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Diasporic Generations

Diasporic Generations: Memory, Politics, and Nation among Cubans in Spain

Mette Louise Berg
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Diasporic Generations
    Book Description:

    Interpretations of the background to the Cuban diaspora - a political revolution and the subsequent radical transformation of the society and economy towards socialism - are politicised and highly contested. The Miami-based Cuban diaspora has had extraordinary success in putting its case high on the US political agenda and in capturing world media attention, but in the process the multiplicity of experiences within the diaspora has been overshadowed. This book gives voice to diasporic Cubans living in Spain, the former colonial ruler of Cuba. By focusing on their lived experiences of displacement, the book brings to light imaginative, narrative re-creations of the nation from afar. Drawing on extensive ethnographic fieldwork, the book argues that the Cuban diaspora in Spain consists of three diasporic generations, generated through distinct migratory experiences. This constitutes an important step forward in understanding the dynamics of memory-making and social differentiation within diasporas, and in appreciating why people within the same diaspora engage in different modes of transnational practices and homeland relations.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-246-7
    Subjects: Anthropology, Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
    Mette Louise Berg
  4. Introduction The Changing Contours of a Contested Island
    (pp. 1-26)

    Yanet lives in Spain, but was born and grew up in Havana, Cuba. Yanet left Cuba in 1999, soon after she married her Spanish husband whose business involves building projects in Cuba. Many émigré Cubans are not allowed to return to the island, but since Yanet left Cuba through marriage to a Spanish citizen she has been allowed to travel in and out. Her husband’s comfortable economic situation meant that she could dedicate herself to painting and she has been able to travel between Havana and Madrid frequently.

    When she arrived in her new home in Getafe, a modern suburb...

  5. Chapter 1 Cuba, Ethnography and the Politics of Fieldwork
    (pp. 27-38)

    The material presented in this book is based on multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork carried out primarily in Madrid between May 2001 and September 2002, with two follow-up visits in December 2002 and July 2009 respectively. During the main period of fieldwork I also went to Barcelona and Cadiz in Spain, Havana, Cuba and Miami, Florida. I chose Madrid as my base because more Cubans lived there than anywhere else in Spain according to the figures available at the time. My research in Spain was informed by fieldwork I conducted in Havana in 1998 on processes of marginalization in Old Havana, the...

  6. Chapter 2 Diasporic Generations
    (pp. 39-68)

    Why do diasporic Cubans remember and imagine their homeland in different and sometimes irreconcilable ways? Cubans themselves were often adamant that they had ‘nothing to do’ with other Cubans who arrived in Spain in different periods to themselves or for different reasons. Reasons for leaving Cuba varied from the particular circumstances of an individual’s life and their political views, to constraints on social and economic mobility, or specific events such as repressive or interventionist measures, or the economic crisis of the 1990s. A few of my informants were persecuted and chose to leave rather than face prison sentences or continued...

  7. Chapter 3 The Exiles
    (pp. 69-96)

    Many diasporic Cubans emphasized the individual and idiosyncratic aspects of their personal experiences of leaving the island. Yet as I undertook interviews, listened to stories and became part of conversations and social interaction, commonalities started to emerge. In the broadest sense these were in the form of an orientation towards Cuba, and more specifically in the culturally embedded forms of expressing belonging. Thus for all the Cubans I met during fieldwork, memories of home, homeland and migration were given form by spoken and written narratives, whether referring to ideas of the nation or ‘fatherland’ (patria), or simply the family home....

  8. Chapter 4 The Children of the Revolution
    (pp. 97-126)

    Cubans who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s are often referred to ashijos de la revolución, Children of the Revolution. They have lived all of their lives under the revolutionary government, and were as a generation destined to become the socialistHombre Nuevo, or New Man (Guevara 1977). However, disappointment and a sense of unfulfilled promises pushed many to desert the island or to become part of theinsilio, or ‘insile’. ‘I gradually stopped being a child of Utopia and was converted instead into something like a brother of Atlantis’, muses the essayist Iván de la Nuez (1999:...

  9. Chapter 5 The Migrants
    (pp. 127-154)

    The most recent diasporic generation consists of those Cubans who I call the Migrants. They arrived in Spain after the Special Period in Cuba; that is, from the mid 1990s onwards. Motivated mainly by a hope of improving their material standard of living – some also by a sense of adventure and a wish to see the world – they have emigrated in a variety of ways, including through job-related travelling, marriage to a Spaniard, or they have taken the routevia Rusia(see Chapter 2). Some say they made the decision because they suddenly found they had the chance...

  10. Chapter 6 Gender, Diaspora and the Body
    (pp. 155-178)

    In previous chapters I have illustrated how different groups of people have variously remembered or forgotten different aspects of Cuban history. Diasporic Cubans often explicitly narrate their memories of homeland, diaspora and belonging in response to other narratives, notably those of other groups of Cubans, those of the Cuban government, and in response to the narratives of Spaniards. Narrated memories, in short, form part of the ‘reflexive debate’ (Goodman 2000: 161) among diasporic Cubans that this book has attempted to record and examine. But the degree of awareness of other narratives and discourses varies a great deal, and one person’s...

  11. Conclusion The Memory of Politics and the Politics of Memory
    (pp. 179-186)

    Interpretations of the background to the Cuban diaspora – a political revolution and the subsequent radical transformation of the society and economy towards socialism – are politicized and highly contested. Yet the extraordinary success of the Miami-based Cuban diaspora in putting its case high on the US political agenda and in capturing world media attention has resulted in a situation where the internal diversity and the multiplicity of experiences within the diaspora have been eclipsed in favour of a monolithic narrative of anti-communism and political radicalism. Thus, to paraphrase Max Castro, the stories of ‘the multiple real and possible’ Cuban...

  12. Glossary
    (pp. 187-188)
  13. References
    (pp. 189-202)
  14. Index
    (pp. 203-214)