Cuba's Racial Crucible: The Sexual Economy of Social Identities, 1750-2000

Cuba's Racial Crucible: The Sexual Economy of Social Identities, 1750-2000

Cuba's Racial Crucible: The Sexual Economy of Social Identities, 1750-2000

Cuba's Racial Crucible: The Sexual Economy of Social Identities, 1750-2000

Synopsis

Since the 19th century, assertions of a common, racially-mixed Cuban identity based on acceptance of African descent have challenged the view of Cubans as racially white. For the past two centuries, these competing views of Cuban racial identity have remained in continuous tension, while Cuban women and men make their own racially oriented choices in family formation. Cuba's Racial Crucible explores the historical dynamics of Cuban race relations by highlighting the racially selective reproductive practices and genealogical memories associated with family formation. Karen Y. Morrison reads archival, oral-history, and literary sources to demonstrate the ideological centrality and inseparability of "race," "nation," and "family," in definitions of Cuban identity. Morrison analyzes the conditions that supported the social advance and decline of notions of white racial superiority, nationalist projections of racial hybridity, and pride in African descent.

Excerpt

The interview had gone as planned and I prepared to leave Julia’s small, but comfortable, Old Havana apartment. With the self-assurance of her eighty-three years, Julia had thoughtfully told her family’s history by oscillating between recollections of pride, humor, and pain. As we wrapped up and I turned off the voice recorder, I asked an impromptu question that deviated from my carefully constructed questionnaire. I felt somewhat intrusive crossing into such intimate terrain. But after two previous afternoons listening to Julia’s very personal reminiscences, I hoped she would not mind. I ventured, “Y porqué usted no tuvo hijos con su marido segundo? (Why didn’t you have children with your second husband?)”

“No quise crear confusión racial dentro de mi propia familia (I had not wanted to create racial confusion in my own family)” was her unhesitating response.

These words left me momentarily dumbstruck, feeling a totally unexpected mix of amazement and puzzlement. Racial confusion? What type of racial confusion could have existed if this nearly white, but African-descended, woman had had children with her Spanish husband? Weren’t the informal rules of Cuban racial assignment clear in . . .

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