Date Available


Year of Publication


Document Type



Arts and Sciences


Hispanic Studies

First Advisor

Enrico Mario Santí


This study attempts to organize the conglomerate of writing on Africans within Republican Cuba. Starting with an examination of the scientific stages of such writing, we will trace the assorted work of Fernando Ortiz (1881-1969), whose anthropological study of Afrocuba produced myriad readings of the heritage. The multiplicity of renderings of Cuba s Africans from the scientific arena including condemning, racially charged treatises and spiritual conceptualizations of the richness of Cuba s African heritage generated an air of inconstancy. Indeed, the contradictions generated by the discipline s scientific course were incredibly polarized, representative of an ambiguity that became emblematic of Afrocuban Studies. Regardless of such blatant ideological opposition, tracing Ortiz s anthropological reading of the place of Cuba s Africans among the nation provides a telling insight into the racialized circumstances surrounding Republican nation-building. Whether scientific research scorned Cuba s Africans or applauded their inclusion in the national imaginary, Ortiz s writing and his invitations to Cuba s younger scholars to partake of folk study outlines a succinct treatment of Cuban nation-building between 1902 and 1959. If scientific research on Afrocuba promulgated studies that both cherished and demonized Cuba s Africanness, so too did Afrocuba s artistic invocations bear contradiction. After the vogue of the African swept the 1920s Parisian art scene, Africanized artistic currents infiltrated Cuba and mingled with its scientific counterpart. The ensuing readings of Afrocuba, contradictory and complex, spurred both research-art overlaps and the rejection of scientific tenets for a so-called artistically authentic rendering of Afrocuba that is, a reading from the inside, from within Afrocuba. It is along these lines that fiction writers (including Alejo Carpentier, Lydia Cabrera, and Rmulo Lachataer) posted renderings of Afrocuba that partook of various degrees of science, research, and artistic vogue. The resultant narrative system portrayed three different sorts of Afrocuban literature; none of the writers aligned succinctly in their portrayal. Afrocuba s poetic front was even more varied in its evocation of the nation, the academy, and popular art. In this way, Nicols Guilln, Ramn Guirao, Juan Marinello, and Emilio Ballagas encapsulated unique poetic visions on two fronts: through offerings to Afrocuban poetics and through essays on the Afrocuban poetic mode. We shall examine such pieces in the hopes of understanding the balanced interplay that academic research and artistic invocation absorbed in the nation-building process, in the fashioning of Afrocuba.