Revolutionizing Romance: Interracial Couples in Contemporary Cuba

Revolutionizing Romance: Interracial Couples in Contemporary Cuba

Revolutionizing Romance: Interracial Couples in Contemporary Cuba

Revolutionizing Romance: Interracial Couples in Contemporary Cuba

Synopsis

Scholars have long heralded mestizaje, or race mixing, as the essence of the Cuban nation. Revolutionizing Romance is an account of the continuing significance of race in Cuba as it is experienced in interracial relationships. This ethnography tracks young couples as they move in a world fraught with shifting connections of class, race, and culture that are reflected in space, racialized language, and media representations of blackness, whiteness, and mixedness. As one of the few scholars to conduct long-term anthropological fieldwork in the island nation, Nadine T. Fernandez offers a rare insider's view of the country's transformations during the post-Soviet era. Following a comprehensive history of racial formations up through Castro's rule, the book then delves into more intimate and contemporary spaces. Language, space and place, foreign tourism, and the realm of the family each reveal, through the author's deft analysis, the paradox of living a racialized life in a nation that celebrates a policy of colorblind equality.

Excerpt

As a teenager, Tamara, a blue-eyed, blond white Cuban woman, dated a classmate, Alberto, a dark-skinned black man. Near the cathedral in Old Havana, a middle-aged white couple looked at the young interracial couple in horror and commented quite loudly, “Look at that blond with light eyes, and she’s with a black!” Recounting the story to me, Tamara said, “That really shook me. It was the first time we were out together— like presenting our relationship to society—and that comment really had an impact on me. I felt ashamed because I thought of what Alberto must have felt. I never asked him about that insulting incident. We never talked about it.”

Olga, a dark-skinned mulata, and José Miguel, a white man, both in their mid-twenties, had been together several years when I interviewed them. José Miguel said, “It’s very uncomfortable when many welleducated people ask disbelievingly if we are a couple. . . . Once I got so insulted, I turned to this [white] man, and pointing to a black woman in the street, I asked him, ‘Is that your girlfriend? No? I knew that because you don’t date blacks.’”

Centuries earlier, Juan Millián fell in love and married on the island of Fernandina, as Cuba was first called. Millián was a Spanish conquistador who arrived with Diego Velázquez (1465–1524) in 1510 and added Cuba to the growing list of Spanish possessions in the new world. the woman Millián married and later brought back to Spain was an indigenous Taíno. Their marriage was one of the first interracial . . .

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