||Nuestra segunda propuesta es un ensayo (Me complace más que el mar: Intertextuality in the Last Poetry of Blas de Otero) del también narrador y poeta cubano Jorge Luis Camacho, el cual reside en Canadá y trabaja en la Universidad de Toronto. Se trata de una perspectiva más académica, pero a la que no falta lucidez poética (algo que no encontramos a menudo). Finalmente presentamos el ensayo: On the Study of 19th Century Cuban Nationalism de Michelle Van Bensekom de York University, también dentro de la órbita académica.
OSCURIDAD Y LEZAMA
Cada vez que he intentado bosquejar unas notas sobre la escritura de Lezama Lima tropiezo, como con una piedra inamovible, con la palabra "oscuro". Se me ocurre que con esta piedra tropezará, fatalmente, todo el que estudie a Lezama, a Hermann Broch, a Joyce, a Mallarmé, a Luis de Góngora... Y esa reflexión me ha hecho formularme esta pregunta: al hablar de lo "oscuro", en todos estos casos, ¿estaremos hablando de lo mismo?
He hablado de estudiar, y me refiero al estudio, modesto en mi caso, de escritor a escritor. Confieso que he fracasado en todos mis esfuerzos por acercarme a la Babel de los modernos estudios literarios, donde el único dialecto común es una especie de inextricable esperanto. Se me perdonará, entonces, que trate de hallar respuesta a mi inquietud utilizando la sola, humilde herramienta a mi alcance: el castellano de todos los días.
La sospecha de que pudiese haber más de un modo de manifestarse lo oscuro, modo que bien pudiera ser único y distinto para cada uno de los escritores mencionados, o similar, o múltiple, aún en cada caso, me llevó a cuestionarme, en primer término, el significado de esa palabra. En su sentido físico, alude a la escasez o ausencia de luz; más arduo es resolver su exacta equivalencia en el literario.
Traducirla por difícil me pareció enseguida lo adecuado, pero, al pensarlo mejor, pasé a dudarlo. Este verso de Borges, por ejemplo:
Zumban las balas en la tarde última
ofrece a la lectura incauta una engañosa transparencia. Hay en él, sin embargo, un barroco significar a dos luces: la "tarde última" es a la vez la hora postrera para el día narrado y para el personaje que lo narra, Francisco de Laprida. Hay en él, además, una como luz crepuscular, una sensación de acabamiento que nace de esa duplicidad de sentidos y que, sin embargo, de una forma misteriosa, va más allá de ellos.
Por el contrario, el verso de Gracián:
Gallinas de los campos celestiales
tan enigmático a primera vista, no esconde sino una laboriosa, y detestable, perífrasis de "estrellas".
Se puede ser, entonces, transparente y difícil, elemental y oscuro.
Esta conclusión me llevó a una segunda hipótesis, la de reservar la etiqueta de "oscuro" para aquellos textos que ofrecen una resistencia inmediata al primer acercamiento de un lector. Creo que nadie discutirá que esta segunda traducción o hipótesis permite incluir en ella, razonablemente, a Góngora y a Borch, a Joyce y Mallarmé y Lezama Lima.
Partiendo de ella he creído distinguir ocho maneras en las que se presenta o manifiesta lo "oscuro" literario. No creo con ellas haber agotado el tema. El orden en que las expongo no obedece tampoco a una disposición jerárquica; es, meramente, el orden en que se me fueron ocurriendo. He preferido por eso, al designarlas, las letras a los números.
Para su explicación he preferido ejemplos de Lezama, aunque invoco también los de otros escritores cuando ha venido al caso.
Los que siguen son esos ocho modos de proceder lo "oscuro" en la literatura, según creo.
A. Por perífrasis o acertijo. Es el que usaban los escaldos para sus complicadas kenningar. Lezama lo utiliza muy a memnudo, como cuando escribe "cambiante pontífice" por viento, o hace decir a Foción, de un efebillo amante suyo, que "no era Rey de Grecia", aludiendo a su escasa disposición para la bisexualidad.
B. Por alusión culterana, cerrada al desconocedor, que puede ser explícita o implícita. Al primer tipo pertenecen muchos gongorismos, como ese bellísimo de
Dánae teje el tiempo dorado por el Nilo
o cuando habla del "ruiseñor de Pekín" o de "Hera, la horrible". La segunda es más difícil de reconocer, como cuando al bautizar a un personaje Oppiano Licario reúne, en una oblicua, arbitraria ecuación, al estoico Oppianus Claudium y a una visión francesa, pienso que valeryana, de Icaro, L'Icare. O cuando yuxtapone en otro de esos centaurillos suyos su propio nombrede santo humilde al de esos tan sencillos, y tan desconocidos, semidioses taínos.
C. Por private joke. El celoso Galeb manda un espía al cuarto en que conversan Mohamed y Fronesis, y el enviado finge preguntar por un tal Fredesbindo Heterónomo. La extravagancia del nombre es chistosa, pero éste, además, es un alias con el que García Lorca, por diversión, se hacía anunciar en La Habana al último Conde de Casa Bayona.
Pudiera incluirse en este acápite las asociaciones muy circunstanciales, como la que late en este verso:
el bobito frente de sarampión mamita linda
D. Por hermetismo. Aquí se entiende como tal no la oscuridad en sí, sino un tipo específico, allí donde se alude a motivos de las llamadas ciencias herméticas u ocultas, o bien se esconde algo deliberadamente. A este respecto cita Borges a Clemente de Alejandría: "Es peligroso poner todas las cosas en un libro, como poner una espada en manos de un niño."
¿Puede que esto justifique las enigmáticas referencias a la Orplid u Orplide, que llevan ya decenios haciendo agua la sesera de muchos respetables estudiosos?
E. Por la dificultad intrínseca de aquello que se quiere transmitir. Lezama solía decir: "cuando me siento claro escribo prosa, y cuando me siento oscuro, escribo poesía". Esta afirmación parece una ironía se se piensa en sus ensayos, tan claros como una luna nueva; pero no cabe duda de que la intención que los impulsa es la de esclarecer.
Aldous Huxley, hablando de D.H. Lawrence, conjetura que la mayoría de los hombres vivimos en un universo de confección casera, un angosto túnel alumbrado al que rodean las tinieblas de la ajenidad del ser y de nuestra propia irracionalidad. Sea como sea, pienso que el don de Lezama como escritor fue, para decirlo a su manera, precisamente la mirada atenaica, los ojos verde demonio del búho sabio; su problema, inventar un lenguaje para comunicar lo mirado en la sombra a los más que permanecemos en el túnel de luz.
F. La metáfora inexplicable. Es lo que Juan Antonio Cirlot ha llamado "la imagen ignota en su Diccionario de Símbolos. La mejor explicación puede ser un ejemplo de Homero, caro a Lezama:
La cigarra que canta con voz de lirio
¿Es una sinestesia? ¿O escuchaba realmente el ciego Homero una voz de los lirios, cercana a la cigarra? ¿Quién lo sabe?
G. La dificultad de la expresión. Puede producirse por limitación, voluntaria o no; el propio Lezama padecía una notoria incapacidad para ejecutar una composición cerrada, de rimas y acentos y medidas regulares, como la décima o el soneto.
O, ya en el extremo, producirse por descuido y torpeza. Menéndez y Pelayo notaría con horror que Lezama subordina constantemente y se olvida de ello con la misma constancia, de manera que nos deja, de súbito, perdidos en la maraña de una frase nunca concluida, una cita que quién sabe a qué viene, un adjetivo que corre desalado y no halla a quién servir.
H. Por enrevesamiento de estilo. Se produce cuando el escritor incurre habitualmente, a voluntad o no, en uno o varios de los modos de oscuridad descritos. Puede, acaso, añadirse un retorcimiento de la sintaxis más o menos hábil, como el que ha hecho famoso aquel verso del Polifemo:
El erizo zurrón de la castaña
dilucidado, pienso, por Alfonso Reyes.
Terminada esta enumeración tentativa, tantálica, de los procedimientos del "oscuro" literario, me enfrento a una cuestión no formulada antes. La oscuridad de un autor, ¿es imán suficiente para que nos acerquemos a su obra? ¿Es esa oscuridad una virtud, como diría Lezama, "suscitante"?
Desde el polo opuesto, Borges ha reprochado a Faulkner el "urdir, para sus laberínticas novelas, un estilo no menos laberíntico"; también, "la obra espléndida, pero no pocas vexces ilegible, de un Joyce o un Mallarmé".
Por mi parte, he llegado a una conclusión, no sé si válida. Pienso que nos adentramos en una escritura, ya tenga el "oscuro esplendor" de las praderas nocturnas o la engañosa transparencia del océano, porque algo en ella nos convida, algo más allá de las nociones de "oscuro" y "claro".
Ese algo es lo que perseguimos por igual en Góngora y en San Juan de la Cruz, en Borges y en Lezama. Ahora bien, lo que sea ese "algo" es, ya, otra historia.
"Me complace más que el mar": Intertextuality in the last poetry of Blas de Otero.
Jorge Luis Camacho
University of Toronto
When Blas de Otero returned to Spain, after having spent three years in Cuba, he said he never published any poetry on the Island. However the presence of Cuban culture is so powerful in his last books that we thought we should consider it more closely. In fact, it turned out to be that Blas de Otero did publish poetry in Cuba's leading magazine "Casa de las Américas," celebrating the Revolution; and moreover, his use of ideological as well as social ideas in his poems has to do a lot more with Cuba's politcal and social situation, than with Spain's own situation at the time. For this reason, our intention is to approach Blas de Otero's poems taking his stay in Cuba, as a point of departure. A stay that is manifested in his poetry in several levels specifically in his use of Cuban literary texts and cultural imagination, and the use of José Martí's verses and Ernesto Guevara's political persona as a rhetorical figures in his verses. This texts assume different functions in his writing and based on them, he organizes an intentional intertextual and dialogic discourse. When we speak of intertextuality we fallow Culler's definition of a text "as a dialogue with other texts, an act of absorption, parody or criticism, rather than as autonomous artifact " (1383). Now, going from the less to the most intensive intertextual reference, that is, from the simple mention, allusion or quotation of one text in another, to the complex relationship of self reference, selection or dialogue between them; I will begin by referring to the presence of evident marks of "lo cubano" in Otero's poems.
The second part of De poesía e historia (1962) is made of a group of poems dedicated to Cuba: "Con Cuba." They are presided by a prologue-poem, about the new political situation in the Island, entitled "De playa a playa"(201), which is an allusion to the "Bay of Pigs invasion," (1961). Among the poems, Otero includes: "Vida-isla"( 203-204 ), "Hasta luego"( 204-205), "Me voy de Cuba. Me llaman"( 205-206). From these general references to Cuba, where Otero lived during three years, we go to what can be considered the spiritual landscape of Cuba. They refer to physical places in the Island and they are words that have gained this status for their peculiar and frequent use, to designate "lo cubano" in previous texts. These words are "bohío," "mulata," "palmera real," "el Morro," "el malecón de la Habana", "Guantanamera". The lirical voice of the poem travels throughout the island, telling what he sees, open to what the national subjets and vast landscapes, and as such, some poems reflect on trips to different parts of Cuba. Suddenly, a place reminds him of another. A city in Cuba is a magic thread to go to Bilbao, Moscow, or Hanoi. What the eye discovers in the landscape: militias, boarding schools, streets which disappear in different directions, is not only a physical world but a social one: ("y volé a la Habana y recorrí la Isla / ladeando un poco la frente, / porque tenía necesidad de recordarte ( Bilbao ) y no perderme en medio de la Revolución,") ( "Bilbao", Hojas, 233). A torrent, a world in movement, rotating like a Hurricane over its center: loneliness, and silence are topics that torture the poet in his travels.
Another case of intertextuality that has to do with Cuba, is the use of the epigraph, that is quotation per se. In the poem "Me voy de Cuba. Me llaman", appears an epigraph from Miguel Barnet's novel The runaway slave. As this novel is regarded as being half way between the testimony and the novel, Otero chooses to quote the narrator of the story, Esteban Montejo. In this way the quotation from the novel conditions the reading of the poem, guides it, and moreover, completes the text that he quotes as a sort of feed-back. The epigraph refers to the world of "guajiros" peasants in the XIX century, the men's habit of wearing white clothes on Sunday, while women put flowers in their hair. With the reference to the Cuban peasants, Otero introduces in the poem a verse from a popular song in Cuba, "La Guantanamera". As it is well known, the lyrics of the song are José Martí's Versos sencillos (1891). Otero does not choose to write Martí's verses but the refrain of the song "Guantanamera guajira / Guajira guantanamera" keeping the rhythm and the actual meter of the verses. In this way the intertextual play is developed in two senses, one that points to the novel, the other one that points to the popular music, and indirectly to José Martí himself. This poem comes to be a parody of the Cuban song, perhaps the first one, in a series of intertextual plays (the last one being Albita Rodriguez's song). It also re-writes the song and the verses in a somewhat funny tone, taking his theme from the folkloric realms of the Cuban peasant and slave runners of XIX century.
[Me voy de Cuba. Me llaman]
. . . los domingos los guajiros se vestían
de blanco. Las mujeres se ponían flores en la
cabeza y se soltaban el pelo.
Esteban Montejo, El Cimarrón.
Me voy de Cuba. Me llaman
otras tierras y otros vientos,
Se quedan mis pensamientos
dudando entre lo que mira
el alma y lo que le espera
Me voy de Cuba. Hasta luego,
Que pienso volver a verte
si no me ciega la muerte
o si antes no me quedo ciego.
Triste de aquel que le tira
su patria con tal manera.
llevo en el pecho la enseña
de tu isla caimanera
y su cintura pequeña.
Adios, luna santiaguera
que toda América admira;
Habana de mis amores,
donde parece mentira
el humo de sus vapores.
Ponte en el pelo estas flores;
me voy, mi patria me espera.
It is interesting to note however, that the first two verses of this poem: ("Me voy de Cuba. Me llaman / otras tierras y otros vientos") (205), seems to follow closely a famous phrase written by Ernesto Guevara in his farewell letter to Castro during the years Otero was in Cuba: "Otros pueblos del mundo reclaman el concurso de mis modestos efuerzos" (T.9, 394). Guevara also used the commun theme of "los pobres del mundo" in many of his political writings and speeches, particularly those in the U.N.O. Otero mentions Ernesto Guevara several times in his poems. On the other hand, Guevara`s letter together with Martí's poems and ideas have been considered canonic texts during the Cuba revolution, and both, Guevara and Martí, have been used as rhetorical figures in political speeches and socialist propaganda, to which Blas de Otero was a big sympathizer, at least during those years.
Another example that refers to the use of Martí's verses in Otero's poems appears in his book Hojas de Madrid con La Galerna, where Blas de Otero mentiones the modernist poet. First, In " Bilbao," a poem we have seen already, Otero says:
la más burda hipocresia,
ciudad donde, muy lejos, muy lejano,
se escucha el día de la venganza alzandose con una rosa
blanca junto al cuerpo de Martí.
("Bilbao," Hojas, 233).
Here the reference to Martí seems to illuminate the Spanish poet's verses, because the white rose, ("la rosa blanca") is actually one of the poems of Martí's book: Versos Sencillos :
Cultivo una rosa blanca
En Julio como en Enero
Para el amigo sincero
Que me da su mano franca.
Otero puts up Martí's "rosa blanca" against the hypocrisy ("burda hipocresía") of Bilbao. Martí's rose is a symbol of friendship and retribution for the sincerity and frankness, an action of giving even when we do not receive anything in return. Martí in Otero's poem is kind of a Christ symbol, who raises and embodies the Christian promise of the Millennium, in the form of a new order, perhaps, socialist. Its overall view is apocalyptic: ("el día de la venganza"), which has marks of Marx`s international revolution and the "dictatorship of the proletariats".
There are two other references to Martí's poems in Otero's book: Hojas de Madrid con La galerna. The first one is the title of one of Otero's poems: "Me complace más que el mar" ( 237). This reference as the previous ones appears with no marks or indications that it belongs to another text, that is why, we will have to go the context where it appears to decide if our identification is pertinent.
First of all, the title seems to direct us to a previous sentence. To the poet, something that is not mentioned in the poem, "pleases him more than the sea." In Otero, most of the time the sea is an ill-fated symbol. Thus, in this poem, the subject turns his back to the sea as if he does not want to see it, as if the sea itself marks a limit where his abysm begins. The city is in front of him, open to him like a labyrinth map. He seems to be lost and at the same time in complete possession of himself. The big arteries of the city make him think again in the never ending trip: ("a dónde irás cuando te pares y prosigas tu marcha, / vas a subir por Prado, o por Aguila, o iras hacia la Rampa, tu el vasco universal"). As Alfonso Reyes who was called "el mexicano universal," and Juan Ramón Jimenez, "el andaluz universal" Otero sees himself as "el vasco universal." He is also a kind of a Maceo, symbol of Cuba's Independence, whose stature was at that time also facing the city with his back turned to the sea. Only towards the end of the poem, can we be sure that the title is also Martí's, when we find another verse from his book.
y la paz y la violencia que necesitan los pobres del mundo
con los que hace ya muchos años echaste tu suerte
para no retroceder jamás.
Here, we are reading verses of a nother writer that have been intentionally introduced in the poem. But at the same time, they have become emblematic of Otero's political thinking. ("Me complace más que el mar") and ("los pobres del mundo") with whom the author had spent his life with, together formed another "verse" of Versos Sencillos.
Con los pobres de la tierra
Quiero yo mi suerte hechar:
El arroyo de la sierra
Me complace más que el mar.
( III, Versos Sencillos, 238 )
The last verse in Martí's poem corresponds to the title of Otero's poem, and it appears with no alterations. But the other two have gone through different changes in the process of citation. There is a change of nouns, "mundo" for "tierra" and on the other hand, Otero directs it to himself. Nevertheless, the meaning, the deep structure of the verses remains the same. According to us, Otero's use of Martí's verses in his poems, does not quite correspond to what Otero's critics have said in the past about his borrowings from other authors. Emilio Alarcos, referring to this phenomenon has said that Otero's objective is: "hacer chocar contra la locución otra palabra que repite o alude directamente a uno de los elementos constituyentes de aquella; entonces se destruye el significado de conjunto y se realizan independientemente sus elementos."( to make another word that repeats or alludes directly to one of its elements clashes with the phrase; then the overall meaning is destroyed and its elements are realized idependently )( 90). As we have seen the "overall meaning" of Martí's verses are not "destroyed" but transferred to a new context where they acquired a contemporary validity. As Carlos Bousoño has said it is "un intento de hablar un lenguaje colectivo".(an attempt to speak a collective language). This phenomenon shows the radical union of the author with other men: "los pobres del mundo" and the Cuban author.
Now, after having analyzed José Martí's verses in Otero's poetry, it would be necessary to say, that the meaning they give to Otero's poems, goes to the root of both autors' way of thinking, since it is well known Otero's poetics is based on ethic codes where poverty plays a mayor role. This aesthetic of poverty was rampant during the first years of the revolution, also visible in Cuban poetas such as Cintio Vitier and Fina Garcia Marruz. Oscar Lewis' books, first on México and then on Cuba may have reinforced this / his personal believe. On the other hand, one of the most important sources for this, is found in the Bible, to which the apocalyptic images are associated. Again, both poems can be read as Blas de Otero's way of re-writing Martí's poems and life. His use of the structure of the Cuban popular song "Guantanamera" reveals a dialogic play with Barnet's novel and the song itself, his sadness in having to return to Spain and his love for the Caribbean island.
Alarcos, Llorach Emilio. La poesía de Blas de Otero. Oviedo: Universidad de Oviedo, 1956, 2da Edición. Salamanca: Anaya, 1956.
Culler, J. "Presupposition and Intertextuality". Modern Language Notes, XCI, no.6 (1976): 1380-96.
Carlos Bousoño."Un ensayo de estilistica explicativa. ( ruptura de un sistema formado por una frase hecha". En Homenaje universitario a Damaso Alonso,69-84, Madrid: Gredos, 1970.
Guevara, Ernesto Che. Escritos y Discursos. La Habana: Ed. Juan José Soto, Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, 1977.
Martí José. Poesía Crítica. La Habana: Ed.Cintio Vitier, Fina Garcia Marruz y Emilio de Armas, Letras Cubanas, 1985. (All textual citations are from this edition.)
Otero, Blas de. Expresión y reunión. Madrid: Alianza editorial, 1981. (All textual citations are from this edition.)
On the Study of 19th century Cuban nationalism.
Michelle Van Beusekom
Over the past ten years there has been a proliferation in the number of studies written about nationalism, coming from a variety of different disciplinary perspectives. The study of 19th Century Cuba provides an interesting contribution to this body of work.
Riddled with social, economic, racial and regional divisions, to 19th Century observers Cuba (the last of Spain's American possessions to gain independence 1), would have appeared as a very unlikely place for the emergence of a strong nationalist movement characterized by marked social reformist tendencies. In the early 19th Century, fear of race war along the lines of that in neighboring Haiti was enough to keep incipient longings for independence amongst Cuban Creoles in check. Early formulations of a concept of national identity were not, for the most part, tied to arguments for independence and neither the slave nor free black populations were included in incipient definitions of Cuban nationality. In 1868, however, a regionally based movement for independence (a movement with a strong annexationist orientation 2) led not by the Creole intellectuals who had been formulating ideas about national identity but rather by Creole planters broke out in the eastern end of the island. Less dependent on the slave economy than their western counterparts, the leaders of this movement freed their slaves in order to enlist them in an insurgent conflict that would last for ten years but never take hold beyond the eastern third of the island. In 1895, seventeen years after the conclusion of what became known as the Ten Years War, a renewed struggle for independence broke out and quickly spread across the entire island. This insurgent army, in terms of goals and composition, bore little resemblance to that of 1868. This was a broad-based movement striving not only for independence but also for quite radical social reforms. The social base of the independence movement had changed dramatically with planters no longer leading the insurgency. The Liberation Army consisted "...principally of peasants and rural workers with blacks well overrepresented in insurgent columns and accounting for some 40 percent of the senior command ranks of the army."3 Racial equality had become a central tenet of the ideology guiding That the 1895-1898 War of Independence is best characterized as a nationalist movement is by no means clear. Louis Pérez argues that given the diverse motivations of the different constituencies who comprised the independence movement, at a fundamental level it really is not clear what Cuba Libre represented.5 If 1895-1898 can indeed be characterized as a nationalist movement, than the rapid bridging of profound social and racial divisions (in the absence of homogenizing state structures dedicated to this task) would seem to pose something of a challenge to dominant theories of nationalism. If not, then it is important to determine the period in which we can begin to speak of a hegemonic nationalism in Cuba and address why 19th Century events tends to get retrospectively cast in nationalist terms.
Theories of Nationalism
There is no consensus on what nationalism is exactly, the nature of its origins and how it is to be understood. It is generally agreed that nationalism becomes a powerful political force beginning in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries and that its development has something to do with the process of modernization, capitalist industrialization, uneven development, linguistic standardization, developments in communications technology, the centralization of state power and imperialism. The origins of nationalism are usually placed in Western Europe. Nationalism is frequently categorized into different varieties--old and new, civic and ethnic, Eastern and Western, territorial and cultural--in order to account for the distinct ways in which this phenomenon manifests itself. There is some debate as to whether or not all of these species actually belong to the same genus.6
Dominant approaches to understanding nations and nationalism(s) can be imperfectly divided into three competing theoretical paradigms: primordialist/evolutionist, modernist and culturalist.7 Adherents to the first approach assert the primordiality of nations and depict the birth of nations and nationalism as a natural, organic process. Modernist theorists approach nationalism in more functionalist terms as a necessary corollary to the process of modernization. The third approach, which enjoys a certain popularity today, also emphasizes the modernity of the nations and nationalism but focuses on the artificiality or invented character of many aspects of national histories and traditions 8 as well as the factors that made it subjectively possible for people to begin to think of themselves as belonging to a national group.9 The first approach attempts to excavate the historical sediment out of which nations and nationalism emerged, the second stresses the factors associated with modernization which led to the creation of nationalism, while the third approach focuses on nationalism as a cultural phenomenon of recent origin.
Studies on the Cuban nation and nationalism: a brief overview
There is an extensive body of literature on the origins of Cuban nationality and the Cuban nation, much of which is highly polemical. As Louis Pérez points out, since 1959 revisionist historiography centered on the proposition of nation has become an important tool on both sides of the ideological debate over the nature and legitimacy of the Cuban revolution.10 This polemic stems back at least to the neo-colonial republican era (1902-1959) during which time the viability of the Cuban nation and the role played by the United States in Cuba's War of Independence (1895-1898) were contentious issues of debate between Cuban and American historians. Even as early as the 1840s, debates between annexationists and reformists often centered on the question of national identity, whether or not the inhabitants of Cuba formed in their own right a distinct national group.11
Many historians trace the origins of Cuban nationality to the independence struggles of the 19th Century, although this periodization is not uncontested, some tracing the emergence of a distinct national identity back to the 1500s. Most historians agree that by the end of the 19th Century a widespread, fairly coherent and racially inclusive nationalist ideology had been consolidated in Cuba. Highlighting the diversity of opinion on where to locate the origins of Cuban nationality, Pérez writes:
Some locate the origins of Cuban nationality in Hatuey's act of spurning the Spanish offer of baptism before his execution in 1512. Others detect in the vegueros' uprisings two hundred years later the crystallizing element of nationality. More recently, it has been fashionable--at least in the English-speaking world--to proclaim the British occupation of Havana (1762-1763) as the genesis of the Cuban nation. In Cuba, certainly since 1959, the principal characteristics of Cuban nationality have been attributed to the cien años de lucha, beginning with the Ten Years War (1868-1878) and culminating in the triumph and consolidation of the revolution after 1959. Still other scholars have eschewed the chronological schematic and emphasize instead sugar, or slavery or the North American presence to explain the creation of nationality.12
Several scholars have noted the teleological character of dominant narratives of the Cuban nation which ascribe to the past an inherent unity, and describe the Revolution as the dialectical completion of a linear, protracted struggle for nationhood.13 "The Cuban Revolution," Tevi Medin writes, "is projected as the culmination of a single revolution in which the same struggle for liberation and the same heroic spirit motivated Céspedes, Martí and Cienfuegos...an existence heroic in its totality, an epic conception of existence."14 This heroic linear depiction of Cuban history smoothes over conflicts and contradictions, conceals the divergent and often opposing motivations that inspired key historical protagonists and largely forgets about the role of Cubans of less epic proportions. Enrico Santí argues that this mythical reading of the nation in which a logic of prefiguring and fulfillment connects 1959 to previous struggles ends by completely de-histroicizing historical relations.15
Even in more serious historiography, this tendency towards a teleological reading of the nation is often evident, a reading similar to that found in evolutionist paradigms mentioned earlier.16 Sergio Aguirre, for example, outlines a four stage process beginning in 1603 and ending in 1959 tracing the integration of Cuban national identity and the birth of the Cuban nation. Evolutionist approaches such as that of Aguirre tend to depict the nation as a natural form of association and are unable to account for the constructed and more arbitrary elements of national identity that are consolidated through such things as the standardization of history or the establishment of a canonical literature.
Jorge Ibarra's analysis of the origins of the Cuban nation is more readily classified within the modernist paradigms mentioned previously. Ibarra presents a structuralist account of the origins of nation based on Stalin's famous definition of the nation as an economic, political, territorial, linguistic, psychological and cultural community.17 This type of approach which conceives of the nation as being composed of a number of objective characteristics is problematic18 and does not explain where national projects originate from. The attempt to root the nation in a group of objective criteria, to determine the point at which a given community "crystallizes" into a nation turns nation and nationality into somewhat static and organic categories and does not explain how nationalist ideas get propagated and legitimized, why they become politically salient in some contexts but not in others.
Despite the abundant literature on the Cuban nation and its historical roots, it is much more difficult to find anything written specifically about nationalism as a cultural category or the process whereby nationalism as a discourse obtained widespread recognition and legitimacy. The preoccupation with nationalism as a unique, puzzling and anachronistic form of collective identity which dominates much of contemporary European literature on this topic is remarkably absent from studies on the Cuban nation. This approach which understands national identity as being based largely on invented traditions is quite foreign to studies on the Cuban nation. National identity is presented as a fact that is objectively verifiable. The debate centers on how and when this common identity was established and consolidated and who and what contributed to this process. One of the reasons for the predominance of evolutionary approaches which attempt to uncover the historical ground of the nation is no doubt political. In Cuba, the popular legitimization of state policies is so tied up with the proposition of nation and constant evocations of national history, that the challenging of ossified national myths could be perceived as politically destabilizing. It is perhaps for this reason that apparently very few attempts have been made within Cuba to explore nation and nationalism as cultural categories.19 Another reason for the apparent absence of literature on this topic no doubt relates to the exigencies of the Special Period which have virtually brought publications within Cuba to a standstill.
Outside of Cuba, one of the most interesting attempts to understand the way nationalism understood as a cultural configuration took shape on the island is made by Ada Ferrer in her 1995 doctoral dissertation.20 Ferrer looks at the process whereby nationalism emerged as a counter-hegemonic discourse within the Liberation Army and attained a certain degree of legitimacy at popular levels. She traces how this discourse was developed within the Liberation Army in response to arguments made by Spain and her allies that racial divisions made Cubans unfit for independence. She further explores how the content of the definition of nation was transformed in response to pressures by various groups both inside and outside of the liberation movement. Unlike Aguirre and Ibarra, Ferrer does not approach "the nation" as a given set of objective characteristics but rather as a cultural formation given expression in discourse and responding to a set of determinate circumstances. Nation is presented as a fluid category, the content of which shifts and gets redefined in response to diverse social processes. Ferrer's work is extremely useful in explaining the social processes that led to the emergence, legitimization, transformation and strategic use of nationalist discourse within the liberation movement. One question that remains unanswered, however, is the relative strength of nationalism as a unifying ideology at the end of the 1895-98 conflict.21
As noted at the outset, an understanding of the independence process and the role played by nationalism in the separatist movement remains ambiguous. As Pérez points out, "at various times, slaveowners and slaves, cigar manufacturers and cigar workers, police officers and bandits, anexionistas and independentistas, and Spaniards and Cubans joined together in pursuit of Cuba Libre. This suggests that at a fundamental level we are not quite certain what Cuba Libre means..."22 Different groups had distinct and at times contradictory reasons for their support of Cuba Libre23 and it would be presumptuous to suggest that a fairly unified nationalist sentiment motivated the vast majority of combatants. Pérez makes the argument that for a variety of reasons, different sectors in Cuban society had come to the agreement by 1896 that Spanish colonialism had to be overthrown. There was little else uniting these disparate constituencies and with the deaths of Martí, Maceo and Calixto Garcia (three principal leaders in the Liberation Army), by 1898 there was no one left capable of negotiating a consensus between the different groups. For this reason, as Pérez points out, although there was a lot of popular resentment towards the nature of the American intervention in the War of Independence, there was never a systematic or sustained opposition to the American occupation.24 "The independentista ideal survived but without persons/institutions to give it a political focus."25
It appears at least plausible that 19th Century Cuban nationalism appears a lot stronger and more coherent in retrospect (particularly when refracted through the "cien años de lucha" paradigm) then it actually was at the time. Many Creole leaders of Cuba Libre made a remarkably easy transition to the neo-colonial republic, the marginalization of black participants in Cuba Libre in the republic did not meet with much creole resistance. On the other hand, it has been said that it was not up until the 1920s that José Martí, who's thought today forms the core of all formulations of Cuban nationalism, was routinely ignored. In the exaggerated words of Rafael Rojas, "se puede afirmar que el olvido de Martí era una estructura básica de la primera República cubana."26 But Martí's though did played a mayor role during the early years of the Republic among the people who met him in North America and later came to Cuba. Martí's "olvido" is only a myth among the scholars. All of this raises questions about the nature and coherence of Cuban nationalism at the dawn of the neo-republican era and suggests the need for a more careful study of the 1868-1898 period in order to understand how perceptions of the struggle changed over this 30 year people and if it is legitimate to characterize this unambiguously as a nationalist struggle.
1 With the exception of Puerto Rico, of course.
2 In favour of annexation to the United States.
3 Louis Pérez, Cuba Between Empires: 1878-1902, (Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh University Press, 1983), p. 106.
4 José Martí, "Mi Raza" in Cuba, Nuestra America, Los Estados Unidos, (Mexico City: Siglo XXI editores, 1973), p. 69.
5 Louis Pérez, Essays on Cuban History: Historiography and Research, (Gainseville: University of Florida Press, 1995), p. 203.
6 See for example Bhikhu Parekh, "Ethnocentricity of the nationalist discourse" in Nations and Nationalism (1.1, 1995), pp. 25-6.
7 Anthony Smith makes use of a similar categorization in his article "Gastronomy or geology? The role of nationalism in the reconstruction of nations" in Nations and Nationalism, (1.1, 1985), pp.3-23.
8 For this argument see: E. Hobsbawm and T. Ranger, eds, The Invention of Tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983.
9 See Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. Second ed. London: Verso, 1984.
10 Louis Pérez, Essays on Cuban History: Historiography and Research, (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1995), p.xi.
11 See: Josef Opantrý, "José Antonio Saco's Path Toward the Idea of Cubanidad," in Cuban Studies (21.1, 1991: 39-55).
12 Louis Pérez, "Review of: Antecedentes historicos de la formación de la nación cubana, by Josef Opantrý", in Hispanic American Historical Review, (68.3, 1988), p. 582.
13 See for example: Louis Pérez, "Toward a New Future, From a New Past: The Enterprise of History in Socialist Cuba", Cuban Studies, (15.1, 1985), p. 12.
14 Tevi Medin, Cuba: The Shaping of Revolutionary Consciousness, trans. Martha Grenzback, (Boulder & London: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1990), p. 32.
15 Enrico Mario Santi, "José Martí and the Cuban Revolution" in Cuban Studies (16.1, 1986), p. 139.
16 This has a lot to do with the use of a somewhat evolutionist marxist paradigm to structure much historical work.
17 Jorge Ibarra, Ideología Mambisa, (Havana: Instituto Cubano del Libro, 1967), p. 49.
18 As Eric Hobsbawm points out, exceptions can always be found to a priori definitions of the nation. See: Eric Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780: Programme, Myth, Reality, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), pp. 8-9.
19 Rafael Rojas, for example, has been labeled a neo-annexationist by some for his attempts to approach the nation in cultural terms. See comments by Rojas regarding the reception of an earlier essay in his article, "El epitafio de Saco" in La Gaceta de Cuba, (No. 1, Jan/Feb. 1996), p. 14
20 Ada Ferrer, "To Make a Free Nation: Race & The Struggle for Independence in Cuba, 1868-1898", University of Michigan (doctoral dissertation), 1995.
21 Among other things, Gerald Poyo looks at the role of print media in consolidating nationalist ideas in the Cuban expatriate community in the US in the late 19th Century, but argues that it is much more difficult to ascertain the salience and coherence of these ideas in Cuba itself during the same period. See: Gerald Poyo, "The Cuban Experience in the United States, 1865-1940: Migration, Continuity and Identity", in Cuban Studies, (21.1, 1991), pp. 19-36.
22 Louis Pérez, Essays on Cuban History: Historiography and Research, p. 203.
23 Louis Pérez outlines the different motivations which united the diverse constituencies that comprised Cuba Libre in his book Cuba Between Empires 1878-1902.
24 Louis Pérez, Cuba Between Empires 1878-1902, p. xviii.
25 ibid, p. 377.
26 Rafael Rojas, "Manach o el desmontaje intelectual de una republica", in La Gaceta de Cuba, (No. 4, July/Aug 1994), p. 9