Performing Loyalties in Latin American History, Part 2: Forging Loyalties in the Latin American Cold War: The Politics of Media, Cultural Productions, and Performances

AHA Session 286
Conference on Latin American History 65
Sunday, January 6, 2019: 11:00 AM-12:30 PM
Salon 7 (Palmer House Hilton, Third Floor)
Aiala Levy, University of Scranton
Matthew B. Karush, George Mason University

Session Abstract

The year 2019 marks the thirtieth anniversary of the dramatic final acts of the Cold War, with the fall of the Berlin Wall and subsequent dissolution of the Soviet Union. Despite the passage of time, in Latin America, Cold War struggles remain familiar and immediate, if not ongoing. In 2016, a Colombian peace negotiation and the passing of Fidel Castro provided just two examples of processes and events that bring Cold War histories into the here and now. As the Cold War continues to haunt the Latin American present, this panel seeks to revisit its past. Building on the work compiled in the pioneering volume, In from the Cold: Latin America’s New Encounter with the Cold War (Duke University Press, 2008), the panel takes seriously the quotidian, social, and cultural as important arenas for hashing out political struggles. Along with cultural production, the panel also includes performance as an important, if under examined realm of Cold War political, social, and cultural histories.

The papers discuss a variety of geographic sites and scales, including British Guiana, Cuba, Northeastern Brazil, and transnational relationships between Havana and Chicago, as well as different media including cultural festivals, television, poetry, film, and ballet. Ramaesh J. Bhagirat-Rivera examines the use of state-sponsored cultural festivals as a tool for racial reconciliation in Cold War British Guiana. Jennifer Lambe investigates the centrality of television to emerging revolutionary politics, arguing that Cubans built and sustained loyalties to the Cuban Revolution through screen life. Sarah Sarzynski analyzes how popular poets, filmmakers and rural social movement activists in Northeastern Brazil used historical themes of slavery, abolition, and quilombos to advocate for agrarian reform before the 1964 coup. Elizabeth Schwall jumps between Havana and Chicago, teasing out decades of friendship between Cuban ballerina Alicia Alonso and Chicago dance critic Ann Barzel to argue that shared loyalties to dance friendships overcame geopolitical, ideological divides during the Cold War. In these cases, media provided the means for forging loyalties to projects of nation-building, reform, and art, sometimes shoring up and sometimes defying polarized world orders.

Taken together the panel seeks to revisit and revise existing understandings of the Latin American Cold War, as part of a workshop on cultural production and performance in Latin American History. The commentator of the panel, Matt Karush, is an expert on the political history of Argentine mass culture and on transnational cultural history more broadly. We expect the audience to include those interested in Latin American and Caribbean History, global Cold War History, and the place of cultural production and performance in historical writing across time and space.