Confronting Anti-Blackness in “Colorblind” Cuba

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science on 2021-10-11 17:55Z by Steven

Confronting Anti-Blackness in “Colorblind” Cuba

Sapiens
2021-09-02

Elizabeth Obregón, Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology
University of Illinois, Chicago

A man holds his grandson inside the doorway of a fruit and vegetable shop in Havana, Cuba. Artur Widak/NurPhoto/Getty Images

In the 1960s, Fidel Castro’s revolutionary Communist government claimed to have eradicated racism in Cuba. An anthropologist explores how racial hierarchies persist despite these official narratives, shaping family dynamics and significantly limiting opportunities for Afro-Cubans.

I sat waiting for Yudell* to finish his shift at the paladar, or small-scale private restaurant, in the central Vedado neighborhood in Havana. I’d already interviewed a few of the workers there. As I bided my time at a corner table on the outdoor patio, two of the waiters began to tease Yudell, yelling across to me, “Don’t believe what he says! He will probably tell you that he is Negro because he is a racist!”

Yudell timidly looked at me across the patio and chuckled. Growing up Cuban American, I had been to Cuba on past occasions to visit family, but this time I was there to conduct ethnographic interviews on processes of racialization for my dissertation in anthropology. I knew from experience that I had to tread carefully when entering conversations about race in Cuba.

In Cuba, a place where the revolutionary Communist government has claimed to have eliminated racial inequality, directly speaking of race is more than taboo; it is counterrevolutionary.

When we sat down for our interview a little later, Yudell proudly described himself exactly as his co-workers had said he would: “I am Negro” (a Black man). We talked about the persistence of colorism in Cuba, a system of discrimination based on skin color. Yudell chose not to self-identify as a Mulato (a mixed-race person) or a Moro (a dark-skinned person with a thin nose and “good hair”), since he saw such taken-for-granted racialized categories as a way for individuals to distance themselves from Blackness…

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Afro-Asian Connections in Latin America and the Caribbean

Posted in Anthologies, Asian Diaspora, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2021-06-29 23:12Z by Steven

Afro-Asian Connections in Latin America and the Caribbean

Lexington Books (an imprint of Rowman & Littlefield)
November 2018
256 pages
Trim: 6 x 9
Hardback ISBN: 978-1-4985-8708-2
eBook ISBN: 978-1-4985-8709-9
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4985-8709-9

Edited By:

Luisa Marcela Ossa, Associate Professor of Spanish
LaSalle University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Debbie Lee-DiStefano
Springfield Lyceum College Preparatory, Springfield, Massachusetts

Afro-Asian Connections in Latin America and the Caribbean explores the connections between people of Asian and African descent in Latin America and the Caribbean. Although their journeys started from different points of origin, spanning two separate oceans, their point of contact in this hemisphere brought them together under a hegemonic system that would treat these seemingly disparate continental ancestries as one. Historically, an overwhelming majority of people of African and Asian descent were brought to the Americas as sources of labor to uphold the plantation, agrarian economies leading to complex relationships and interactions. The contributions to this collection examine various aspects of these connections. The authors bring to the forefront perspectives regarding history, literature, art, and religion and engage how they are manifested in these Afro-Asian relationships and interactions. They investigate what has received little academic engagement outside the acknowledgement that there are groups who are of African and Asian descent. In regard to their relationships with the dominant Europeanized center, references to both groups typically only view them as singular entities. What this interdisciplinary collection presents is a more cohesive approach that strives to place them at the center together and view their relationships in their historical contexts.

Table of Contents

  1. Afro and Chinese Depictions in Peruvian Social Discourse at the Turn of the 20th Century
  2. Locating Chinese Culture and Aesthetics in the Art of Wifredo Lam
  3. Through the Prism of the Harlem Ashram: Afro-Asian-Caribbean Connections in Transnational Circulation
  4. Merging the Transpacific with the Transatlantic: Afro-Asia in Japanese Brazilian Narratives
  5. Parallels and Intersections: Literary Depictions of the Lives of Chinese and Africans in 19th Century and Early 20th Century Cuba
  6. Erased from Collective Memory: Dreadlocks Story Documentary Untangles the Hindu Legacy of Rastafari
  7. Body of Reconciliation: Aida Petrinera Cheng’s Journey in Como un Mensajero Tuyo
  8. “I am Like One of those Women”: Effeminization of Chinese Caribbean men as Feminist Strategy in Three Contemporary Caribbean Novels
  9. La Mulata Achinada: Bodies, Gender, and Authority in Afro-Chinese Religion in Cuba
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Raceless: In Search of Family, Identity, and the Truth About Where I Belong

Posted in Autobiography, Books, Family/Parenting, Media Archive, Monographs, United Kingdom, United States on 2021-03-06 22:31Z by Steven

Raceless: In Search of Family, Identity, and the Truth About Where I Belong

Harper Perennial (an imprint of Harper Collins)
2021-02-23
304 pages
5x8in
Trade Paperback ISBN: 9780063009486
E-book ISBN: 9780063009493
Audiobook ISBN: 9780063009509

Georgina Lawton

Raised in sleepy English suburbia, Georgina Lawton was no stranger to homogeneity. Her parents were white; her friends were white; there was no reason for her to think she was any different. But over time her brown skin and dark, kinky hair frequently made her a target of prejudice. In Georgina’s insistently color-blind household, with no acknowledgement of her difference or access to black culture, she lacked the coordinates to make sense of who she was.

It was only after her father’s death that Georgina began to unravel the truth about her parentage—and the racial identity that she had been denied. She fled from England and the turmoil of her home-life to live in black communities around the globe—the US, the UK, Nicaragua, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, and Morocco—and to explore her identity and what it meant to live in and navigate the world as a black woman. She spoke with psychologists, sociologists, experts in genetic testing, and other individuals whose experiences of racial identity have been fraught or questioned in the hopes of understanding how, exactly, we identify ourselves.

Raceless is an exploration of a fundamental question: what constitutes our sense of self? Drawing on her personal experiences and the stories of others, Lawton grapples with difficult questions about love, shame, grief, and prejudice, and reveals the nuanced and emotional journey of forming one’s identity.

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The Power of Race in Cuba: Racial Ideology and Black Consciousness During the Revolution

Posted in Books, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Politics/Public Policy on 2020-06-24 21:32Z by Steven

The Power of Race in Cuba: Racial Ideology and Black Consciousness During the Revolution

Oxford University Press
2017-07-31
272 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
Hardcover ISBN: 9780190632298
Paperback ISBN: 9780190632304

Danielle Pilar Clealand, Associate Professor
Department of Politics and International Relations
Florida International University

  • Shows how the economic crisis that followed the Soviet Union’s collapse changed race relations in Cuba
  • Examines the official narrative of race in Cuba, contrasting that with black and mixed race Cubans’ identity and lived experience
  • Explores how discrimination creates divergent opportunities for black and white Cubans
  • Provides personal, informal perspectives from many walks of life in in Cuba, drawing a portrait of black identity through interviewees’ lives

In The Power of Race in Cuba, Danielle Pilar Clealand analyzes racial ideologies that negate the existence of racism and their effect on racial progress and activism through the lens of Cuba. Since 1959, Fidel Castro and the Cuban government have married socialism and the ideal of racial harmony to create a formidable ideology that is an integral part of Cubans’ sense of identity and their perceptions of race and racism in their country. While the combination of socialism and a colorblind racial ideology is particular to Cuba, strategies that paint a picture of equality of opportunity and deflect the importance of race are not particular to the island’s ideology and can be found throughout the world, and in the Americas, in particular.

By promoting an anti-discrimination ethos, diminishing class differences at the onset of the revolution, and declaring the end of racism, Castro was able to unite belief in the revolution to belief in the erasure of racism. The ideology is bolstered by rhetoric that discourages racial affirmation. The second part of the book examines public opinion on race in Cuba, particularly among black Cubans. It examines how black Cubans have indeed embraced the dominant nationalist ideology that eschews racial affirmation, but also continue to create spaces for black consciousness that challenge this ideology. The Power of Race in Cuba gives a nuanced portrait of black identity in Cuba and through survey data, interviews with formal organizers, hip hop artists, draws from the many black spaces, both formal and informal to highlight what black consciousness looks like in Cuba.

Table of Contents

  • Table of Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Chapter One: Todos Somos Cubanos: How Racial Democracy Works in Cuba
  • Chapter Two: De Aqui Pa’l Cielo: Black Consciousness and Racial Critique
  • Chapter Three: Marti’s Cuba: Racial Ideology and Black Consciousness Before 1959
  • Chapter Four: Institutionalizing Ideology: Race and the Cuban Revolution
  • Chapter Five: “I’m not a Racist”: Anti-Racialism and White Racial Attitudes
  • Chapter Six: The Power of a Frame: The Characterization of Racism as Prejudice
  • Chapter Seven: Todos Somos Cubanos, pero no Somos Iguales: How Racism Works in Cuba
  • Chapter Eight: Uncovering Blackness and the Underground: Black Consciousness
  • Chapter Nine: The Seeds of a Black Movement?: Racial Organizing and the Above Ground Movement
  • Conclusion
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Archives of Conjure: Stories of the Dead in Afrolatinx Cultures

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Gay & Lesbian, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, Religion on 2020-03-06 18:05Z 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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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…

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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.

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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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