Cuba’s Wild East

Cuba’s Wild East: A Literary Geography of Oriente

Volume: 1
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
Pages: 455
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  • Book Info
    Cuba’s Wild East
    Book Description:

    Cuba’s Wild East: A Literary Geography of Oriente recounts a literary history of modern Cuba that has four distinctive and interrelated characteristics. Oriented to the east of the island, it looks aslant at a Cuban national literature that has sometimes been indistinguishable from a history of Havana. Given the insurgent and revolutionary history of that eastern region, it recounts stories of rebellion, heroism, and sacrifice. Intimately related to places and sites which now belong to a national pantheon, its corpus—while including fiction and poetry—is frequently written as memoir and testimony. As a region of encounter, that corpus is itself resolutely mixed, featuring a significant proportion of writings by US journalists and novelists as well as by Cuban writers.

    eISBN: 978-1-84631-717-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of illustrations and maps
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Note on language and translations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    In Cuba the term Oriente, which just means ‘east’ in Spanish, has long been applied to the easternmost part of the island, roughly a quarter of the country’s total area. It is not uncommon for one of the four main compass points to be turned into a regional designation, usually with a very particular set of resonances: in the USA, the west; in Italy, the south; in England, the north. Although the resonances of these norths and souths and easts and wests are obviously very specific to the countries concerned, Cuba’s Oriente shares some characteristics with Italy’s south or England’s...

  6. Chapter One James J. O’Kelly at Jiguaní (1873)
    (pp. 17-72)

    Cuba’s national day is 10 October because on that date in 1868 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes freed the 30 slaves on his small sugar plantation at La Demajagua, just outside Manzanillo, in the heart of Oriente, beginning the movement for Cuban independence from Spain which came to fruition in 1898. That night Céspedes and his supporters advanced on the town of Yara, some thirty miles away, which they attacked on the morning of 11 October. They were repulsed, but this first military action of the campaign which would become the Ten Years’ War was called by the Spanish the ‘Grito...

  7. Chapter Two José Martí at Vega del Jobo (1895)
    (pp. 73-122)

    When the Ten Years’ War broke out in 1868, José Martí was only 15 years old but already deeply committed to the cause of Cuban independence, to which he would dedicate his life. By 1895 Martí had become the figurehead of the Cuban struggle against Spanish rule. He was a poet and intellectual and political activist, combining arms and letters in the classical manner: one entry from his 1895 war diary reads: ‘I tuck theLife of Cicerointo the same pocket where I’m carrying fifty bullets.’¹ This war diary has long been regarded as a national treasure, the final...

  8. Chapter Three Richard Harding Davis in Santiago de Cuba (1897)
    (pp. 123-170)

    The early death of Martí, followed by the military successes of Máximo Gómez and Antonio Maceo, and then by Maceo’s own death in December 1896, galvanised US interest in events in Cuba. Melodramatic journalism fanned public awareness. The first piece of US fiction which could be considered a response to the events in Cuba in the 1890s was Richard Harding Davis’sSoldiers of Fortune, an adventure story firmly grounded in the actual relationships between US industry and Cuba, even though the novel’s setting is an invented South American country called Olancho.Soldiers of Fortunewas mostly written over the summer...

  9. Chapter Four Edward Stratemeyer at Siboney (1898)
    (pp. 171-225)

    While Frederick Ober and Richard Harding Davis wrote romances for teenagers and adults about the Cuban insurrection, the Spanish-American War which followed in the summer of 1898 produced several other kinds of writing, all still focusing on Oriente. The build-up to the war and the invasion itself saw huge amounts of journalism, followed by memoirs produced by participants—none more forthright than Theodore Roosevelt—with occasional stories and novels to follow. Richard Harding Davis also had a leading role here as the most prominent journalist of his generation, though even he acknowledged the primacy of his younger contemporary, Stephen Crane,...

  10. Chapter Five Andrew Summers Rowan in Bayamo (1898)
    (pp. 226-279)

    Although General Máximo Gómez was in command of the Cuban army from 1895 to 1898, the figure who came to represent the Cuban insurgency, at least to a US readership, was General Calixto García Íñiguez. García had the advantage of a romantic history. In 1873, during the Ten Years’ War, on the point of capture by Spanish troops, he had put a pistol under his chin and fired. The bullet left a hole in his forehead, but he miraculously survived. After he had recovered sufficiently to face a firing squad, Spanish soldiers called attention to how well he had treated...

  11. Chapter Six Josephine Herbst in Realengo 18 (1935)
    (pp. 280-312)

    If 1898 and 1959 are the obvious turning points in modern Cuban history, 1935 is not far behind in significance. The republic established in 1902 had always lacked credibility. The economy saw spectacular boom and boost; political life was marked by rampant corruption; racial tensions frequently erupted; and always, behind the scenes, was the USA, ready to invoke the Platt Amendment and retake direct control of the island, as it did in 1906–09 and 1917–22. Oriente in particular was scarred by the violence of the so-called ‘race war’ [la guerra de razas]—one small incident of which saw...

  12. Chapter Seven Antonio Núñez Jiménez on Pico Turquino (1945)
    (pp. 313-371)

    At the end of December 1956 the young Cuban geographer, Antonio Núñez Jiménez, published in the Havana journalBohemiaan essay entitled ‘Así es la Sierra Maestra’ [This is the Sierra Maestra].¹ The opening paragraph of the essay is very much of a piece with the descriptions we have seen from James J. O’Kelly, Pablo de la Torriente Brau, Josephine Herbst, and other visitors to the mountainous districts of Oriente:

    The Sierra Maestra is the most rugged and least known area in Cuba with respect to its geographical details. Its green mountains, sometimes reaching higher than the clouds, form an...

  13. Chapter Eight ‘Less than human’: Guantánamo Bay (2002)
    (pp. 372-397)

    This book has covered plenty of ground: from Bayamo and Manzanillo in the west of its region, across the Sierras Maestra and Cristal to the great port of Santiago de Cuba and to Baracoa in the east. It followed José Martí’s last journey just inland from the inner part of Guantánamo Bay, and it paused at the outer part where Stephen Crane landed with the US marines in June 1898. The last chapter of the book has to return to Guantánamo Bay. I wish it were not so. What has happened in places colours their names for ever: Auschwitz, Wounded...

  14. Envoi
    (pp. 398-399)

    Regino E. Boti (1878–1958) lived a relatively quiet life in Guantánamo—quiet at least by the standards of most of the people who have danced across the pages of this book. His family was fairly prosperous; he worked as a public notary; he took part in local politics; he had a long and happy marriage; and he produced one of most distinguished bodies of poetry to have emerged from Oriente.

    I wanted to end here, with a poem like this, in order to take away the bad taste left by the last chapter and to return Guantánamo to Cuba,...

  15. Glossary
    (pp. 400-401)
  16. Acknowledgements
    (pp. 402-404)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 405-439)
  18. Index
    (pp. 440-460)