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Carnival and National Identity in the Poetry of
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Thomas F. Anderson

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780813035581

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813035581.001.0001

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Carnival and Ñáñiguismo

Carnival and Ñáñiguismo

Poetic Syncretism in Alejo Carpentier's “Juego santo”

(p.49) 2 Carnival and Ñáñiguismo
Carnival and National Identity in the Poetry of Afrocubanismo

Thomas F. Anderson

University Press of Florida

The focus of this chapter—“Carnival and Ñáñiguismo: Poetic Syncretism in Alejo Carpentier's ‘Juego santo’”—is a little-studied poem by one of the earliest literary proponents of Afrocubanismo. This chapter begins with a brief exploration of Carpentier's decisive role as a founder of this artistic and cultural movement, but the focus is on the poem itself and, more specifically, its relationship to and evocation of Afro-Cuban carnival traditions. The chapter demonstrates how—in an act of poetic syncretism—Alejo Carpentier melds two public spectacles that had long been associated with Ñáñiguismo, or the Abakuá secret society: semi-public, sacred processions that were performed as part of ñáñigo initiation ceremonies, and carnivalesque “comparsas ñáñigas,” which first emerged during nineteenth-century Día de Reyes celebrations, and then eventually became integrated into traditional carnival festivities.

Keywords:   Carnival, Ñáñiguismo, Alejo Carpentier, Juego santo, Afrocubanismo, cultural movement, Afro-Cuban carnival traditions

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