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The careful choreography of the Virgin’s 1936 coronation ritual in Santiago’s main streets served, in part, as a public performance of healing following the violent 1933 end of the Machado regime, and of the improved, postindependence relationship between church and state. Civic and church authorities’ assertion that Cuba was a “Catholic nation” heralded the heightened status of Catholicism in a young republic self-conscious of its national image—particularly with regard to race. The coronation is interpreted in relationship to the ascendance of another arts and letters movement, named origenistas, which signaled the racialized kulturkampf between elite whites who preferred to emphasize the Spanish elements of Cuban identity—including Catholicism—versus the afrocubanistas’ celebration of African-inflected culture. The dichotomy that Cubans often posit between the behavioral codes of house and street, accompanied by gendered and raced notions of “honor” and “order,” are discussed in connection with female-gendered symbols of the nation, and the differing accounts of the race ascribed to the Virgin.

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