Abstract

A woman of African descent born in Cuba, Eusebia Cosme relocated to the United States during the late 1930s. She quickly became an internationally renowned performer of “Afro-Antillean” poetry, dressing in elaborate costumes as she recited the works of prominent poets who included Nicolas Guillén, Luis Páles Matos, and Langston Hughes. This article argues that Cosme utilized male-written texts, in addition to attire and choreography, to engage discourses of blackness on the transatlantic stage. The article compares her performances to those of her female contemporaries who included Josephine Baker, Carmen Miranda, and Katherine Dunham. It analyzes how Cosme employed a range of identity maneuvers that allowed her to challenge depictions of African culture as primitive, and to address the history and legacies of African enslavement. Finally, the article explores the ways in which various audiences—African American, white American, white Latin American, and Afro-Caribbean—translated her performances of blackness. Cosme’s success stemmed from her ability to construct a nuanced representation of blackness within both Cuban and Afro-diasporic perspective.

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