Afro-Cuban History from Below

You must write at least 200 words in response to Reyita: The Life of a Black Cuban Woman in the Twentieth Century (up to page 86) and the introduction by Elizabeth Dore, and at least 200 words in response to Tomás Guitierrez Alea’s film Memorias del subdesarrollo (1968). Be sure to use and analyze textual evidence in your response.

For Reyita be sure you engage with both the testimony/oral text and Dore’s introduction, and for both Reyita and Alea’s film I want you to articulate your own impressions, reactions and interpretations but consider addressing the following:

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For Reyita:

Read Stuart Hall’s formulation of identity in the excerpt from “Fantasy, Identity, Politics” (included in the module page) and keep in mind the following formulation: “Identity is the meeting point, or the point of suture, between, on the one hand, the ideological discourses which attempt to interpellate or speak us as social subjects, and, on the other, the psychological or psychical processes which produces us as subjects which can be spoken” (65). In Elizabeth Dore’s introduction she states: “Reyita provides a rich vein of information about the varied and contradictory nature of Afro-Cuban identities”. How does Reyita represent discourses on race, class and gender and how does she negotiate and position herself in relation to these discourses?
In the introduction Dore states: “Reyita participated in one of the last Afro-Cuban collective efforts for what could be called loosely ‘black liberation'” (4). How was this movement of Black liberation both Caribbean and diasporic? What possibilities of inter-Caribbean community were opened up in these times? What happened to this movement?
Dore’s introduction focuses on the genre of Reyita as a testimonio and as oral storytelling. Dore offers advice on how to approach the narrative as a text and a genre. What comments can you make on the form and organization of Reyita’s narrative?

Be sure that you demonstrate your engagement with the introduction and the first two chapters.

For Memorias del subdesarrollo:

Memorias del subdesarrollo (1968, directed by Tomás Gutierrez Alea) is considered one of the masterpieces of Cuban cinema. It is a challenging film because it deconstructs its protagonist and his point-of-view, demanding its audience to be critical of the protagonist instead of fully identifying with him. How do you interpret the way the film critiques its subject? Consider the film’s implicit examination of the role of the intellectual, class, alienation, oppressive relationships and social revolution.
In the module page I have transcripts of key passages that I hope can help in how you make connections, but be sure you demonstrate your own engagement of the film on your own terms as well.
Be aware that this is a post-Communist revolutionary film sponsored by the state-run “Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos” (ICAIC). Like Miel para Ochún there is a propagandistic element to the film, yet at the same time Cuban cinema is also known to critique its own society. How do you interpret the film as propaganda or social education?

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