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Prostitution, Modernity, and the Making of the Cuban Republic, 1840-1920

Tiffany A. Sippial

Publication Year: 2013

Between 1840 and 1920, Cuba abolished slavery, fought two wars of independence, and was occupied by the United States before finally becoming an independent republic. Tiffany A. Sippial argues that during this tumultuous era, Cuba's struggle to define itself as a modern nation found focus in the social and sexual anxieties surrounding prostitution and its regulation.
Sippial shows how prostitution became a prism through which Cuba's hopes and fears were refracted. Widespread debate about prostitution created a forum in which issues of public morality, urbanity, modernity, and national identity were discussed with consequences not only for the capital city of Havana but also for the entire Cuban nation.
Republican social reformers ultimately recast Cuban prostitutes--and the island as a whole--as victims of colonial exploitation who could be saved only by a government committed to progressive reforms in line with other modernizing nations of the world. By 1913, Cuba had abolished the official regulation of prostitution, embracing a public health program that targeted the entire population, not just prostitutes. Sippial thus demonstrates the central role the debate about prostitution played in defining republican ideals in independent Cuba.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press

Series: Envisioning Cuba

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Quote

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-9

Illustrations and Tables

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

I owe a debt of gratitude to so many people who have encouraged me along this journey. First and foremost, I would like to thank my friends and colleagues at Auburn University who welcomed me in 2007 with open arms and are truly dream colleagues in every sense of the word. I am especially...

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pp. 1-17

A city map offers a glimpse into a society’s hopes, dreams, fears, and desires. The way a city is organized reveals a great deal about how its residents view their relationship to the outside world and to one another. Maps are never mere facsimiles of established spatial relationships but rather they serve as...

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CHAPTER ONE: Zones of Delinquency, Zones of Desire: Locating Public Women in the Walled City, 1840–1868

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pp. 18-47

As a booming tobacco industry swelled Havana’s urban population during the 1840s, local residents expressed increased apprehension about the influx of unruly masses—immigrants, ex-slaves, migrant workers, and prostitutes—into honorable neighborhoods. The demolition of the city...

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CHAPTER TWO: Sex, War, and Disease in the Tropics Colonial Conflict and the Cuban Social Body, 1868–1886

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pp. 48-84

For Europe’s nineteenth-century imperial powers, the issue of colonial governance was intimately tied to maintaining healthy armies. To that end, that century witnessed the development of tropical medicine as a vital weapon in the imperial arsenal. Tropical diseases were, for much of the nineteenth...

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CHAPTER THREE: We the Horizontals: Redefining Citizenship and Challenging Colonial Authority, 1886–1890

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pp. 85-111

Between 1886 and 1890 Cuba entered a new phase of political, economic, social, and demographic transition. The end of the Ten Years’ War (1868–78) and the Guerra Chiquita (1879–80) spurred massive foreign immigration to the island, primarily from Spain and the Canary Islands. According to historian...

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CHAPTER FOUR: A Pearl in the Mud Social Regeneration, U.S. Intervention, and the Demise of the Colonial Order, 1890–1902

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pp. 112-147

The stimulation of social dialog resulting from post-Zanjón reformism during the late 1880s opened a Pandora’s box that would prove diffi cult, if not impossible, to close as the end of the century drew near. During the late nineteenth century the daily press increasingly targeted the social and...

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CHAPTER FIVE: On the Road to Moral Progress: The New Republic and the Abolition of Regulated Prostitution, 1902–1925

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pp. 148-179

With the establishment of the republic in 1902, and the final withdrawal of U.S. troops from the island in 1909, Cubans expressed lingering concerns about the eff ects of foreign rule on the island. With the aid of the U.S. intervention government, Cuba had rid the island of serious contagious diseases...

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pp. 180-183

This study of Cuban prostitution is fi mly grounded in a desire to understand the untidy dynamics of nation building in a colonial and postcolonial setting. Unlike in many other Latin American countries, prostitution regulation in Cuba during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was...


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pp. 185-208


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pp. 209-227


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pp. 229-237

Further Reading

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pp. 239-254

E-ISBN-13: 9781469612706
E-ISBN-10: 1469612704
Print-ISBN-13: 9781469608938
Print-ISBN-10: 1469608936

Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 2 line drawings, 1 map
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Envisioning Cuba