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Post-Afrocubanismo and the Cultures of Afro-Cuban America

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Abstract:

My paper analyzes the “post-Afrocubanist” moment in black Cuban culture in the U.S. from the 1930s to the late 1950s. Afrocubanismo describes a movement in black-themed Cuban culture with origins in the 1920s. An important feature was the transformation of vernacular, working-class, Afro-Cuban culture into a contradictory middle-class commodity, often produced by both black and white Cuban writers and performers. Among other things, the cultures of afrocubanismo helped constitute Cuban mestizaje, a discourse in which representations of Cuba’s hybrid African-Hispanic identity confirms, but often undermines, national claims to racial democracy. My inquiry into post-Afrocubanist culture assumes that black Cuban writers and artists living in the U.S. experienced two conditions that put their work in tension with the dominant forms of island afrocubanismo (and, indeed, encouraged them to push beyond the movement’s formal and political boundaries—hence the “post” in my term): their migrant identity in the U.S., and their subsequent collaboration with African American culture. My research will examine the post-Afrocubanist mode in the work and careers of such figures as Eusebia Cosme, Orestes “Minnie” Miñoso, and Luciano “Chano” Pozo. Cosme, a public performer of poetry, composer, and actress, was the featured cast member of a CBS radio show in which she dramatically read poesía negra, or black poetry, a defining genre during the period. Miñoso played baseball for the New York Cubans of the Negro Leagues, winning the World Series in 1947; he is often cited as the first Afro-Latino player in the desegregated major leagues. The composer and percussionist Chano Pozo’s work with John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie, meanwhile, articulated Afro-Cuban rhythms with African-American jazz. My argument is concerned with the way such figures as Cosme, Miñoso, and Pozo imagine anew Afro-Cuban modernity, both in the U.S. context and in relation to African-American cultural forms and institutions.
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Name: The American Studies Association
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MLA Citation:

Lopez, Antonio. "Post-Afrocubanismo and the Cultures of Afro-Cuban America" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the The American Studies Association, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Philadelphia, PA, Oct 11, 2007 <Not Available>. 2013-12-15 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p186739_index.html>

APA Citation:

Lopez, A. , 2007-10-11 "Post-Afrocubanismo and the Cultures of Afro-Cuban America" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the The American Studies Association, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Philadelphia, PA <Not Available>. 2013-12-15 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p186739_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Abstract: My paper analyzes the “post-Afrocubanist” moment in black Cuban culture in the U.S. from the 1930s to the late 1950s. Afrocubanismo describes a movement in black-themed Cuban culture with origins in the 1920s. An important feature was the transformation of vernacular, working-class, Afro-Cuban culture into a contradictory middle-class commodity, often produced by both black and white Cuban writers and performers. Among other things, the cultures of afrocubanismo helped constitute Cuban mestizaje, a discourse in which representations of Cuba’s hybrid African-Hispanic identity confirms, but often undermines, national claims to racial democracy. My inquiry into post-Afrocubanist culture assumes that black Cuban writers and artists living in the U.S. experienced two conditions that put their work in tension with the dominant forms of island afrocubanismo (and, indeed, encouraged them to push beyond the movement’s formal and political boundaries—hence the “post” in my term): their migrant identity in the U.S., and their subsequent collaboration with African American culture. My research will examine the post-Afrocubanist mode in the work and careers of such figures as Eusebia Cosme, Orestes “Minnie” Miñoso, and Luciano “Chano” Pozo. Cosme, a public performer of poetry, composer, and actress, was the featured cast member of a CBS radio show in which she dramatically read poesía negra, or black poetry, a defining genre during the period. Miñoso played baseball for the New York Cubans of the Negro Leagues, winning the World Series in 1947; he is often cited as the first Afro-Latino player in the desegregated major leagues. The composer and percussionist Chano Pozo’s work with John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie, meanwhile, articulated Afro-Cuban rhythms with African-American jazz. My argument is concerned with the way such figures as Cosme, Miñoso, and Pozo imagine anew Afro-Cuban modernity, both in the U.S. context and in relation to African-American cultural forms and institutions.

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