Unbecoming Blackness : The Diaspora Cultures of Afro-Cuban America

Antonio López

Honorable mention for the Prize in United States Latina and Latino and Chicana and Chicano Literary and Cultural Studies, Modern Language Association, 2011–12

In Unbecoming Blackness, Antonio López uncovers an important, otherwise unrecognized century-long archive of literature and performance that reveals Cuban America as a space of overlapping Cuban and African diasporic experiences.

López shows how Afro-Cuban writers and performers in the U.S. align Cuban black and mulatto identities, often subsumed in the mixed-race and postracial Cuban national imaginaries, with the material and symbolic blackness of African Americans and other Afro-Latinas/os. In the works of Alberto O’Farrill, Eusebia Cosme, Rómulo Lachatañeré, and others, Afro-Cubanness articulates the African diasporic experience in ways that deprive negro and mulato configurations of an exclusive link with Cuban nationalism. Instead, what is invoked is an “unbecoming” relationship between Afro-Cubans in the U.S and their domestic black counterparts. The transformations in Cuban racial identity across the hemisphere, represented powerfully in the literary and performance cultures of Afro-Cubans in the U.S., provide the fullest account of a transnational Cuba, one in which the Cuban American emerges as Afro-Cuban-American, and the Latino as Afro-Latino.