Academic journal article Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue

Chapter 16: Enacted Curriculum and the Search for Identity: Angst and the Cuban Search for Meaning after the Cuban Revolution

Academic journal article Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue

Chapter 16: Enacted Curriculum and the Search for Identity: Angst and the Cuban Search for Meaning after the Cuban Revolution

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

On a cold Monday night in Beatrice, Nebraska, I discovered my Cubanness. At a high school auditorium, I heard "Dos Gardenias," played by Valle Son, a Son group from Pinar del Rio wearing Gap clothing and touring in the United States (Carillo, 1948/2000). The band and I spent several days speaking about identity; Miami, the United States, and of course, Cuba. We spoke of my family on the island, my mother's stay in political prison, and how cold and windy Nebraska was. What we experienced was a conversation about living similar/parallel pasts (although we never met); similar ethnic realities, and uncertain futures which, as Cubans, we share. What I experienced was the terse existence of angst within a culture. Angst dominates Cuban culture. In this article, I argue that creativity in Cuban literature and poetry is driven by the angst of separation and the attempt by two nations to create a singular cultural hegemony by examining the vital role of angst in literature created by the post-1959 separation and the embargo that caused an expression driven by perception and language as forces of creation. This discussion is important because addressing our racial identity in the curriculum requires individualizing it within the school curriculum through the arts and literature that define our cultural identity (Cubanness). Additionally, by referencing traditional authors in comparison to Cuban authors, teachers, and curriculum developers might be able to incorporate Cuban literature to illustrate required course themes while appealing to identity issues for their minority students.

Identity and Curriculum for Schools

Society, especially in the United States is concerned with place and past, especially regional and racial identities as witnessed by the rise of genealogy searches and the attempt at recreating our immigrant pasts. Schools, busy with acculturation and assimilation do not honestly deal with these problems in their curricula. As an outcome of the civil rights era, individual racial identity was methodically placed at the forefront of American culture before community equity, creating spaces for the women's, Chicano, and other similar movements. As a nation we have always faced problems of race and have had to invent new forms of expression from which to define the new meanings of identity. Louis Castenell and William Pinar (1993) state that it is an "understatement to observe that issues of race are paramount in contemporary curriculum debates in the public sphere" (p. 2). They suggest that curriculum is "racial text" because debates about what we teach youngsters are "debates over who we perceive ourselves to be, and how we will represent that identity, including what remains as 'left over,' as 'difference' " (p. 2). Thus curriculum implies understanding the "American national identity, and vice versa" as racial text (p. 2). Race and identity are terms that are constantly changing; race grows out of the individual's past, for example, "Black" from slavery, whereas identity comes from how the individual deals with her past, and what role society assigns that past.

As repression of identity was lifted by social changes, so too did schools respond, allowing marginalized groups to identify with symbols separate from the dominant social culture. Thus, Hispanic Americans in a quest for their Hispanic identity, no longer saw themselves as extremities of Europeans, ultimately leading to a new definition of self as Latino. First, in society, individuals are always subject to an autobiographical experience that attempts a separation from a dominant political and social structure that oppresses individual freedom and identity. Therein lays the appeal of the literary character's struggle for independence in current society. Second, the individual search for identity in terms of the larger base of knowledge and tradition comes to fruition in attempts to discover themselves as black or feminine or worthy in the face of the closed society of the United States. …

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