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Unbecoming Blackness

The Diaspora Cultures of Afro-Cuban America

Antonio Lopez

Publication Year: 2012

In Unbecoming Blackness, Antonio López uncovers an important, otherwise unrecognized century-long archive of literature and performance that reveals Cuban America as a space of overlapping Cuban and African diasporic experiences.

López shows how Afro-Cuban writers and performers in theU.S. align Cuban black and mulatto identities, often subsumed in the mixed-race and postracial Cuban national imaginaries, with the material and symbolic blackness of African Americans and other Afro-Latinas/os. In the works of Alberto O’Farrill, Eusebia Cosme, Rómulo Lachatañeré, and others, Afro-Cubanness articulates the African diasporic experience in ways that deprive negro and mulato configurations of an exclusive link with Cuban nationalism. Instead, what is invoked is an “unbecoming” relationship between Afro-Cubans in the U.S and their domestic black counterparts. The transformations in Cuban racial identity across the hemisphere, represented powerfully in the literary and performance cultures of Afro-Cubans in the U.S., provide the fullest account of a transnational Cuba, one in which the Cuban American emerges as Afro-Cuban-American, and the Latino as Afro-Latino.

Published by: NYU Press


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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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p. vii

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pp. ix-xi

This book hardly resembles the project I began while in the English Department at Rutgers University, but the confidence John McClure, Brent Edwards, and Bruce Robbins showed in me then has encouraged me ever since....

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pp. 1-17

One afternoon late in 1929, two Afro-Cuban men visited the Havana home of an Afro-Cuban woman to conduct an interview for a newspaper article. Nicolás Guillén was already known for his journalism and was on the way to becoming a renowned poet. His companion, Gustavo Urrutia, was a prominent figure in Afro-Cuban social and intellectual life as the editor of..

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1 Alberto O’Farrill: A Negrito in Harlem

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pp. 18-60

In an April 1929 edition of the Diario de la Marina, two essays appeared side by side in “Ideales de una Raza”: “El teatro cubano” (Cuban Theater), published by Gustavo Urrutia in “Armonías,” and “El camino de Harlem” (The Road to Harlem) by Nicolás Guillén. In “Teatro,” Urrutia calls for a “modern Cuban...

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2 Re/Citing Eusebia Cosme

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pp. 61-111

In a crypt in the Sunset Mausoleum of the Flagler Memorial Park on Flagler Street and Fifty-Third Avenue in Miami rest the remains of one of the most important Afro-Cuban women cultural figures of twentiethcentury Cuba and its U.S. diaspora. The crypt plate offers an identification: “Eusebia Cosme, Vda...

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3 Supplementary Careers, Boricua Identifications

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pp. 112-153

Among the modern Afro-Cuban American performance identities and archival sites of the first part of the book, there was always a mainlandboricua presence: the Puerto Rican in the United States. O’Farrill appeared at the Teatro Apolo and Teatro...

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4 Around 1979: Mariel, McDuffie, and the Afterlives of Antonio

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pp. 154-184

I turn now to the cultures of two 1979 Miami murders, seeing in them still other signs of the circulation of race in Cuban America. In March of that year, a white Cuban American was found dead on SW Eighth Street, killed as a consequence of his work in the illegal-drug economy. No one was ever charged in the...

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5 Cosa de Blancos: Cuban American Whiteness and the Afro-Cuban-Occupied House

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pp. 185-212

During the 1990s, a narrative flashpoint appeared repeatedly in the works of Cuban American writers, particularly among those with origins in the first postrevolutionary migration (1959–1962): that of a return trip to Cuba. As even a brief selection shows, Cuban American return narratives of the 1990s signify in multiple ways. Pablo...

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Conclusion: “Write the Word Black Twice”

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pp. 213-218

A few years ago, I discovered an article in a Spanish-language newspaper in Washington, DC, that, returning to it now, I realize connects to my work in a way I had failed to anticipate. It describes the lives of Latinas/ os of African descent in the area, and it makes a striking claim: while “in some studies” they are...


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pp. 219-260


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pp. 261-272

About the Author

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p. 273

E-ISBN-13: 9780814765487
E-ISBN-10: 0814765467
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814765463

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 820787554
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Unbecoming Blackness

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Cuban Americans -- Intellectual life -- 20th century.
  • Cuban Americans -- Ethnic identity.
  • Blacks -- United States -- Intellectual life -- 20th century.
  • African Americans -- Intellectual life -- 20th century.
  • American literature -- Cuban American authors.
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