Challenging the Nation: African Political Identity in 20th-Century Cuba

Friday, January 4, 2019: 8:30 AM
Salon 1 (Palmer House Hilton)
Dalia A. Muller, State University of New York at Buffalo
This paper explores articulations of African political identity in early 20th-century Cuba. Drawing on research spanning 1880s-1910 in Cuba’s three western provinces, the paper will trace the evolution of African political consciousness across the late 19th and into the 20th century as it developed alongside Cuban national identity. Among other things, I will explore how and why some of Cuba’s African-born and African-identified inhabitants saw themselves as distinct from “Cuban natives.” The creation of Cuban citizenship and the constitution of the Cuban republic in 1902 only intensified the resolve of Cuba’s Africans to articulate a separate identity. With nowhere to go and no way to stay in Cuba and refuse Cuban citizenship, Africans devised creative strategies of resistance to the state and nation. While these small acts of resistance were largely unsuccessful, they provide a fascinating window into the lives and perspectives of a group of island inhabitants who rejected one of the most politically inclusive states to emerge in the Americas in the 19th and 20th centuries. Rather than see this rejection as counterintuitive, I see it as political, purposeful and prescient.
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