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Cuba Haiti: Musical Dialogues (The Creole Choir, and more)

By Ariana Hernandez-Reguant, Cuba Haiti, music 1 Comment »

The Creole Choir of Cuba is based in Camaguey and made out of  ten musicians who, accompanied by light percussion, celebrate the history of Haitian descendants with a mix of songs in French, Creole and Spanish. Their first international CD was just released on Real World Records (a world music label based in Britain and owned by Peter  Gabriel). The choir was presented at the Edinburgh Festival last summer and received to great acclaim. A review in The Scotsman went as far as to compare them to the Soweto Gospel Choir for their “cathartical emotion, dynamics and sheer technical bravado.” Below see the video promo for the album:

To contrast this slick world music production with contemporary footage of Haitian merengue as played and danced in Camaguey, please visit  El Lugareño.


For a lot more on the musical relations between Haiti and Cuba, I recommend you listen to the extraordinary Afropop’s Hip Deep podcast THE FERTILE CRESCENT: HAITI, CUBA AND LOUISIANA, produced by Ned Sublette in 2005. Here’s the show’s description:

In 1809 the population of New Orleans doubled almost overnight because of French-speaking refugees from Cuba.  You read that right, French-speaking refugees from Cuba — part of a wave of music and culture that emigrated from east to west in the wake of the Haitian Revolution.  We’ll look at the distinct African roots of these three regions, and compare what their musics sound like today.  In this Hip Deep edition of  Afropop Worldwide, our colleague Ned Sublette, author of “Cuba and Its Music: From the First Drum to the Mambo,” will talk with Dr. Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, author of “Africans in Colonial Louisiana”. Produced by Ned Sublette.

CALENDAR: For more on the points of contact between Cuban and Haitian culture, you might want to attend the Bildner Center‘s ACROSS THE WINDWARD PASSAGE SYMPOSIUM, to be to be held on March 5th in New York City. The workshop features papers by NYU professors Ada Ferrer (“Cuban Slave Society in the Shadow of the Haitian Revolution”) and  Sibylle Fischer (“Slavery and the Discourse of Universal Rights in Cuba, Haiti and Venezuela), and Washington University Romance Literatures Department’s chair Elzbieta Sklodowska (“Haiti and Cuban Oriente: Contact Zones and Zones of Silence”). For more details, click HERE.

The wonderful blog The Public Archive (an academic blog about Haiti with a similar approach to ours) just included a post on Antonio Maceo’s trip to Haiti. LINK.

Cuban Poster Art

By Ariana Hernandez-Reguant, Cultural production 2 Comments »

In preparing a lecture on Leninist propaganda (part of an intro course on the social uses of the media that proceeds historically), I searched for Soviet posters and ended up indulging my weakness for Cuban matters.

On the subject of Cuban posters, a good place to start is the book written by Bay area native and UC-Berkeley librarian Lincoln Cushing. Revolution! Cuban Poster Art (Chronicle Books 2003). The book contains informational text to accompany the high quality reproductions and so far my Cuban film course undergraduates have very much enjoyed it. Cushing also has a webpage with many images, information and links called Doc Populi. Another recent book, limited to film posters, is the bilingual Spanish-English “El Cartel de Cine Cubano, 1961-2004,” recently published in Madrid, and sold at the outrageous price of $150. Cuba’s ICAIC has also published over the years a number of books devoted to the subject of film posters. Casa de las Americas, in turn, recently hosted a comprehensive exhibit on 20th century Cuban graphic design.

On the web, a good private collection with excellent images is “The Chairman Smiles” of the International Institute of Social History, located in the Netherlands. Their collection includes, in addition to Cuban materials, Soviet and Chinese political posters. Their site has a very good bibliography (on propaganda in general, and specific to Soviet, Chinese and Cuban poster art), and good links.

The Cuban Organization for Solidarity with the People of Asia, Africa and Latin America (OSPAAL) was a major producer of these posters within Cuba. Their webpage reproduces many of theirs spanning several decades. They also have both old and new reproductions for sale.

Finally, also in English, there is a British blog, associated with the Dulwich Poster Gallery collection, called Cuban Posters. It is a very informative blog, with up to date postings and information.

You can see a sample of Cuban political posters on this video (shown to very dramatic music!):

And below is an interview with designer René Azcuy about the making of his famous poster “Besos Robados”, made in 1970 to accompany the release of Truffeau’s Stolen Kisses film in Cuba.

(Thanks to Jorge Mata for this link)

Finally, if you are in the New York area, you might want to visit the exhibit held at the Center for Cuban Studies in March-April 2010, featuring about a hundred Cuban posters:

New volume, Fieldwork Identities in the Caribbean, ed. by Erin Taylor

By Paul Ryer, new chapter/edited volume No Comments »

Thanks to Anna Pertierra for alerting us to Fieldwork Identities in the Caribbean, Caribbean Studies Press, ed. by Erin Taylor (2010).

In addition to Anna’s own previously posted article, “Anthropology That Warms Your Heart,” this volume, introduced by Diane Austin-Broos, includes Cuba-related articles by Elise Andaya – “Fieldwork Relations: Reflections on Identity and Ethnographic Methodology in Havana, Cuba” and Andrea Queeley – The Passing of a Black Yanqui: Fieldnotes from a Wannabe Santiaguera”.


8th CRI conference on Cuban and Cuba-American Studies

Conferences & CFPs 5 Comments »

Here is the reposted CFP for the 8th Cuban Research Institute conference at FIU, Feb. 4-6, 2010. The theme is “Cuba 2010: An Island in a Global World.”

UPDATE: see comments for a brief summary of the conference.

On Baseball and Moral Authority in Cuba. A PhD Dissertation by Ben Eastman.

dissertations 2 Comments »


Dissertation Defense of Benjamin Harris Eastman

“Baseball, Moral Authority and Political Transformation in Contemporary Cuban Socialism”

TUESDAY, Febrary 23, 2010 at 10:30 a.m. in Haskell 101

The Dissertation has been approved for hearing by the following members of the advisory committee who are: John D. Kelly (Chair). Raymond D. Fogelson. Stephan Palmie. John MacAloon

Amidst the deprivations and disappointments of the so-called Período Especial en Tiempo de Paz [Special Period in Peacetime], baseball in Cuba has remained a vital site for demonstrating concern for the values and meanings of Cuban socialism. It might seem in this context that baseball would indeed be a distraction from the more serious business of day-to-day survival among the ruins of a once formidable “cradle to grave” social welfare system. Yet, in the routinization of crisis that has marked the now 19 years since the “special period” was initially declared, this dissertation argues that the playing, spectating, and commodifying of baseball
in Cuba offers keys to understanding not only how oblivion has been averted but how new meanings have emerged to sustain Cuban social and political structures and to provide coherence, however contingent, however fleeting, to Cuban experiences of these crises.
Through an ethnographic as well as theoretical focus on games, on the categories of risk and contingency upon which they hinge, I consider the “enigmas of continuity and change” (Kelly 2005: 1015) in contemporary Cuban socialism as not exclusively matters of coercive force or economic prosperity (Kornai 1980, cf. Verdery 1996, Burawoy and Verdery 1999) by highlighting the ways in which structures are never total but always historical, and power emerges in the specific ways in which risks are taken and the results managed in collective efforts, both official and popular, to make sense of as well as inhabit a post-Soviet world.

* Ben Eastman previously published “Rejected America: Adolfo Luque, American interventionism and Cubanidad,” in the  International Journal of the History of Sport, vol 22 (6), Nov. 2005, pp. 1136-1172.

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