Race and Ethnographic Literature since the Cuban Revolution
The overthrow of Cuban president and dictator Fulgencio Batista in January of 1959, and the triumph of the 26 of July Movement and its charismatic leader Fidel Castro initiated a radical restructuring of many aspects of Cuban society. In the space of two years, both the makeup of the Cuban body politic and the idea of what Cuba underwent when it went through an abrupt, dramatic transformation. Even as the possibility of a single coherent national project became all the more vexed, ethnographic literature was a part of this dramatic transformation of the Cuban imaginary. With the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959, the island—and its writers—entered a new moment of national re-definition. This epilogue traces the shifts in the relationship between the ethnographic and the literary and the discourse surrounding blackness in Cuba in the wake of the Revolution. The leaders of the Revolution declared that it had eradicated racism; to talk about racial difference was to focus unnecessarily on divisions of the past. As this revolutionary rhetoric closed the space for discussing race, the space for discursive encounter also changed. Among writers on the island, encounters between ethnography and literature, while still innovative, moved in ways that bolstered the larger narrative of the Cuban Revolution. In an effort to contest the Revolutionary cooptation of earlier texts, Cabrera, in exile in Miami, returned to a more conservative—and more nostalgic—form of ethnographic narration.
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