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Afro-Cuban Diasporas in the Atlantic World

Afro-Cuban Diasporas in the Atlantic World

Solimar Otero
Volume: 45
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 260
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  • Book Info
    Afro-Cuban Diasporas in the Atlantic World
    Book Description:

    ‘Afro-Cuban Diasporas in the Atlantic World’ explores how Yoruba and Afro-Cuban communities moved across the Atlantic between the Americas and Africa in successive waves in the nineteenth century. In Havana, Yoruba slaves from Lagos banded together to buy their freedom and sail home to Nigeria. Once in Lagos, this Cuban repatriate community became known as the Aguda. This community built their own neighborhood that celebrated their Afrolatino heritage. For these Yoruba and Afro-Cuban diasporic populations, nostalgic constructions of family and community play the role of narrating and locating a longed-for home. By providing a link between the workings of nostalgia and the construction of home, this volume re-theorizes cultural imaginaries as a source for diasporic community reinvention. Through ethnographic fieldwork and research in folkloristics, Otero reveals that the Aguda identify strongly with their Afro-Cuban roots in contemporary times. Their fluid identity moves from Yoruba to Cuban, and back again, in a manner that illustrates the truly cyclical nature of transnational Atlantic community affiliation. Solimar Otero is assistant professor of English and folklore at Louisiana State University and is research associate and visiting professor at the Women's Studies in Religion Program at the Harvard Divinity School from 2009 - 2010.

    eISBN: 978-1-58046-705-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. [Map]
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)

    For the Yoruba, the phrase orunile captures the notion of home that one carries with oneself from birth.¹ The idea is that we leave heaven, our home, to embark on a journey into the world, a marketplace. The marketplace referred to here is a West African marketplace where almost any kind of transaction may occur. It is a public space full of possibilities, danger, and wonder. In the Yoruba oja, the key component is the negotiation of the value of something through verbal barter. It is a sphere of performance where there are winners and losers. Individuals are encouraged to...

  7. 1 Grassroots Africans: Havana’s “Lagosians”
    (pp. 23-50)

    It was June 7, 1854, and Dolores Real was forty years old. She had lived for thirty years, most of her life, in the city of Havana, Cuba. She was now heading back to her city of birth in Africa: Lagos, Nigeria. When she was just a small girl, Spanish slavers took her to Cuba aboard what she remembered as a large vessel. She and the others were dropped off at the town of Cardenas. From there, they were taken to the slave barracks in the island’s capital, Havana, where she stayed for one month, awaiting her fate.

    Dolores was...

  8. 2 Returning to Lagos: Making the Oja Home
    (pp. 51-73)

    The idea of the oja, or the Yoruba marketplace, as home is suggested in the proverb quoted at the beginning of the introduction to this book: “Aiye ni oja, orun ni ile” (The world is a marketplace; heaven is home). Yoruba proverbs present a truncated form of meta-analysis that provides a cultural critique about both the subject matter at hand and the use of language to reflect that message.¹ They are reflexive in their deep play about the genre. The notion of the bustling, busy oja expressed in the proverb certainly applies to the place at which returning Africans and...

  9. 3 “Second Diasporas”: Reception in the Bight of Benin
    (pp. 74-87)

    In recent years, a deeper awareness has emerged of the sustained historical relationships across Afro-Atlantic worlds, and of the fact that the diasporas involved may be rethought in many ways.¹ Necessarily, African and American societies, spaces, and relations are now being understood as extensions of each other. These understandings include refreshing ways of seeing how communities extending from the Bight of Benin to the Caribbean and the Americas are contiguous and integrated in their histories, thus forcing us to rethink our notions of discrete regions. Along with the reconsideration of region in exploring these transnational flows is the movement of...

  10. 4 Situating Lagosian, Caribbean, and Latin American Diasporas
    (pp. 88-110)

    Pérez de la Riva answers his own question about the Cuban presence in Lagos, Nigeria, in the negative, citing a lack of “evidence of Cuban culture” in Lagos.¹ However, as seen in the work of Cuban historian Rodolfo Sarracino and from my own interviews with Aguda of Cuban heritage there is evidence of Cuban contributions to the culture of the Aguda in Lagos.² Indeed, the very name of Campos Square, where the Cuban Lodge is located, shows that an entire area in Lagos is named after a Cuban repatriate.³ Though Brazilian cultural aspects tend to dominate some visible forms of...

  11. 5 Creating Afrocubanos: Public Cultures in a Circum-Atlantic Perspective
    (pp. 111-139)

    In this poem, Cuban poet José Martí depicts the arrival of African slaves in Cuba in a tragic manner.¹ His characterization surrounds the violence done to Africans with metaphors of nature’s ferocity. The little boy in the last stanza foreshadows and represents the Cuban nation yet to be born out of this sordid past. The two tropes, of violence and nature, provide an entry point for a discussion of the development of the use of the idea of the African citizen in constructing national identity in Cuba. This idea of the emerging Afro-Cuban citizen was reformulated through re-remembering race and...

  12. Conclusion: Flow, Community, and Diaspora
    (pp. 140-156)

    This volume has examined how the Yoruba in Cuba and the Cuban-Yoruba in Nigeria constructed communities across the Atlantic. This particular flow of people and culture was fueled by a social imagination that understood the other shores of the Atlantic as a sort of homeland. One homeland did not rule out the other, however. The Lagosians in nineteenth-century Cuba and the Aguda in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Lagos understood their identities as diasporic, as fluid, and as belonging to the processes of journey and relocation. The longing that made these communities articulate a sense of difference in their new environments was...

  13. Appendix: Case Studies of Returnees to Lagos from Havana, Cuba
    (pp. 157-162)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 163-198)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 199-240)
  16. Index
    (pp. 241-247)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 248-251)