Academic journal article Cuban Studies

Fantasy as Identity: Beyond Foundational Narratives in Lourdes Casal

Academic journal article Cuban Studies

Fantasy as Identity: Beyond Foundational Narratives in Lourdes Casal

Article excerpt

Para Ana Lourdes Hart, la otra "Ana cubana " con quien reencontré a Lourdes Casal en un café de New Jersey.

I still remembered how I listened, wide-eyed and nauseated, to the stories- always whispered, always told as when one is revealing unspeakable secrets-about the horrors committed against my family and other blacks during the racial war of 1912. . . . The stories terrified me, not only because of their violence, but because my history books said nothing about these incidents.

Lourdes Casal, "Race Relations in Contemporary Cuba" (1979b, 12)

Comenzabas muchas conversaciones diciendo, "tengo una fantasía." Y nos contabas desde la ilusa librería que ibas a poner en Broadway y que tendría una imprenta y después una editorial y hasta un edificio entero para convertirlo en comuna de intelectuales . . .

(Diez 1981, 23)

Unsettling Foundations

I begin this essay with two epigraphs that refer to Lourdes Casal's problematic relationship with Cuban history, which is advanced through the tensions between hegemonic historical discourses and the embodied experience of national subjects. In the first epigraph, Casal points to the many silences of Cuban history that are literally at odds with the lived experience of members of black communities. The second epigraph is a reference to Casal's unique way to use her fantasy to create alternative scripts for identity, community formation, and belonging. I want to take these two epigraphs as my point of departure to reflect on the unique profile of Lourdes Casal's explorations of cubanía to highlight other dimensions of identity beyond the legacies of the white creole or mulatto Cuban nationalist discourses (Kuzinsky 1993; Fischer 2004) or the "virile nation" invoked by Martí (1968, 130-131) in "Nuestra América." Casal's critical and fictional interventions in the 1970s and 1980s also linked Cuban insular and diasporic imaginaries long before that became the critical consensus in the 1990s (Behar 1995; Ortiz 2007).

Lourdes Casal is known by many for her intense political work to reconnect diasporic Cubans with insular Cubans, by others through her awardwinning poetry and perhaps less-known narrative work, and by a more reduced group of people for the important research she conducted to study Cubans in the United States. In her literary work, Casal explored questions that now belong to established fields such as migration and diaspora studies, as well as interdisciplinary debates on the limits between history and fiction (White 1975; Trouillot 1995).1 I contend that Casal used her literary oeuvre as a pretext to "imagine" another relationship with historical archives,2 by reflecting on the relationality between gender, race, class, as well as sexuality in the articulation of another narrative about cubanía.3 I argue that her narrative and poetry questioned Cuban foundational fictions to imagine less normative insular and diasporic identities through "fantasy."

Fantasy is a slippery theoretical term. Jean LaPlanche and J. B. Pontalis (1968, 2), in their classical essay "Fantasy and the Origins of Sexuality," reflect on the complex relationship between reality and imagination: "the world of fantasy seems to be located exclusively within the domain of opposition between subjective and objective, between an inner world, where satisfaction is obtained through illusion, and an external world, which gradually, through the medium of perception, asserts the supremacy of the reality principle." This opposition between the imaginary and the real becomes less and less clear, since the world of fantasy not only derives from actual experience but also very easily occupies the place of reality in the articulation of myths of origin: "It is with this in mind that Freud always held the model fantasy to be the reverie, that form of novelette, both stereotyped and infinitely variable, which the subject composes and relates to himself in a waking state" (LaPlanche and Pontalis 1968, 13, my emphasis). …

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