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Afro-Cuban Theology

Religion, Race, Culture, and Identity

Michelle A. Gonzalez

Publication Year: 2006

The first book to compare Cuban American and African American religiosity, Afro-Cuban Theology argues that Afro-Cuban religiosity and culture are central to understanding the Cuban and Cuban American condition. Gonzalez interprets this saturation of the Afro-Cuban as transcending race and affecting all Cubans and Cuban Americans in spite of their pigmentation or self-identification. Building on a historical overview of the intersection of race, religion, and nationhood, the author explores the manner in which devotion to La Caridad del Cobre, popular religion, and Cuban letters inform an Afro-Cuban theology.

This interdisciplinary study draws from various theological schools as well as the disciplines of history, literary studies, and ethnic studies. The primary discipline is systematic theology, with special attention to black and Latino/a theologies. Far from being disconnected subfields, they are interrelated areas within theological studies. Gonzalez provides a broad overview of the Cuban and Cuban American communities, emphasizing the manner in which the intersection of race and religion have functioned within the construction of Cuban and Cuban American identities. The Roman Catholic Church's role in this history, as well as the preservation of African religious practices and consequent formation of Afro-Cuban religions, are paramount.

Also groundbreaking is the collaborative spirit between black and Latino/a that underlines this work. The author proposes an expansion of racial identity recognizing the different cultures that exist within U.S. racial contexts--specifically a model of collaboration versus dialogue between black and Latino/a theologies.

Published by: University Press of Florida

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-v


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pp. vii

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xi

I first became aware of liberation theology as an undergraduate at Georgetown University in an “Introduction to Black Liberation Theology” course taught by Dr. Diana Hayes. I found the material electrifying. I was at the time a theology minor, and though I had a great interest in the discipline I had yet to find a dimension of theology that impassioned me. ...

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-14

This book examines the intersection of black and Latino/a culture and religiosity through the study of a particular group, namely the Cuban-American community. In its history and religiosity, Cuban/Cuban-American culture is characterized by an Afro-Cuban component. A study of Cuban-American religiosity and its theological implications offers a fruitful entry point for collaborations between black and Latino/a theologians. ...

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2. Are We All Mestizos?: The Construction of Identity in Latino/a Theology

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pp. 15-33

Latino/a theologians place the context and culture of Latino/a peoples at the center and as the starting point of their theologies. Whether emphasizing lo cotidiano (daily life), mestizaje, or popular religion, the particular contours of Latino/a religious expressions are the core of Latino/a theological writings. Latino/ a theologians foreground their ethno-socio-cultural particularity...

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3. Are Afro-Latins Black?: The Construction of Blackness in Black Theology

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pp. 34-50

Black theology emerged in the mid-1960s as an explosive theological movement in the United States. Nurtured by church leaders and academic theologians, black theology claims that the Christian God is a God of liberation and love. Black theologians conveyed a message of self-love to African-Americans as children of God born in the image of God. ...

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4. Cuban/Cuban-American Identity: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives

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pp. 51-77

For the past century the United States and Cuba have shared a complex and close history. From the Platt Amendment to the current embargo, from the Cuban missile crisis to the Bay of Pigs, from Desi Arnez to Gloria Estefan, from cigars to baseball, the relationship between Cuba and the United States has gone from moments of close diplomatic unity...

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5. La Caridad del Cobre: Mother and Author of the Cuban People

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pp. 78-101

La Virgen de Caridad del Cobre, or Cachita as Cubans affectionately call her, is a vital symbol of Cuban religious and national identity. Even for those without religious beliefs, she is a symbol of what it means to be Cuban. La Caridad began as a local devotion among a community of slaves in seventeenth century Cuba and has grown over the years to become the national patroness of the island. ...

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6. Popular Religion as a Source for Understanding the Church

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pp. 102-120

The Castellanos’ remarks, while perhaps drawing too rigid a line between orthodox and nonorthodox Catholicism, nonetheless accent the importance of popular religion in the Cuban and Cuban-American ethos. The Castellanos also highlight the ambiguous and often tense relationship Cubans and Cuban- Americans share with the institutional Catholic Church. ...

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7. Our Stories: Race in Theological Anthropology

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pp. 121-140

For centuries Christian authors have attempted to articulate the nature of humanity, created in the image and likeness of God. Theological anthropology is the area in theology that strives to understand humanity’s relationship with God and its implications for the human community. In modern history, this area (and theology in general) has been elaborated predominantly through...

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8. Conclusion

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pp. 141-149

Throughout this study I have argued the centrality of Afro-Cuban religiosity and culture for understanding the Cuban/Cuban-American condition. This Afro-Cuban saturation of Cuban and Cuban-American life goes well beyond race to affect all Cubans and Cuban-Americans despite their pigmentation or self-identification. Ultimately, if one is to take seriously the Afro-Cuban...


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pp. 151-167


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pp. 169-181


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pp. 183-191

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About the Author

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pp. 192

Michelle A. Gonzalez is assistant professor of religious studies at the University of Miami. She holds her doctorate in systematic theology from the Graduate Theological Union. In addition to numerous articles on Latino/a and Latin American theologies, she is the author of Sor Juana: Beauty and Justice in the Americas.

E-ISBN-13: 9780813037158
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813029979
Print-ISBN-10: 081302997X

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2006