Cachita’s Streets: The Virgin of Charity, Race, and Revolution in Cuba

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Religion on 2015-11-06 21:40Z by Steven

Cachita’s Streets: The Virgin of Charity, Race, and Revolution in Cuba

Duke University Press
376 pages
27 illustrations
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5918-0
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8223-5937-1

Jalane D. Schmidt, Associate Professor of Religious Studies
University of Virginia

Cuba’s patron saint, the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre, also called Cachita, is a potent symbol of Cuban national identity. Jalane D. Schmidt shows how groups as diverse as Indians and African slaves, Spanish colonial officials, Cuban independence soldiers, Catholic authorities and laypeople, intellectuals, journalists and artists, practitioners of spiritism and Santería, activists, politicians, and revolutionaries each have constructed and disputed the meanings of the Virgin. Schmidt examines the occasions from 1936 to 2012 when the Virgin’s beloved, original brown-skinned effigy was removed from her national shrine in the majority black- and mixed-race mountaintop village of El Cobre and brought into Cuba’s cities. There, devotees venerated and followed Cachita’s image through urban streets, amassing at large-scale public ceremonies in her honor that promoted competing claims about Cuban religion, race, and political ideology. Schmidt compares these religious rituals to other contemporaneous Cuban street events, including carnival, protests, and revolutionary rallies, where organizers stage performances of contested definitions of Cubanness. Schmidt provides a comprehensive treatment of Cuban religions, history, and culture, interpreted through the prism of Cachita.

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COLA Seminar Probes Shifting Identity of ‘Whiteness’ in America

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Religion, United States, Virginia on 2014-11-29 01:34Z by Steven

COLA Seminar Probes Shifting Identity of ‘Whiteness’ in America

University of Virginia
College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Anne Bromley, Associate
UVA Today

The category of “white” as the majority race against which other groups have been described in the United States might seem well-defined, but it has been anything but that throughout American history.

In the past decade, scholars digging into primary sources have found that at certain times, some ethnic groups that one might think of as being “white” today – including Irish or Scotch-Irish, Italian, Jewish and Polish – were not considered to be white like Anglo-Saxon whites at various times and places. These attitudes led to economic and social conditions often enforced by law.

In her first-year seminar, or COLA, “Whiteness: A Racial Category,” assistant professor of religious studies Jalane Schmidt aims to show how whiteness, not just blackness, has been a shifting category and has served to exclude or include certain ethnic groups or races over time and in different parts of the country. Legal and social conditions defining who was considered black or white also demonstrate that being white has not been a hard-and-fast identity…

…“Whiteness is the elephant in the room that needs to be examined,” Schmidt said. “We’re used to studying racism as the exclusion of ‘others.’ But we’re not used to framing racism as, in part, an anxious effort (legal, social, cultural, etc.) to protect and prop up the perennially unstable racial category known as whiteness.”…

…Instead of fighting injustices under which both groups suffered, the Irish chose to join the privileged category, and this happened with other ethnic groups, too, Schmidt said. Just as children who go to a different school when their families move have to learn what the social scene is like, new immigrants in America had to learn a new set of social codes eventually, she said, giving up Gaelic language and ceasing to mix with black people.

The class is also studying how the definition of “white” changed over time in Virginia. Thomas Jefferson defined “the American” as “Anglo Saxon” and had a low opinion of the Scotch-Irish settlers of Appalachia, whose proximity to Indians, he wrote, had allegedly rendered them “wild,” Schmidt said.

A recent guest speaker to the class, Cinder Stanton, former head historian at Monticello, talked about her research on slavery at Jefferson’s plantation home and on the progeny of Jefferson and the slave Sally Hemings, the topics of her book, “Those Who Labor for My Happiness.” The descendants who defined themselves as black knew about and embraced their heritage. Those who passed as white, however, such as Eston and Julia Hemings, left behind their mixed ancestry and changed their name; their white descendants didn’t know they were related to Jefferson and Hemings until they found out from Stanton during her fieldwork…

Read the entire article here.

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