Geographies of CubanidadPlace, Race, and Musical Performance in Contemporary Cuba

Geographies of CubanidadPlace, Race, and Musical Performance in Contemporary Cuba

Rebecca M. Bodenheimer

Print publication date: 2017

ISBN: 9781628462395

Publisher: University Press of Mississippi


Derived from the nationalist writings of José Martí, the concept of Cubanidad (Cubanness) has always imagined a unified hybrid nation where racial difference is nonexistent and nationality trumps all other axes of identity. Scholars have critiqued this celebration of racial mixture, highlighting a gap between the claim of racial harmony and the realities of inequality faced by Afro-Cubans since Independence in 1898. This book argues that it is not only the recognition of racial difference that threatens to divide the nation, but that popular regional sentiment further contests the hegemonic nationalist discourse. Given that music is a prominent symbol of Cubanidad, musical practices play an important role in constructing regional and local, as well as national, identities, and the book thus suggests that regional identity exerts a significant influence on the aesthetic choices Cuban musicians make. Through the examination of several genres, the book explores the various ways that race and the politics of place are entangled in contemporary Cuban music-making. It argues that racialized discourses that circulate about different cities affect both the formation of local identity and musical performance. Thus, the musical practices discussed—including rumba, timba, eastern Cuban folklore, and son—are examples of the intersections between regional identity formation, racialized notions of place, and music-making.