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Revolutionizing Romance

Revolutionizing Romance: Interracial Couples in Contemporary Cuba

Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Revolutionizing Romance
    Book Description:

    Scholars have long heralded mestizaje, or race mixing, as the essence of the Cuban nation.Revolutionizing Romanceis an account of the continuing significance of race in Cuba as it is experienced in interracial relationships. This ethnography tracks young couples as they move in a world fraught with shifting connections of class, race, and culture that are reflected in space, racialized language, and media representations of blackness, whiteness, and mixedness. As one of the few scholars to conduct long-term anthropological fieldwork in the island nation, Nadine T. Fernandez offers a rare insider's view of the country's transformations during the post-Soviet era. Following a comprehensive history of racial formations up through Castro's rule, the book then delves into more intimate and contemporary spaces. Language, space and place, foreign tourism, and the realm of the family each reveal, through the author's deft analysis, the paradox of living a racialized life in a nation that celebrates a policy of colorblind equality.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-4923-1
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-26)

    As a teenager, Tamara, a blue-eyed, blond white Cuban woman, dated a classmate, Alberto, a dark-skinned black man. Near the cathedral in Old Havana, a middle-aged white couple looked at the young interracial couple in horror and commented quite loudly, “Look at that blond with light eyes, and she’s with a black!” Recounting the story to me, Tamara said, “That really shook me. It was the first time we were out together—like presenting our relationship to society—and that comment really had an impact on me. I felt ashamed because I thought of what Alberto must have felt. I...

  5. 1 Interracial Couples from Colony to Revolution
    (pp. 27-53)

    Interracial couples have populated all periods of Cuban history, but their frequency, patterns, and circumstances have changed over time along with the shifts in the political, economic, and social structures of the country. From Spanish colony to independent republic to socialist revolution, understandings of race and nation influenced the nature and meaning of interracial couples.

    Colonial Cuba was a plantation society and, at one time, the jewel in the crown of the Spanish colonial empire in the New World. Enslaved Africans powered the sugar plantations that fueled the colonial economy. As plantation owners increased sugar production during the first half...

  6. 2 Socialist Equality and the Color-Blind Revolution
    (pp. 54-79)

    Just two months after seizing power, Fidel Castro voiced the need for greater racial integration. In his historic speech of March 23, 1959, Castro presented the “four great battles for the well-being of the people” (Castro 1959a, 24). First was the battle against unemployment; second, to reduce the cost of living; third, to raise the salaries of the lowest-paid workers; and fourth, to end racial discrimination in the workplace. He pledged that his government planned to address racial discrimination in two major domains: in the workplace and in recreation and cultural centers (Castro 1959a). The public response to this announcement...

  7. 3 Mapping Interracial Couples: Race and Space in Havana
    (pp. 80-106)

    Even casual observations in Havana will affirm the racially integrated nature of the city, and especially in areas like Centro Habana. Dark-skinned Cubans can be found living next door to light-skinned Cubans in most areas. Whites, mulattos, and blacks stand in the same lines for food and the same queues for buses. Their children are in the same schools and play together in the same parks. The numbers, in fact, attest to the multiracial nature of the city as a whole, though there are darker and lighter municipios.

    The three-and-a-half-square-kilometer municipio of Centro Habana is one of the most densely...

  8. 4 The Everyday Presence of Race
    (pp. 107-127)

    Jaime, a young, white, working-class man, lived with his extended family in a cramped apartment in a rundown section of Centro Habana. He dated Madaleis, a mulata, and I visited his house often. In the following chapters, we will hear more about this couple’s story. On one visit, I entered the cluttered living room and found the room filled with family members and neighbors. Jaime’s sister was rocking a neighbor’s child to sleep in her arms. Another neighbor, a white man, Armando, who was often present in the apartment, looked at the black toddler sleeping in her white arms and...

  9. 5 Blackness, Whiteness, Class, and the Emergent Economy
    (pp. 128-148)

    In response to the economic crisis and material deprivations known as “the Special Period in Times of Peace” (1990–2006), precipitated by the collapse of the socialist bloc, the Cuban government actively pursued a number of reforms designed to jump-start the economy.¹ The government legalized of the possession of hard currency, expanded tourism and joint ventures with foreign corporations, liberalized remittances from abroad, and augmented the types of self-employment permitted (including some services and family restaurants known aspaladares).² Since the start of the special period in 1990, tourism has grown exponentially and has replaced sugar as the country’s main...

  10. 6 Interracial Couples and Racism at Home
    (pp. 149-174)

    One day when I was visiting Jaime’s house his five-year-old nephew, Albertico (his sister’s son), had just returned from school, and Jaime’s grandmother was preparing the child a glass of warm milk with sugar. As is common in many extended families, child care becomes the responsibility of the elder family members; in this case, Jaime’s grandmother was the primary caretaker of her great grandson, Albertico. Jaime’s uncle looked at the little boy and asked him to explain to me how he got the scratches on his face. The boy answered that he got them fighting with another boy who wanted...

  11. Epilogue
    (pp. 175-186)

    The Cuban revolution turned fifty in January of 2009, and the global context in which Cuba now positions itself has shifted dramatically since the band of bearded rebels took power half a century ago. This important anniversary has been a time for reflecting on the past as well as looking forward to the future. Academic journals both on and off the island have published special issues and a variety of institutions have organized conferences to assess and discuss the revolution.¹ Scholars have been weighing the successes and limitations of the revolution’s social, political, and economic agendas with a level of...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 187-196)
    (pp. 197-208)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 209-217)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 218-218)