Rumba: Dance and Social Change in Contemporary Cuba

Rumba: Dance and Social Change in Contemporary Cuba

Rumba: Dance and Social Change in Contemporary Cuba

Rumba: Dance and Social Change in Contemporary Cuba


Using dance anthropology to illuminate the values and attitudes embodied in rumba, Yvonne Daniel explores the surprising relationship between dance and the profound, complex changes in contemporary Cuba.

From the barrio and streets to the theatre and stage, rumba has emerged as an important medium, contributing to national goals, reinforcing Caribbean solidarity, and promoting international prestige. Since the Revolution of 1959, rumba has celebrated national identity and cultural heritage, and embodied an official commitment to new values. Once a lower-class recreational dance, rumba has become a symbol of egalitarian efforts in postrevolutionary Cuba. The professionalization of performers, organization of performance spaces, and proliferation of performance opportunities have prompted new paradigms and altered previous understandings of rumba.


So much has happened recently to make the situation of Cuba very grave. We in the United States hear little of the reality most Cubans live. On my last visit, during the summer of 1993, I saw how much had changed since my fieldwork years between 1985 and 1990. The Cuban people's struggle to survive as an independent nation continues with little support or assistance at the international level. There is no comprehensive movement toward humane aid for the Cuban people. They are deliberately isolated in an interdependent world.

But the Cubans march onward, even though they are denied nourishment and look like persons in a concentration camp without barbed wire or bullets. They struggle against external forces that strangle their sources of subsistence and against internal forces that are desperate to see principles sustained. The Cuban people are valiant, and there is no question that their example to the world, against mighty odds, will be recognized in history.

This book looks at Cuba during a stage of cresting development, after the bitter climb up from revolutionary warfare and after two generations of living out a blueprint for a completely new social and economic system. Life was less bleak during the time span covered here. This book presents a view of late-1980s Cuba by means of dance analysis and through the eyes of an outsider who cherishes their ideals of equality. I, like many others in the United States, support Cuba's right to have the kind of government its people choose. I went to Cuba to witness, learn, and analyze its actions as these actions applied to and affected its varied artistic world.

I am indebted to so many people who cared for this project and for me that it is difficult to acknowledge them all. I thank Smyrna Press of Brook lyn . . .

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