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¡Venceremos? The Erotics of Black Self-making in Cuba by Jafari S. Allen

By Paul Ryer, Gender & sexuality, new book, Race 1 Comment »

It is a great pleasure to announce the forthcoming ¡Venceremos? The Erotics of Black Self-making in Cuba, by Jafari Sinclair Allen, Duke University Press.  Due out in August, 2011, here is the press’s  book description:

Promoting the revolutionary socialist project of equality and dignity for all, the slogan ¡Venceremos! (We shall overcome!) appears throughout Cuba, everywhere from newspapers to school murals to nightclubs. Yet the accomplishments of the Cuban state are belied by the stark inequalities apparent in the marginalization of blacks, the prejudice against sexual minorities, and gender inequities. ¡Venceremos? is a groundbreaking ethnography on race, desire, and belonging among black Cubans in the early twenty-first-century, as the nation opens its economy to global capital. Expanding on Audre Lorde’s vision of embodied, even “useful,” desire, Jafari S. Allen shows how black Cubans engage in acts of “erotic self-making,” reinterpreting, transgressing, and potentially transforming racialized and sexualized interpellations of their identities. He illuminates intimate spaces of autonomy created by people whose multiply subaltern identities have rendered them illegible to state functionaries, and to most scholars. In everyday practices, events, and sites in Havana and Santiago de Cuba—including Santeria rituals, gay men’s parties, hip hop concerts, the tourist-oriented sex trade, lesbian organizing, HIV education, and just hanging out—Allen highlights small but significant acts in struggles for autonomy and dignity.

Congratulations to Dr. Allen, and stay posted for an update once the book is available.  I, for one, look forward to seeing the analytic of Cuban erotics move beyond the classic 19th century frame of Kutzinski’s Sugar’s Secrets, and into the present day!

A review of PBS “Black in Latin America. Cuba: the Next Revolution”

By M.E.Diaz, media, Race, Reviews, Video - lecture and discussion 6 Comments »

Watch the full episode. See more Black in Latin America.

(You can view the entire episode by going to the PBS website)

Just this week, PBS has been showing a series on race in Latin America. This is Prof. Maria Elena Díaz’s very illuminating review of the Cuba episode:

The story begins with slavery & sugar, the 10 years war (with a slightly inaccurate and very rosy take on Cespedes and this war–you may take a look at the Cespedes’ manifesto (in Chomsky et als’ Cuba Reader) it is very problematic–there is actually no abolition of slavery, Cespedes is very careful on this controversial issue, at most grants a very limited gradual abolition with very problematic terms on how a slave can even join the liberation army, no freedom to do so, etc).

The program covers  the war of Independence through, of course, a bit of Marti (and his ideology compressed into the phrase “we are all Cubans”) and particularly less well known  issues around the figure of Maceo (a few bites with NYU Professor Ada Ferrer). Then a bunch of history compressed on the iconic “Maine” explosion (perhaps because there is the tangible monument). The interview with this historian (Iglesias?) is not too enlightening, frankly. They could have pulled anyone from the street to say that. These bites try to compress Louis Perez’s book <The War of 1898> and miss quite a bit, but ok, it was mostly background and perhaps it did not want to alienate a North American audience too much, particularly these days when similar adventures are being played out in other latitudes. The occupation and new segregation policies introduced during the occupation are mentioned (missing the white diplomatic corps, though) and the compliciteness of the white elite with these policies is noted.  The Platt Amendment is not mentioned,  which is quite basic, but the narrator pointed out  there had been de facto colonialism (“from Spain to the US,” he said, to put it softly).  It mentioned the white/Spanish immigration and the full emphasis on “whitening”  which it could have contextualized a bit better by framing it in  the greater turn of the century trend of “whitening”  as part of the wider scientific racism, eugenics and the idea of “whiteness” as “progress and civilization”–going on elsewhere in L.A. (Brazil being the best known case in L.A. but elsewhere too–not to speak of course Europe and US as the emblems of modernity and progress to be imitated). It could have emphasized the universal male suffrage guaranteed in the Constitution of 1901 that became an  element  in the self-definition of the new Republic as a “racial democracy,” a claim that was challenged by  Yvonette and the Partido Independiente de Color. It dedicated a good number of bites to the important Race war of 1912 and showed the brutal cartoons that illustrates the political unconscious of the time.

The  periodization then moves to the 1920s noting that it represented the beginning to the move toward greater acceptance of “black” music and cultural traditions previously marginalized, when not outrightly persecuted . It could have explained that this coincided with broader emergent nationalist trends  throughout L.A, in the interwar period. It touches on the famous story of Machado’s birthday event as a kind of lithmus test of how far black music or culture (i.e. the son) had become accepted in power circles at the time. Perhaps it could have mentioned Guillen, and Wilfredo Lam, as the show cases in “high culture” in Cuba during the following years, but it focused on popular culture, and that is just fine. It also runs through this period with some interviews with soneros and some pretty bold footage of some carnival scenes (backed by the state in the 1930s for commercial purposes) that might not be altogether accurate.

The film rightly mentions the decree to end discrimination in the public sector in the 1940s, but did not mention that, contrary to the Const of 1901, this one was explicitly guaranteed in the social democratic Constitution of 1940. (The question of implementation is a separate one.) It could have covered more about the black organizations and clubs operating throughout this period, those would have been nice memories to recover from informants, but the program sticks to the script of what are pretty much commonplaces in the academic research by now– it does not engage in any original research as mentioned above. for the 1950s, it notes the usual common places (Batista, mafia, tourism, etc); puts a good light on black participation in the 26th of July Movement by using Comandante Dreke as narrator.  Chailloux got too emotional on the Literacy Campaign and that prevented her from speaking more eloquently (Gates has to pull out the words from her), but her tears were eloquent of that moment too. It highlights as well Fidel Castro’s declaration against discrimination (I think 1960), and then moves on to the issue of economic and social advancement and rights–the infrastructure and superstructure line that becomes emblematic of the Revolution’s position on race (and represented as well through the figures of Dreke and Chailloux). I thought it covered the debacle of the special period effectively as well as the effects of the dual economy, the greater access to dollar paying jobs by white sectors. (It skipped throughout the waves of emigration and exile).The discussion on the lingering of racial prejudice in Cuba that has been recently exacerbated  by new global factors is actually tame.

Overall, I thought the program was very good and quite restrained. I suppose it will be shown in Cuba at some point. I wonder about  reactions to it  in the island and in Miami–a reception study of some kind would be nice.

New Book on Tourism and Race in Cuba

new book, Race, Tourism No Comments »

L. Kaifa Roland, assistant professor at the University of Colorado, just published Cuban Color in Tourism and La Lucha: An Ethnography of Racial Meanings. The press is Oxford University.  You can find a pdf of the prologue here.  Like Nadine Fernandez’ recently published Revolutionizing Romance, Amalia Cabezas’ Economies of Desire, and Jafari Allen’s dissertation, this book contributes to the scholarly literature on race, sex and tourism in Cuba.

Gloria Rolando on the 1912 Massacre

By Ariana Hernandez-Reguant, Cinema, History, Race 3 Comments »

Gloria Rolando just visited UNC where she spoke about her work and screened selections of her three-part documentary on the 1912 massacre of the Party of the Independents of Color. The film seeks to uncover memories of this event through interviews with historians and communities throughout Cuba. You can read more about it HERE.

Thanks to Lisa Knauer for this information.

A U.S. racial view of Cubans at the turn of the 20th cent.

By Ariana Hernandez-Reguant, History, Images, Race No Comments »

Duke University Library’s digital collections includes a visual archive on the Emergence of Advertising in America, 1850-1920

Among the various card series that were included in Duke’s cigarettes at that time, there is one on “coins of all nations” that includes one on Cuba.  It is not dated, but it is probably pre-independence (the coin is described as being from Spain in circulation in Cuba), which means the cards are from some time between 1872 (beginning of the collection) and 1898. It is interesting that in contrast with Vera Kutzinski’s description of the young and sensual mulatta figure as typical of Cuban cigar images, the woman here presented as Cuban in U.S. tobacco is black and old…

D0137-lrg

D0135-lrg

Images courtesy of Duke University’s Library and the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising and Marketing History. These images in particular can be found HERE.

On Race and Identity in Colonial Cuba

By Ariana Hernandez-Reguant, History, new chapter/edited volume, Race No Comments »

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Professor Maria Elena Diaz, from UC-Santa Cruz’s History Department, just published the article “Conjuring Identities: Race, Nativeness, Local Citizenship and Royal Slavery on an Imperial Frontier (Revisiting El Cobre, Cuba)” in an edited volume on Race and Identity in Colonial Latin America, just released on Duke University Press.

The chapter is available for download HERE

Maria Elena Diaz is the author of  The Virgin, the King and the Royal Slaves of El Cobre: Negotiating Freedom in Colonial Cuba, 1670-1780 (Stanford Univ. Press, 2000).

You may also check out her webpage on El Cobre.

Beautiful Me(s) documentary

Cinema, Notes & Queries, Race No Comments »

A website inspired by the documentary film, Beautiful Me(s): Finding our Revolutionary Selves in Black Cuba, has launched at www.beautifulmes.com.  The film is the intimate travel diary of underdog students who travel from the Ivy League to the rebel state of Cuba.  In addition to information about the film, the site offers a variety of educational resources about AfroCuban politics and culture.  There are links to our Amazon store, the Progressive Pupil Collection, where you can find books, DVDs and music that relate to Beautiful Me(s) as well as a link to our Facebook fan page.

(Thanks to Kaifa Roland for this link)

afrocubaweb, “The Discourse on Racism in Anti-Castro Publications, 2008-2009: The Obama Factor”

Blogs, By Paul Ryer, Race No Comments »

Thanks to Ariana for pointing out afrocubaweb‘s collection of recent writings and responses, from a wide range of perspectives, “The Discourse on Racism in Anti-Castro Publications, 2008-2009: The Obama Factor.”  Until reading this, I had never heard that Encuentro de la cultura cubana and the Afro-Cuban alliance, which publishes Islas, are among the groups which have received funding from the U.S.-government funded National Endowment for Democracy.  Perhaps partly because it’s based in Madrid, Encuentro in particular has always seemed to present interesting, independent perspectives, so while IMO still something to read regularly, this is food for thought.

On Race in Cuba. Recent Academic Works.

new book, Race No Comments »

Ariana Hernández Reguant’s “Havana’s Timba: A Macho Sound for Black Sex,” in Globalization and Race: Transformations in the Cultural Production of Blackness, ed. by Kamari Maxine Clarke and Deborah A. Thomas, Duke, 2006, pp. 249-278.

Jafari Sinclaire Allen, “Looking Black at Revolutionary Cuba,” in Latin American Perspectives, vol. 36, no. 1, 53-62 (2009).

Marc D. Perry has a chapter, “Hip Hop’s Diasporic Landscapes of Blackness,” in the just-published volume From Toussaint to Tupac: The Black International since the Age of Revolution, ed. by Michael O. West, William G. Martin, and Fanon Che Wilkens.  In the essay, Perry looks comparatively at hip hop in three context–Cuba, Brazil and South Africa.

Also check out Marc Perry’s article, “Global Black Self-Fashionings: Hip Hop as Diasporic Space,” in Identities, vol. 15, issue 6, pp. 635-664, 2008.

Kaifa Roland: “Tourism and the Negrificación of Cuban Identity,” in Transforming Anthropology, 14(2):151–162 (2006).

Umi Vaughan, “Shades of Race in Contemporary Cuba,” in Islas: Journal of the Afrocuban Alliance, 1(2):13-20 (2006).

Nadine Fernandez, “A Racial Geography: The Meaning of Blackness in a Havana Neighborhood,” in Islas: Journal of the Afrocuban Alliance, 1(2):13-20 (2006),

Katrin Hansing’s Rasta, Race and Revolution: The Emergence and Development of the Rastafari Movement in Socialist Cuba. Beiträge zur Afrikaforschung (2006).  Bd. 28, 2006, 272 S., 29.90 EUR, br. Decades after its birth and subsequent tour du monde Rastafari has more recently also appeared in revolutionary Cuba. How the movement has been globalized and subsequentially localized in a socialist and Spanish speaking context are the main foci of this book. In particular it examines how Cubans have adopted and adapted the movement to their own socio-political and cultural context and what, given these circumstances, ‘Babylon’ is in Cuba. As a predominantly Afro-Cuban youth movement particular attention is paid to Rastafari’s development in the context of Cuba’s current economic crisis and re- appearance of more overt racism. Based on extensive ethnographic fieldwork in Cuba, the study shows how Rastafari’s growth and presence on the island have influenced and contributed to the formation and expression of new cultural identities and discourses with regard to what it means to be young, black and Cuban.

CHALLENGES OF THE RACIAL PROBLEM IN CUBA by Esteban Morales Domínguez

Journals, new book, Race, Universidad de La Habana 1 Comment »

CHALLENGES OF THE RACIAL PROBLEM IN CUBA

Esteban Morales Domínguez

University of Havana

BY WAY OF INTRODUCTION

My book, on which I wish to comment, was published February 15, 2008, by the Casa de la Fundación Don Fernando Ortiz under the same tit le as this summary. It included a magnificent introduction by Dr. Fernando Martinez Heredia. The public crowded the Casa showing interest in the topic and on the same day, nearly half of the published copies, which totaled only a modest 1,000, were sold.

In reality, no book attempting to examine the contemporary racial issue has been published in more than 45 years. In Cuba, works that address the contemporary racial problem in Cuba are found mostly in magazines, are very few in number and are found most notably in Temas and Catauro.[1]

Outside of Cuba, there have been publications covering the topic in a contemporary way. Aline Helg, Alejandro de la Fuente and Carlos Moore stand out for their voluminous researches. But none of them shares with us the vicissitudes of daily life in Cuba, and this is clear in their writings. These are valuable contributions, though we may or may not share some of their views. Aside from the difficulties of taking up the topic within current Cuban society – a matter we will address later – in practice, we have ceded to others the treatment of a problem of vital importance in the life of the country…  MORE.  For complete text:  challenges-of-the-racial-problem-in-cuba .

50 years of Revolution. Special Issues and Recent Ethnographies

Consumption & material culture, Cultural production, daily life, Gender & sexuality, Globalization, greater Cuba, Health, History, media, Miami, music, new article, new chapter/edited volume, Race, Religion, Sport, Tourism No Comments »

Journal of Latin American Studies

Latin American Perspectives

In addition you might want to check out the following recent publications:

* By Ruth Behar and Lucia Suárez, an edited volume: THE PORTABLE ISLAND: Cubans at Home in the World.  Palgrave 2008.

* By Ivor Miller, a book: Voice of the Leopard: African Secret Societies and Cuba, University Press of Mississippi.

* By Ariana Hernandez-Reguant:

Special guest edited issue of the Journal of Latin American Anthropology, including introduction (“Alternative Geographies”), and articles by Laurie Frederik Meer, P. Sean Brotherton, Kenneth Routon, and Helen Safa.

“Radio Taino and the Cuban Quest for Identi…que?“, in Doris Sommer’s Cultural Agency in the Americas, Duke University Press, 2006.

“Havana’s Timba. A Macho Sound for Black Sex.” In Deborah Thomas and Kamari Clarke. Globalization and Race. Duke University Press, 2006.

* By Kenneth Routon. “Conjuring the past: Slavery and the historical imagination in Cuba.”  American Ethnologist (p 632-649), Volume 35 Issue 4

* By Laurie Frederik MeerPlayback Theatre in Cuba: the Politics of Improvisation and Free Expression,” in The Drama Review, Winter 2007, Vol. 51, No. 4, Pages 106-120

* By P. Sean Brotherton.  “We have to think like capitalists but continue being socialists”: Medicalized subjectivities, emergent capital, and socialist entrepreneurs in post-Soviet Cuba.  American Ethnologist, Vol. 35, Issue 2, pp. 259-274.  June 2008.

* By Mette Berg:

Between Cosmopolitanism and the National Slot: Cuba’s Diasporic Children of the Revolution, Identities (vol. 16, issue 2), Pages 129 – 156.

“Homeland and belonging among Cubans in Spain.”  Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology, Vol. 14 no. 2, (pp. 265-290)

* By Katrin Hansing, (2009). “South-South Migration and Transnational Ties between Cuba and Mozambique,” in Transnational Ties: Cities, Migrations, and Identities. M. P. Smith and J. Eade. New Brunswick, Transaction Publishers: 77-90.

* Even if you are already familiar with Todd Ramón Ochoa‘s article, “Versions of the Dead: Kalunga in Cuban Kongo Materiality,” in Cultural Anthropology Vol. 22, No. 4, November 2007, you should check out this link from C.A., which includes study questions and an embedded video clip.

*By Kristina Wirtz:

Her book is entitled Ritual, Discourse, and Community in Cuban Santería: Speaking a Sacred World University Press of Florida, 2007.  (only on hard cover).

See reviews: McIntosh, Janet. “(Book Review) Ritual, Discourse, and Community in Cuban Santería: Speaking a Sacred World. University of Florida Press, 2007.” by Kristina Wirtz. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology vol. 18(1) 2009: 163-4. And a review byElina Hartikainen (citation only, full-text not available), in the Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology, Volume 13, Number 2, November 2008 , pp. 461-462(2). Also, here is another link to a review (again, citation only) by Paul Christopher Johnson in the Journal of Anthropological Research, vol. 64, no. 4.  If you know of other reviews, or have your own comments, please take a moment to leave an update or comment!

Kristina Wirtz, “Hazardous waste: the semiotics of ritual hygiene in Cuban popular religion,” in JRAI vol. 15, pp. 476-501, 2009.

Kristina Wirtz:  “Divining The Past: The linguistic reconstruction of “African” roots in diasporic ritual registers and songs,” in Journal of Religion in Africa Special Issue: “African diasporic religions.”  27(2): 240-272, 2007.  Introduced by Stephan Palmié.

Wirtz, K. (2007) Deep language and diasporic culture: Learning to speak the ‘tongue of the orichas’ in Cuban Santería. American Ethnologist 34(1): 108-126.  Her abstract:

“Enregistered memory and Afro-Cuban historicity in Santería’s ritual speech,” in Language & Communication special issue: “Temporalities of Text.” 27(3), 2007.

Finally, check out two related pieces by Wirtz, “Introduction: Ritual Unintelligibility” (pp. 401-407. Read introduction) and “Making sense of unintelligible messages: Co-construction of meaning in Santería rituals,” (435-462. Abstract) in a special issue of the journal Text & Talk on “Ritual Unintelligibility,” 27(4), 2007.

* By Tom Carter

(1)  “New Rules to the Old Game: Cuban Sport and State Legitimacy in the Post-Soviet Era,” in Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. 15 (2): 194-215, 2008.

(2)“Pitén en la Plaza: Some preliminary considerations on spatializing culture in Cuba” in Image, Power and Space: Studies in Consumption and Identity. Alan Tomlinson and Jonathan M. Woodham (eds). Aachen: Meyer & Meyer. Pp. 97-112.

(3)  “Of Spectacular Phantasmal Desires: Tourism and the Cuban State’s Complicity in its Commodification of its Citizens,” in Leisure Studies. 27 (3): 241-257, 2008.

(4) “Family Networks, State Interventions and the Experiences of Cuban Transnational Sport Migration,” in International Review of the Sociology of Sport. 42 (4): 371-389, (2007).

(5) “A Relaxed State of Affairs?: On Leisure, Tourism, and Cuban Identity” in The Discipline of Leisure: Embodying Cultures of “Recreation”. Simon Coleman and Tamara Kohn (eds). Oxford: Berghahn, pp. 127-145 (2007).

* By Martin Holbraad:

Definitive evidence, from Cuban gods,” in the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, special issue The Objects of Evidence,vol. 14, issue s1, April 2008. Based on evidence collected during fieldwork among practitioners of Afro-Cuban religion in Havana, this paper seeks ‘recursively’ to redefine the notion of anthropological evidence itself. It does so by examining ethnographically practitioners’ concern with the ‘evidence’ deities give (e.g. successful divinations, divine cures, etc.), by virtue of which people’s relationships with deities are cemented. To the extent that this indigenous concept of evidence is different from notions of evidence anthropologists take for granted in their own work, it occasions the opportunity to transform those very assumptions. But such a procedure is itself evidential – pertaining to the relationship between ethnography and theory. The paper sets out the virtues, both ethnographic and theoretical, of this circularity.

Thinking Through Things: Theorising Artefacts Ethnographically, ed. by Amiria Henare, Martin Holbraad and Sari Wastell.  Routledge 2007.  The volume, as well as this exchange about the book between Martin Holbraad and Daniel Miller, is surely of general interest to those of us with an interest in consumption, goods, and so-called material culture.  Additionally, Holbraad’s chapter, “The Power of Powder: Multiplicity and Motion in the Divinatory Cosmology of Cuban Ifá (or mana, again)” also ought to be of interest for many ethnocuba readers. The book is also reviewed at Savage Minds, here.

Roulette anthropology: the whole beyond holism,” in Journal of the Finnish Anthropological Society, 32 (2). pp. 29-47 (2007). The paper builds an argument about holism in anthropological theory by drawing an ethnographic contrast between divination and gambling in Cuba.  Outlining the contrasting modes of prediction in each case, it is shown that while diviners’ predictions draw on cosmological models of the world, gamblers’ seek to source the cosmos itself.  Their concern with going beyond cosmology is bound up with their orientation (obsessive sometimes) towards what they call ‘cábalas’ – attention-grabbing coincidences of everyday life.  A similar contrast can be drawn with regard to anthropological notions of ‘holism’.  Available versions of holism are ‘cosmological’ inasmuch as they pertain to the role of models in anthropology.  Nevertheless, anthropologists too are as concerned with accessing the cosmos, allowing ‘the field’ to speak for itself in ethnography.  Like the gamblers (and unlike colleagues in more disciplined disciplines), anthropologists find that it is only when they stop reasoning in terms of pre-conceived cosmologies that worlds begin to reveal themselves as such.  So anthropology goes beyond holism by becoming more holistic than it already thinks it is: from cosmology to the cosmos.  It is oriented towards the underbelly of reason par excellence, ventriloquising itself into the cosmos at ‘ethnographic moments’ – coincidences – that can only register as ‘alterity’.  So a defence of radical ‘holism’, it is argued, is also a defence of a radical ‘exoticism’.

Expending Multiplicity: Money in Cuban Ifá Cults,” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute vol. 11 (2), pp. 231-254.  2005.

* By Maria Gropas

“Landscape, Revolution and Property Regimes in Rural Havana,” 2006. Journal of Peasant Studies, vol. 33 issue 2, pp. 248-277

The Repatriotization of Revolutionary Ideology and Mnemonic Landscape in Present-Day Havana,”  in Current Anthropology 48 (4), 2007. Includes commentaries by Virginia R. Domíguez, Nadine Fernandez, Martin Hall, Martin Holbraad, and Mona Rosendahl, as well as a reply by the author.  The conversation has an amplified on-line version, with additional color images, here.
*By Matthew Hill, “Re-Imagining Old Havana: World Heritage and the Production of Scale in Late Socialist Cuba” in Deciphering The Global: Its Scales, Spaces and Subjects, ed. by Saskia Sassen (2007).
* By Miguel de la Torre. 2003. La Lucha for Cuba: Religion and Politics on the Streets of Miami, University of California Press, by Miguel A. De La Torre. Reviewed Here by Laurie Frederik Meer’s in e-misférica.
* By Amalia Cabezas.  “The Eroticization of Labor in Cuba’s All-Inclusive Resorts: Performing Race, Class and Gender in the New Tourist Economy,” in Social Identities, Volume 12, Issue 5 September 2006 , pages 507 – 521.

* By Amy L. Porter, “Fleeting Dreams and Flowing Goods: Citizenship and Consumption in Havana Cuba” in PoLAR vol. 31, no. 1, pp. 134-149.  May 2008.
* By Noelle Stout.Feminists, Queers and Critics: Debating the Cuban Sex Trade,” in the Journal of Latin American Studies, vol 40, pp. 721-742 (2008).
* By Rogelio Martínez Furé. 2007. Eshu (oriki a mi mismo)  y otras descargas.
* By Valerio Simoni, “‘Riding’ Diversity: Cubans’/Jineteros‘ Uses of ‘Nationality-talks’ in the Realm of their Informal Encounters with Tourists” in Tourism Development: Growth, Myths and Inequalities, ed. by Peter M. Burns & Marina Novelli, CAB International, 2008, pp. 68-84.
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