Blackface Cuba, 1840-1895

Blackface Cuba, 1840-1895

University of Pennsylvania Press
288 pages
6 x 9
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8122-3867-9

Jill Lane, Associate Professor of  Theater and Performance Studies
New York University

Blackface Cuba, 1840-1895 offers a critical history of the relation between racial impersonation, national sentiment, and the emergence of an anticolonial public sphere in nineteenth-century Cuba. Through a study of Cuba’s vernacular theatre, the teatro bufo, and of related forms of music, dance, and literature, Lane argues that blackface performance was a primary site for the development of mestizaje, Cuba’s racialized national ideology, in which African and Cuban become simultaneously mutually exclusive and mutually formative.

Popular with white Cuban-born audiences during the period of Cuba’s anticolonial wars, the teatro bufo was celebrated for combining Spanish elements with supposedly African rhythms and choreography. Its wealth of short comic plays developed a well-loved repertory of blackface stock characters, from the negrito to the mulata, played by white actors in blackface. Lane contends that these practices were embraced by white audiences as especially national forms that helped define Cuba’s opposition to Spain, at the same time that they secured prevailing racial hierarchies for a future Cuban nation. Comparing the teatro bufo to related forms of racial representation, particularly those created by black Cubans in theatres and in the press, Lane analyzes performance as a form of social contestation through which an emergent Cuban national community struggled over conflicting visions of race and nation.

Table of Contents

  • Preface. On the Translation of Race
  • Introduction. ImpersoNation in Our America
  • Chapter 1. Blackface Costumbrismo, 1840-1860
  • Chapter 2. Anticolonial Blackface, 1868
  • Chapter 3. Black(face) Public Spheres, 1880-1895
  • Chapter 4. National Rhythm, Racial Adulteration, and the Danzón, 1881-82
  • Chapter 5. Racial Ethnography and Literate Sex, 1888
  • Conclusion. Cubans on the Moon, and Other Imagined Communities
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
  • Acknowledgments
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