The Negrito as National Hero: Boxer Kid Chocolate and the Tensions in Cuban Racial Discourse

Saturday, January 4, 2014: 11:50 AM
Cabinet Room (Omni Shoreham)
Enver Michel Casimir, Marist College
Afro-Cuban boxer Kid Chocolate became a national hero in Cuba during the 1920s and 1930s as a result of his considerable success in the world of professional boxing. As the nation’s first world champion in the sport, he continues to be a national hero to this day. This paper will explore the ways in which discussions of Kid Chocolate’s career in the Cuban press reveal multiple, and at times contradictory, discursive strands with regard to race and its relation to the Cuban nation-building project. On the one hand Cubans seized on the career of Kid Chocolate as a means of challenging the racist ideology that undergirded U.S. involvement in Cuban affairs. On the other hand, Chocolate’s popularity was often cited as evidence that racial discrimination within Cuba was not a significant issue. Lastly, while Kid Chocolate’s appearance made it impossible to ignore his racial identity completely, Cuban sportswriters used the term ‘negrito’ to emphasize his Cuban-ness even as they engaged that appearance.