The Racial and Sexual Politics of Cubanidad in New York, 1823-1957
Culture, Labor, History
Published by: NYU Press
320 pages, 152.00 x 229.00 mm
- ISBN: 9780814761120
- Published: January 2017
Beginning in the early nineteenth century, Cubans migrated to New York City to organize and protest against Spanish colonial rule. While revolutionary wars raged in Cuba, expatriates envisioned, dissected, and redefined meanings of independence and nationhood. An underlying element was the concept of Cubanidad, a shared sense of what it meant to be Cuban. Deeply influenced by discussions of slavery, freedom, masculinity, and United States imperialism, the question of what and who constituted “being Cuban” remained in flux and often, suspect.
The first book to explore Cuban racial and sexual politics in New York during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Suspect Freedoms chronicles the largely unexamined and often forgotten history of more than a hundred years of Cuban exile, migration, diaspora, and community formation. Nancy Raquel Mirabal delves into the rich cache of primary sources, archival documents, literary texts, club records, newspapers, photographs, and oral histories to write what Michel Rolph Trouillot has termed an “unthinkable history.” Situating this pivotal era within larger theoretical discussions of potential, future, visibility, and belonging, Mirabal shows how these transformations complicated meanings of territoriality, gender, race, power, and labor. She argues that slavery, nation, and the fear that Cuba would become “another Haiti” were critical in the making of early diasporic Cubanidades, and documents how, by the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Afro-Cubans were authors of their own experiences; organizing movements, publishing texts, and establishing important political, revolutionary, and social clubs. Meticulously documented and deftly crafted, Suspect Freedoms unravels a nuanced and vital history.
Suspect Freedomsgoes a long way toward filling some enormous gaps in Cuban American history, especially in highlighting the often-ignored role of Afro-Cubans and the way in which diasporic discourses centered on race served to define cubanidad. It also makes a seminal contribution to our understanding of what has arguably been the least studied chapter in the history of the Cuban presence in the United States: the New York community during the Cuban Republic. ~Hispanic American Historical Review
Nancy Mirabal has reconstructed 134 years of relatively obscure Cuban presence in New York, a site where race, nationality, and gender have always been far more complex. ~International Migration Review
In Suspect Freedoms: The Racial and Sexual Politics of Cubanidad in New York, 18231957, Mirabal brings her sensitivity to the nuances of language, spatial temporalities, and archival research to bear as she charts more than one hundred years of diasporic history. The result is a book that is as engaging to read as it is pathbreaking, marking the first book-length history of Cuban racial and sexual politics in nineteenth- and twentieth-century New York. ~American Historical Review
Suspect Freedoms is a must-read for students and scholars interested in Afro-diasporic thinking and experience … historians of the Cuban diaspora will be impressed by Mirabal’s attention to labor and the leadership roles and perspectives of Cuban women. ~New West Indian Guide
Nancy Mirabal's Suspect Freedoms is a groundbreaking work of historical scholarship. Ambitious and wide-ranging, it is sure to redefine the way we understand the relationship between the Cuban Diaspora, Afro-Cuban activism and intellectual history, and their intersections with African American history and thought, especially in New York City. Building upon a dazzling array of sources and contributing to our theoretical understanding of concepts like nation and diaspora, this original and profound work establishes Nancy Mirabal as a major historian and thinker. ~Farah Jasmine Griffin,Professor of English and Comparative Literature & African American Studies, Columbia University
Suspect Freedoms is a remarkable book that rescues the rich history of Cubans of color in the United States from obscurity. Nancy Mirabal stitches together the entire span of the Cuban diasporic experience in New York, from the arrival in 1823 of Father Félix Varela to a fascinating and moving analysis of the club cubano interamericano in the latter half of the twentieth century. This splendid example of scholarship will be an essential text for scholars of Cuba, the Cuban diaspora, and U.S. Latino studies generally. ~Gerald E. Poyo,St. Mary’s University, San Antonio