Afro-Cuban CostumbrismoFrom Plantations to the Slums

Afro-Cuban CostumbrismoFrom Plantations to the Slums

Rafael Ocasio

Print publication date: 2013

ISBN: 9780813041643

Publisher: University Press of Florida

Abstract

Cuban Costumbrista writers reported the strong presence of African traditions developed by slaves and by freed Blacks as agents of a vigorous popular culture that was highly visible throughout the nineteenth century. In their handling of Black themes, Costumbristas addressed four main subjects: (1) the particularities of the sugar-cane plantation, rich in slave cultures (as performed in different formats of acculturation by both African and Creole or Cuban-born slaves); (2) the development of religious systems within rural and urban settings; (3) documentation of Black musical expressions; and (4) the incorporation of certain Black social types as literary characters, as workers of specific trades assigned to slaves or to freed Blacks, or as marginal outcasts living in slum areas of major Cuban cities. Afro-Cuban Costumbrismo intends to examine the special qualities that the nineteenth-century Costumbristas observed as eyewitnesses of the making of a new racial hybridity, known today as “mulattoness.” Although mulattoness was a racial concept handled in various types of documents (for example, in ecclesiastical and civil regulations against mixed marriages), it was in Costumbrista literature that the concept took on literary presence. Although Blacks as depicted by Costumbristas had little literary significance, their presence in these politically infused texts covertly addresses the influence of Black Creole culture on developing Cubanía.