Excerpts from "Nationalizing Blackness", highlighting the appropriation of Afrocuban music by white cuban popular artists during an era of state-supported segregation and racism, typical of the corrupt US-backed regimes in Cuba before the revolution of 1959. Moore implicates classic Western-friendly acts such as Ernesto Lecuona, and later the Lecuona Cuban Boys in this history of blackface theater, black musical (and political) exclusion, neocolonialism, and the whitewashing of Afrocuban and indigenous culture.
Brilliant lecture by Stuart B. Schwartz on the practical and metaphorical implications of colonial-era Caribbean storms as they relate to slavery, empire, and modern-day governmental failures.
some points of interest from the talk:
1780, before his execution, runaway slave Plato curses Jamaica with a devastating storm, which would actually arrive later that year in the form of a terrible Hurricane.
1831, slave rebellion in Virginia organized by Nat Turner, said to have drawn favorable auguries from two solar eclipses that year
generally, Hurricanes are seen throughout the colonies as incredibly dangerous for planters, as they not only resulted in agricultural devastation, but also famine/rebellion amongst the slaves
Schwartz talks about journalistic language: after a hurricane, when whites loot, it is seen as a creative survival technique—when blacks loot…you can imagine
post-Hurricane destruction used to justify the deplorable conditions in which slaves always lived, regardless of storms—“let not calamities be construed as cruelty”
while Hurricanes were doubtless used as evidence of God’s displeasure with the colonies, there was a very clear understanding early on that these winds were a yearly, regular event
white woman in the audience asks a weird question and seems amazed to learn that the indigenous Caribbeans were intimately acquainted with Hurricane knowledge and could predict them accurately
Schwartz recounts Columbus’ eventually being able to predict Hurricanes as well—proof of which apparently got him labeled a “witch”
"If nature is against us, we will conquer nature."- attributed to Simon Bolivar
Hurricanes as “terremotos” in the sky
Hurricane Mitch in Central America proves the neoliberal failure which is the privatization of relief systems
Rosa Luxemburg on the 1902 volcanic eruption in Martinique and its Imperial equivalents
1844 Hurricane in Cuba devastates coffee plantation and creates an incentive for increased sugarcane cultivation
Racist post-Hurricane colonial rhetoric propagated the myth that black slaves, when expecting aid or relief would become unmoveably lazy—a discourse that continues to permeate our culture, as can be seen in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in the gulf—
"The emergence of a non-interventionist state, with a reduced concept of the public sector, in which victims, because of their punitive failings are viewed as undeserving of aid, continues a long tradition of opposition to the concept of relief as a human right. And in a city like New Orleans, where half the population was African-American, and a quarter of the population lived below the poverty line, it is very easy to trace a lineage of neglect and prejudice back to much earlier concepts of what the state’s responsibility was supposed to be and what their attitudes towards the disenfranchised was supposed to be in the wake of a natural disaster."
- basically the Reagan argument, government is the problem and needs to be limited…we all know how that turned out
(note)—Reagan was NOT an anarchist
That something I cannot yet define completely but the feeling comes when you write well and truly of something and know impersonally you have written in that way and those who are paid to read it and report on it do not like the subject so they all say it is a fake, yet you know its value absolutely; or when you do something which people do not consider a serious occupation and yet you know, truly, that it is important and has always been as important as all the things that are in fashion, and when, on the sea, you are alone with it and know that this Gulf Stream you are living with, knowing, learning about, and loving, has moved, as it moves, since before man and that it has gone by the shoreline of that long, beautiful, unhappy island since before Columbus sighted it and that the things you find out about it, and those that have always lived in it are permanent and of value because that stream, will flow, as it has flowed, after the Indians, after the Spaniards, after the British, after the Americans and after all the Cubans and all the systems of governments, the richness, the poverty, the martyrdom, the sacrifice and the venality and the cruelty are all gone as the high-piled scow of garbage, bright-colored, white-flecked, ill-smelling, now tilted on its side, spills off its load into the blue water, turning it pale green to a depth of four or five fathoms as the load spreads across the surface, the sinkable parts going down and the flotsam of palm fronds, corks, bottles, and used electric light globes, seasoned with the occasional condom or a deep floating corset, the torn leaves of a student’s exercise book, a well-inflated dog, the occasional rat, the no-longer-distinguished cat; well shepherded by the boats of garbage pickers who pluck their prizes with long poles, as interested, as intelligent, and as accurate as historians; they have the viewpoint; the stream, with no visible flow, takes five loads of this a day when things are going well in La Habana and in the ten miles along the coast it is clear and blue and unimpressed as it was ever before the tug hauled out the scow; and the palm fronds of our victories, the worn light bulbs of our discoveries and the empty condoms of our great loves float with no significance against one single, lasting thing – the stream.
Por el Mar de las Antillas
(que también Caribe llaman)
batida por olas duras
y ornada de espumas blandas,
bajo el sol que la persigue
y el viento que la rechaza,
cantando a lágrima viva
navega Cuba en su mapa,
Un largo lagarto verde,
con ojos de piedra y agua.
Alta corona de azúcar
le tejen agudas cañas;
no por coronada libre,
sí de su corona esclava:
reina del manto hacia fuera,
del manto adentro, vasalla,
triste como la más triste
navega Cuba en su mapa:
un largo lagarto verde,
con ojos de piedra y agua.
Junto a la orilla del mar,
tú que estás en fija guardia,
fíjate, guardián marino,
en la punta de las lanzas
y en el trueno de las olas
y en el fuego de las llamas
y en el lagarto despierto
sacar las uñas del mapa.
Had a really interesting verbal exchange a few days ago with Karen Morrison at the African American Studies workshop = Angola, Cuba, The Caribbean: Culture, Race & Identity Formation @ BU.
Karen, who presented: “Creating Race in Colonial Cuba, Some Preliminary Africanist Thoughts”, responded to my query about the use of “affectionate”, race-specific nicknames in Latin America (such as: “mi negro”, or “mi negra”) as emblematic of the region’s bizarre [my word] depoliticization of the private sphere, where accepted terms of “endearment” minimize the role of this now Othered person as an equal and perpetuate the systemic racial hierarchies visible in the public arena.
I see this all the time in my light skinned Latin@ family when they will have a really good friend that they obviously care about and they call that person “negro” or “negra” lovingly. But out in public these same family members are some of the most painfully racist and bigoted individuals I have known.
It reminds me of the ending to Island in the Sun, that Harry Belafonte film in which he rejects a relationship with a white woman at the end of the film claiming that there would eventually come a day when she would be upset with him, she’d forget herself, and she’d call him a nigger.
The hypocrisy of “post-racial” or “race transcendent” nations of the Americas.
Karen and I also had a very brief but intriguing exchange about the concept of “whiteness” and “blackness” being radically different during the European colonial era and the later North American Capitalist era…
Margaret Howe, 10 week co-habitation experiment with a dolphin
Me in a Swim with Dolphins program at Xcaret park, Mexico (age-12?)
Taras, son of Poseidon, rescued by dolphins
Elián González, said to have been rescued by dolphins in the waters between Cuba and South Florida
"Smylex" TV ad from the 1989 Batman film, joker’s victims are left with a large grin on their face
“So, why are we there?” - from Reagan’s October 27, 1983 address to the nation on the invasion of Grenada
- topic for a performance I’m doing tonight in Worcester, MA