the Americas

…Previously unknown church records for Havana’s black Brotherhood of St. Joseph the Carpenter document the membership of Jose Antonio Aponte, executed by Spanish officials in 1812 for leading an alleged slave conspiracy. Our records similarly document the marriage and death of another famed “conspirator” – the mulatto poet Gabriel de la Concepcion Valdes, better known as Placido

Read the entire article here.

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Comparative Racial Politics in Latin America (First Edition)

Posted in Anthologies, Books, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, Women on 2018-10-17 18:00Z by Steven

Comparative Racial Politics in Latin America (First Edition)

Routledge
2018-09-04
358 pages
31 B/W Illus.
Paperback: 9781138485303
Hardback: 9781138727021
eBook (VitalSource): 9781315191065

Edited by:

Kwame Dixon, Associate Professor of Political Science
Howard University, Washington, D.C.

Ollie A. Johnson III, Associate Professor of African American Studies
Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan

Comparative Racial Politics in Latin America: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Latin America has a rich and complex social history marked by slavery, colonialism, dictatorships, rebellions, social movements and revolutions. Comparative Racial Politics in Latin America explores the dynamic interplay between racial politics and hegemonic power in the region. It investigates the fluid intersection of social power and racial politics and their impact on the region’s histories, politics, identities and cultures.

Organized thematically with in-depth country case studies and a historical overview of Afro-Latin politics, the volume provides a range of perspectives on Black politics and cutting-edge analyses of Afro-descendant peoples in the region. Regional coverage includes Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti and more. Topics discussed include Afro-Civil Society; antidiscrimination criminal law; legal sanctions; racial identity; racial inequality and labor markets; recent Black electoral participation; Black feminism thought and praxis; comparative Afro-women social movements; the intersection of gender, race and class, immigration and migration; and citizenship and the struggle for human rights. Recognized experts in different disciplinary fields address the depth and complexity of these issues.

Comparative Racial Politics in Latin America contributes to and builds on the study of Black politics in Latin America.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction: Comparative Racial Politics in Latin America – Black Politics Matter [Kwame Dixon and Ollie A. Johnson III]
  • Part 1: History
    • 1. Beyond Representation: Rethinking Rights, Alliances and Migrations: Three Historical Themes in Afro-Latin American Political Engagement [Darién J. Davis]
    • 2. Recognition, Reparations, and Political Autonomy of Black and Native Communities in the Americas [Bernd Reiter]
    • 3. Pan-Africanism and Latin America [Elisa Larkin Nascimento]
  • Part 2: The Caribbean
    • 4. Black Activism and the State in Cuba [Danielle Pilar Clealand]
    • 5. Correcting Intellectual Malpractice: Haiti and Latin America [Jean-Germain Gros]
    • 6. Black Feminist Formations in the Dominican Republic since La Sentencia [April J. Mayes]
  • Part 3: South America
    • 7. Afro-Ecuadorian Politics [Carlos de la Torre and Jhon Antón Sánchez]
    • 8. In The Branch of Paradise: Geographies of Privilege and Black Social Suffering in Cali, Colombia [Jaime Amparo Alves and Aurora Vergara-Figueroa]
    • 9. The Impossible Black Argentine Political Subject [Judith M. Anderson]
    • 10. Current Representations of “Black” Citizens: Contentious Visibility within the Multicultural Nation [Laura de la Rosa Solano]
  • Part 4: Comparative Perspectives
    • 11. The Contours and Contexts of Afro-Latin American Women’s Activism [Kia Lilly Caldwell]
    • 12. Race and the Law in Latin America [Tanya Katerí Hernández]
    • 13. The Labyrinth of Ethnic-Racial Inequality: a Picture of Latin America according to the recent Census Rounds [Marcelo Paixão and Irene Rossetto]
    • 14. The Millennium/Sustainable Development Goals and Afro-descendants in the Americas: An (Un)intended Trap [Paula Lezama]
  • Conclusion [Kwame Dixon and Ollie A. Johnson III]
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Mulata Nation: Visualizing Race and Gender in Cuba

Posted in Books, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, Women on 2018-08-17 17:15Z by Steven

Mulata Nation: Visualizing Race and Gender in Cuba

University Press of Mississippi
2018-08-15
248 pages (approx.)
58 color illustrations
6 x 9 inches
Hardcover ISBN: 9781496814432

Alison Fraunhar, Associate Professor of Art and Design
Saint Xavier University, Chicago, Illinois

A vivid exploration of the key role played by multi-racial women in visualizing and performing Cuban identity

Repeatedly and powerfully throughout Cuban history, the mulata, a woman of mixed racial identity, features prominently in Cuban visual and performative culture. Tracing the figure, Alison Fraunhar looks at the representation and performance in both elite and popular culture. She also tracks how characteristics associated with these women have accrued across the Atlantic world. Widely understood to embody the bridge between European subject and African other, the mulata contains the sensuality attributed to Africans in a body more closely resembling the European ideal of beauty.

This symbol bears far-reaching implications, with shifting, contradictory cultural meanings in Cuba. Fraunhar explores these complex paradigms, how, why, and for whom the image was useful, and how it was both subverted and asserted from the colonial period to the present. From the early seventeenth century through Cuban independence in 1899 up to the late revolutionary era, Fraunhar illustrates the ambiguous figure’s role in nationhood, citizenship, and commercialism. She analyzes images including key examples of nineteenth-century graphic arts, avant-garde painting and magazine covers of the Republican era, cabaret and film performance, and contemporary iterations of gender.

Fraunhar’s study stands out for attending to the phenomenon of mulataje not only in elite production such as painting, but also in popular forms: popular theater, print culture, later films, and other media where stereotypes take hold. Indeed, in contemporary Cuba, mulataje remains a popular theme with Cubans as well as foreigners in drag shows, reflecting queerness in visual culture.

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