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Cuban Palimpsests

2005
Author:

José Quiroga

Cuban Palimpsests

Traces how Cuba’s revolutionary past and uncertain future collide with post–Cold War realities

José Quiroga explores the sites, both physical and imaginative, where memory bears upon Cuba's collective history. From the nostalgic photographs of Walker Evans to the stature of Fidel Castro, from the legacy of artist Ana Mendieta to the reburial of Che Guevara, Cuban Palimpsests memorializes the ruins of Cuba's past and offers a meditation on its place within the new world order.

Cuban Palimpsests covers uncharted territory, particularly the post-Soviet collapse period and its impact on Cuban culture.

María de los Angeles Torres, author of The Lost Apple: Operation Pedro Pan, Cuban Children in the U.S., and the Promise of a Better Future

Four decades ago, the Cuban revolution captured the world’s attention and imagination. Its impact around the world was as much cultural as geopolitical. Within Cuba, the state developed a strictly defined national and collective memory that led directly from a colonial past to a utopian future, but this narrative came to a halt in the early 1990s. The collapse of Cuba’s sponsor, the Soviet Union, and the end of the Cold War preceded the so-called “Special Period in Times of Peace,” a euphemistic phrase that masked the genuine anxiety shared by leaders and people about the nation’s future.

In Cuban Palimpsests, José Quiroga explores the sites, both physical and imaginative, where memory bears upon Cuba’s collective history in ways that illuminate this extended moment of uncertainty. Crossing geographical, political, and cultural borders, Quiroga moves with ease between Cuba, Miami, and New York. He traces generational shifts within the exile community, contrasts Havana’s cultural richness with its economic impoverishment, follows the cloak-and-dagger narratives of revolutionary and counterrevolutionary spy fiction and film, and documents the world’s ongoing fascination with Cuban culture.

From the nostalgic photographs of Walker Evans to the iconic stature of Fidel Castro, from the literary expressions of despair to the beat of Cuban musical rhythms, from the haunting legacy of artist Ana Mendieta to the death of Celia Cruz and the reburial of Che Guevara, Cuban Palimpsests memorializes the ruins of Cuba’s past and offers a powerful meditation on its enigmatic place within the new world order.

Cuban Palimpsests

José Quiroga is professor and department chair of Spanish and Portuguese at Emory University. He is the author of Understanding Octavio Paz and Tropics of Desire: Interventions from Queer Latino America.

Cuban Palimpsests

Cuban Palimpsests covers uncharted territory, particularly the post-Soviet collapse period and its impact on Cuban culture.

María de los Angeles Torres, author of The Lost Apple: Operation Pedro Pan, Cuban Children in the U.S., and the Promise of a Better Future

This volume deals with multiple layers of reflections: memories tinged with melancholy; nostalgia tempered by illusion; desire colored by Quiroga offers seven poignant, perceptive, and balanced essay-chapters on modern Cuba. His sensitive, thoughtful accounts are at once personal, specific, and universal. Recommended.

Choice

Among the many studies on Cuba that have been recently published, Quiroga’s stands out not only for its impeccable scholarship and truly insightful analyses, but also because it is itself one of the most intelligent and poetic ‘mythologies’ of the Special Period published to date.

The Americas

Cuban Palimpsests

Contents

Preface: Stuck in Time

Introduction: Untimely Cuba

History on the Rocks
Espionage and Identity
A Cuban Love Affair with the Image
Migrations of the Book
The Beat of the State
Still Searching for Ana Mendieta
The Cuban Book of the Dead

Acknowledgments
Notes

Index