This essay recovers the history of 1960s and 1970s black movements in Cuba through an examination of works by Afro-Cuban intellectuals and their meetings with Caribbean thinkers to show the coexistence of mestizaje and black consciousness as a defining, but overlooked, feature of black activism in Cuba. While the existing literature locates black consciousness in the English- and French-speaking Caribbean, this essay highlights how Afro-Cubans in Spanish-speaking countries were not only aware of but also adapted Caribbean ideologies to local circumstances. Using oral histories, cultural productions, and meetings between Caribbean intellectuals, this examination of Afro-Cuban activism reframes the period leading up to Nancy Morejón’s 1982 Nación y mestizaje en Nicolás Guillén to show that the poet was one of many artists-activists who resurrected black history, revalued African culture and black identity, and promoted Caribbean black consciousness in Cuba despite state attempts at censorship. For Morejón that meant offering a definition of mestizaje that goes through and coexists with black consciousness.
Redefining Mestizaje: How Trans-Caribbean Exchanges Solidified Black Consciousness in Cuba
devyn spence benson is an associate professor of history and African American and Africana studies at the University of Kentucky. She is a historian of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Latin America with a focus on race and revolution in Cuba. She is the author of Antiracism in Cuba: The Unfinished Revolution (2016) and an editor of Afrocubanas: History, Thought, and Cultural Practices (2020).
Devyn Spence Benson; Redefining Mestizaje: How Trans-Caribbean Exchanges Solidified Black Consciousness in Cuba. Small Axe 1 July 2021; 25 (2 (65)): 91–108. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/07990537-9384286
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