Triscornia and the Construction of a Modern Cuba: Liberalism, Race, and Public Health in Early 20th-Century Cuba

AHA Session 131
Conference on Latin American History 27
Friday, January 7, 2022: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Southdown Room (Sheraton New Orleans, 4th Floor)
Kathleen López, Rutgers University–New Brunswick
The Audience

Session Abstract

This panel analyzes Triscornia, Havana’s immigration processing and sanitation station, as a symbol of liberal modernity in Cuba. Its three papers explore how public health, race, and scientific management converged in Triscornia, and represented separate discursive and practical elements inherent in the civilizing mission espoused by U.S. occupation officials and the liberalizing projects championed by Cuban elites. In his paper, Ahmed Correa draws from U.S. Marine Hospital Service reports to explain Triscornia’s origins and its role in the development of Cuba’s society and economy. He demonstrates how public health debates and policies shaped Cuba’s immigration system, workforce, and hemispheric relations. Kent Weber’s paper examines the racial discourses and infrastructures that governed Cuban immigration policies. Dr. Weber argues Triscornia served as a space in which race, nation, and migration converged and shaped national identity. Finally, John Ermer’s paper shows how Triscornia represented a model for liberal reform in Cuba that also elucidated the shortfalls in policies meant to construct specific versions of liberal modernity on the island. Dr. Kathleen López, of Rutgers University, has agreed to chair and comment on these papers. Together, these projects shed light on Triscornia, an under-studied Cuban institution, while exploring the different ways this unobtrusive complex across the water played a central role in the establishment of a “modern” and liberal Cuban republic.
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