This presentation explores literary representations of racial mixture in the Cuban literary production from the colonial era and the Special Period in Time of Pace (1990), a period of severe economic crisis resulting from the collapse of the Soviet Union. Through critical examination of the national ideology of miscegenation (mestizaje), I will examine how mixed-race female bodies were used to contribute to and challenge political and intellectual agendas reproducing or questioning Cuba´s image as a mixed-race (mestizo) nation. I will examine three works in which racial mixing is central -Cecilia Valdés (1882), Trilogía sucia de La Habana (1998) and Animal Tropical (2001)- to explore how narrative portray racial tensions and epochal debates about nation-building, gender, sexuality, and womanhood through the figure of mulatta, mestiza, and black women. Building on interdisciplinary scholarship across literary theory, Black feminism, masculinity studies, and African diaspora studies, this presentation shows female bodies as a site of multiple historical, cultural, and political meanings. By examining slavery and colonialist institutions, this presentation addresses the representation of mixed-race women as part of a broader genealogy of miscegenation.
Ofelia Lopez is a PhD Candidate in Romance Studies at Duke University and 2022 Spring ALARI Visiting Research Associate. Her research focuses on the relationship among race, gender, and literary discourse in the Latin American cultural production. Ofelia´s doctoral dissertation, After of the Skin: Representations of Race in Post-independent Cuban Literature, addresses the ways in which race is named and problematized in Cuban literary texts of the Republic, the Revolution, and the Special Period. At Duke she has taught literature and language courses in the Romance Studies Department and the Spanish language program. She has been a visiting scholar at Brown University (2015) and the Alejo Carpentier Foundation in Havana, Cuba (2018). She has received the 2022 Summer Research Fellowship for Research on Women or Girls of Color and the 2021 Race and the Professions Fellowship sponsored by the Duke Graduate School and the Kenan Institute for Ethics.