The Americas 60.2 (2003) 294-296
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This publication is based on the proceedings of an international conference held at the Centro Juan Marinello in January, 1999. Funded in part by the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American studies at Harvard, its purpose was to explore the multiple links between the national cultures of Cuba and the United States. Participants included Cubans and North Americans, many of whom had not previously had the chance to speak about such issues in a bilingual context and with members of both countries present. Culturas encontradas contains individual papers and also commentary from other participants. It is organized into four broad sections: music; education, art and literature; religion; and race.
The music section begins with an essay by Lisa Knauer on the performance of rumba and santería devotional music in the New York City area. She considers the diverse meanings of such "displaced" expression as performed, danced, and listened to by Cubans, Puerto Ricans, white Americans, and others in new contexts. The next essay by Leonardo Acosta examines the intertwined history of popular music in Cuba and the United States. His analysis touches on the relationship between the Cuban danzón and early ragtime, the impact of international latin dance crazes, and the emergence of latin jazz. This is followed by a shorter piece on classical music by Radamés Giro, which describes the life of North American Louis Moreau Gottschalk, his visits to Cuba, and his interactions with composer Nicolás Ruiz Espadero.
The section on education, art, and literature begins with Luz Merino Acosta's discussion of the plastic arts. She comments on the influence of North American realism in Cuba, noting the popularity of magazines such as Social (influenced by Vanity Fair and Vogue) and of U.S. advertising techniques. Mario Coyula explores the impact of inventions from the United States such as cinema, automobiles, electric trams, telephones, radio, and eventually television in twentieth-century Cuba. He then turns his attention to prominent buildings in Havana that were either built by U.S. firms or inspired by North American construction. Esther Whitfield's essay follows, comparing books by two different Cuban women, Cristina García's The Aguero Sisters and Zoe Valdés' Te dí la vida entera. Whitfield's thesis is that each author uses Spanish terminology in different ways; García attempts to seduce her [End Page 294] readers with accessible phrases of intimacy while Valdés keeps readers at a distance with obscure "Cubanisms." Alfonso Quiroz finishes the section with an essay on educational reform in Cuba during the first U.S. military intervention of 1898-1902. He ponders the effect of such efforts and whether instruction improved under North American as opposed to Spanish rule.
Section three begins with Rafael Cepeda's analysis of the U.S. missionary presence in Cuba in the early twentieth century. His review of correspondence suggests that missionaries' genuine interest in helping the Cuban population was often problematized by their ignorance of Cuban history, culture, and politics, and in some cases their racist mindset. Carlos Manuel de Céspedes García-Menocal writes on the life of father Félix Varela and the years he spent working in the New York area beginning in the 1820s. James Lorand Matory provides an extended essay on the movement of Yoruban religious practices from West Africa to Cuba and then to the United States. He stresses the importance of santería to many African Americans in the present and notes their attempts to "purify" the religion, divesting it of influences deriving from Spain or from Catholicism. Matory's essay is followed by some of the most interesting participant commentary, especially that of Rogelio Martínez Furé.
Lisa Brock and Otis Cunninham begin the race section by discussing segregated baseball teams at the turn of the twentieth century. They explore the reasons for the immense...