As some of you know, a handful of scholars–including Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, Aisha Nibbe, Alissa Bernstein, Carol Berger, Sabine Lehr and myself–have been writing about the lives of Cuban-educated international students. While most of us are ethnographers and anthropologists, because we have encountered these students in a wide range of contexts–anywhere from urban Cuba to refugee camps in the Sahara to rural Alberta–the work has not thus far been taken to represent or constitute a coherent or interrelated field of study. Nor is it, generally speaking, considered to be within the purview of Cuban or Cuban diasporic studies. In this post, building on some of my published or in-press work, I want to propose that the lives and experiences of Cuban-educated students pose interesting and worthwhile challenges to the commonsense understanding of Cubanness. Or more specifically, to hyphenated Cubanness, since Cuban-educated students do not generally claim to be “Cuban” so much as something else–Cuban-Saharan, Cuban-Ghanaian, Cuban-Sudanese, etc–and have commonly been motivated to neologize their own identities, as “Cuban-Jubans,” “ESBECANOS,” “Cubarauis,” or the like. These are people from among the tens of thousands of African and international students who have spend a decade or more–often half their lives–living, studying, and working in Cuba. Having arrived to Cuba as adolescents, and having been thrown wholesale into a new language, culture, and environment, arguably these students constitute a 1.5 generation, but in reverse, as immigrants to Cuba, not emigrants. One of these small and dispersed groups, the Cuban-educated students of the Western Sahara, has become the subject of a series of documentary films. Directed by Spaniards for particular audiences, as described by both Fiddian-Qasmiyeh and myself, despite their obvious ideological biases, I believe that these films are richly provocative to think with, for those of us interested in Cuban identity, diaspora, home, and belonging. Here is the trailer for the most recent documentary, El Maestro Saharaui (2011), directed by Nicolás Muñoz:
Now known to themselves and their saharaui (Saharan) kin as “cubarawis” or “cubarauis,” online, on facebook, on twitter and elsewhere, these former students are the principle authors, bloggers, dancers and poets of their distinctive experience, as well as documentary subjects. See, for instance, this blog http://elporvenirdelsahara.blogspot.com , and click here for some “salsa saharaui.”
Of the other “cubaraui” documentaries, Las Cubarauis (Márquez 2005) is most difficult to obtain; a portion of the film is available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oadqsTU7xJA . However, the full-length version of Caribeños del Sáhara (Pérez 2007), is available at: http://vimeo.com/11813252. , and a shorter version, Caribeños del Desierto (Pérez and Galdeano 2008) is available at: http://video.google.es/videoplay?docid=7949630530407106225&hl=es.
In any case, although we have had so much spam that we were forced to deactivate comments some time ago, I would love to hear the thoughts of colleagues about these documentaries, about Cuban-educated students, or about the work outlined above.