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Alejandro de la Fuente
Director, Institute of Afro-Latin American Studies, Harvard University

Alejandro de la Fuente received his law degree from the University of Havana in 1985, then a Phd in History from the University of Pittsburgh in 1996. He has written extensively on issues of race and slavery in Cuba.

He was one of the curators of Queloides/Keloids: Raza y Racismo en el Arte Cubano Contemporáneo, 2010. He was also the curator for The art exhibit Drapetomania: Exposición Homenaje a Grupo Antillano in Santiago de Cuba.

De la Fuente was UCIS Research Professor, Latin American and Caribbean History, at the University of Pittsburgh, after being at the University of South Florida in Tampa, and the University of Havana.  He has joined the faculty at Harvard University, where he is the Robert Woods Bliss Professor of Latin American History and Economics and Professor of African and African American Studies. He is the founding Director of the Institute of Afro-Latin American Studies at Harvard and the faculty Co-Chair, along with Professor Jorge Domínguez, of the Cuban Studies Program. He is the Senior Editor of the journal Cuban Studies.-- aaas.fas.harvard.edu/directory/faculty/alejandro-de-la-fuente

Bibliography

A Lesson From Cuba on Race 11/17/2013 New York Times: by Alejandro de la Fuente - "In other words, despite Cuba’s success in reducing racial inequality, young black males continued to be seen as potential criminals. Perceptions of people of African descent as racially differentiated and inferior continued to permeate Cuban society and institutions. The point is not that issues of economic justice and access to resources are irrelevant. Eliminating massive inequality is a necessary step if we are ever going to dismantle racial differences. There is, as Gutting argues, a deeper issue of access to basic resources that does need solution. But the Cuban experience suggests that there are other equally deep issues that need to be addressed as well."

«Tengo una raza oscura y discriminada» El movimiento afrocubano: hacia un programa consensuado 11/1/2012 Nueva Sociedad: "Inicialmente impulsado por intelectuales, músicos, escritores y artistas, desde fines de la década de 1990 el movimiento afrocubano ha ido logrando romper el silencio oficial que cubría el tema racial en Cuba. En los últimos años, la lucha por la igualdad racial se ha enriquecido con la participación de organizaciones y activistas que han traducido las denuncias al lenguaje de los derechos ciudadanos. Aunque el movimiento afrocubano ha ganado en complejidad y diversidad, el debate de los últimos años ha ido produciendo, en paralelo, una serie de grandes temas de interés compartido. Estos puntos de acuerdo anticipan, quizás, la posibilidad de un programa consensuado y una acción común."

Race, Ideology, And Culture In Cuba: Recent Scholarship 2/19/2012 Latin American Research Review: article reviewing a recent crop of books, published in 2000

Race and Income Inequality in Contemporary Cuba 7/1/2011 NACLA

'Queloides': Artists Explore Racism in Cuba  6/14/2011 The Root: by Alejandro de la Fuente, with video - "Despite the social transformations implemented by the Cuban revolutionary government since the early 1960s, racism continues to be a deep wound in Cuban society, one that generates countless social and cultural scars. Racist attitudes, ideas and behaviors have gained strength in Cuban society during the last two decades, during the deep economic crisis known as "the Special Period," which followed the collapse of the Soviet Union. As the Cuban economy became dollarized, and competition for scarce jobs and resources intensified, racial discrimination and racial inequality increased. White Cubans began to use racist arguments to deny blacks access to the most attractive sectors of the economy (such as tourism), those in which it was possible to earn dollars or other hard currencies."

Rafael Lopez Ramos, "La Huella del Latigo" Los Lirios del Jardin  4/19/2011 : "A propósito de la recién inaugurada edición del proyecto Queloides, dialogué vía correo eléctronico con sus curadores Alejandro de la Fuente y Elio Rodríguez Valdés acerca del tema en que se centra la exposición y otros detalles relacionados con esta."

Alejandro de la Fuente y Michael Olijnyk nos hablan sobre "Queloides"  2/26/2011 YouTube: "Tuyomasyo Art presenta: Alejandro de la Fuente y Michael Olijnyk nos hablan sobre "Queloides" Race and Racism in Cuban Contemporary Art. Michael Olijnyk Co-director de Mattress Factory y Alejandro de la Fuente historiador y curador de la muestra."

"Queloides" Catalog  1/6/2011 Matress Factory Shop: "Queloides: Race and Racism in Cuban Contemporary Art," companion volume to the exhibition of the same name at the Mattress Factory Museum in Pittsburgh, PA, documents the complete exhibition in the United States as well as the previous Queloides exhibitions in Cuba. Edited by Cuban scholar and Queloides co-curator, Alejandro de la Fuente, this 172-page full-color bilingual (English and Spanish) catalog contains four essays: “Introduction: The New Afro-Cuban Cultural Movement,” by Alejandro de la Fuente; “Queloides: A History,” by Omar Pascual Castillo; “Race and Racism in Cuban Contemporary Art” by Odette Casamayor; and “Racism: Parody and Postcommunism” by Dennys Matos. The “Queloides: Race and Racism in Cuban Contemporary Art” catalog also includes extensive full-color photographic documentation of works in the exhibitions at the Wifredo Lam Center and the Mattress Factory and biographies of each of the 13 artists."

Racism in Contemporary Cuba Explored in Mattress Factory Exhibition, Cocurated by Pitt’s Alejandro de la Fuente  9/13/2010 Pitt Chronicle 

La "raza" y los silencios de la cubanidad  1/7/2009 Encuentro: Alejandro de la FuenteLa "raza" y los silencios de la cubanidad  1/7/2009 Encuentro: Alejandro de la Fuente

The New Afro-Cuban Cultural Movement and the Debate on Race in Contemporary Cuba  12/4/2008 Journal of Latin American Studies: "This paper analyses recent debates on race and racism in Cuba in the context of changing economic and social conditions in the island. Since the early 1990s, and largely in response to the negative effects that the so-called Special Period had on race relations, a group of artists and intellectuals began denouncing the persistence of racist practices and stereotypes in Cuban society. Although they are not organised around a single program or institution, these musicians, visual artists, writers, academics and activists share common grievances about racism and its social effects. It is in this sense that they constitute a new Afro-Cuban cultural movement. It is too early to fully assess the impact of this movement, but these artists and intellectuals have been largely successful in raising awareness about this problem and bringing it to the attention of authorities and the Cuban public."

Havana and the Atlantic in the Sixteenth Century
( University of North Carolina Press, 2008).

Cuba’s Racial Democracy: What Now?  10/1/2007 New School: by Alejandro de la Fuente

Editor, "'Su único derecho': los esclavos y la ley," Debate y Perspectivas 4 (Madrid: Fundación Mapfre-Tavera, 2004).

"Slave Law and Claims-Making in Cuba: The Tannenbaum Debate Revisited" Law and History Review, Summer 2004

A Nation for All: Race, Inequality, and Politics in Twentieth-Century Cuba . Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001 (Spanish ed. Madrid 2001)

"Slaves and the Creation of Legal Rights in Cuba : Coartación and Papel," Hispanic American Historical Review 87:4 (November 2007), 659-92.

Race, Ideology, And Culture In Cuba: Recent Scholarship 9/1/2000 LASA: by Alejandro de la Fuente, University of Pittsburgh

Myths of Racial Democracy: Cuba, 1900-1912  6/1/1999 Latin American Research Review: "This article reviews the recent literature on the so-called myths of racial democracy in Latin America and challenges current critical interpretations of the social effects of these ideologies. Typically, critics stress the elitist nature of these ideologies, their demobilizing effects among racially subordinate groups, and the role they play in legitimizing the subordination of such groups. Using the establishment of the Cuban republic as a test case, this article contends that the critical approach tends to minimize or ignore altogether the opportunities that these ideologies have created for those below, the capacity of subordinate groups to use the nation-state's cultural project to their own advantage, and the fact that these social myths also restrain the political options of their own creators."


Links
top/Enlaces

Slave Law and Claims-Making in Cuba: The Tannenbaum Debate Revisited, Law and History Review, Summer 2004

Page at Harvaard University
history.fas.harvard.edu/people/faculty/delafuente.php

 

Articles/Articulos

A Lesson From Cuba on Race 11/17/2013 New York Times: by Alejandro de la Fuente - "In other words, despite Cuba’s success in reducing racial inequality, young black males continued to be seen as potential criminals. Perceptions of people of African descent as racially differentiated and inferior continued to permeate Cuban society and institutions. The point is not that issues of economic justice and access to resources are irrelevant. Eliminating massive inequality is a necessary step if we are ever going to dismantle racial differences. There is, as Gutting argues, a deeper issue of access to basic resources that does need solution. But the Cuban experience suggests that there are other equally deep issues that need to be addressed as well."

Alejandro de la Fuente on the New Afro-Cuban Cultural Movement 11/14/2013 Repeating Islands: "Professor de la Fuente succeeded in demonstrating the qualitative differences between the discourse on race in the mid-twentieth century and that of the ‘90s and the first part of twenty-first, providing a wide array of examples of cultural products, especially, music, literature, and the visual arts. The lecture included a discussion of rappers Hermanos de Causa, poetry by Teresa Cárdenas Angulo, and visual artists such as René Peña, Alexis Esquivel, Juan Roberto Diago, María Magdalena Campos-Pons, and Andrés Montalván Cuéllar, among others, which led to an animated and productive conversation with the speaker."

Del estante: El arte afro-cubano del Grupo Antillano 7/25/2013 Cuban Art News: de Zoya Kocur - "El proyecto de De la Fuente ha traído de vuelta un capítulo poco conocido de la historia del arte cubano y la historia cultural afrocubana. Al igual que la exposición, el libro se centra en cómo el proyecto del Grupo Antillano contribuyó a la formación de un movimiento afro-cubano a través de la afirmación y promoción de la cultura e identidad cubanas negras. Las razones de la falta de atención al Grupo Antillano después de su disolución seguirán siendo objeto de debate, los historiadores y críticos de arte e historiadores ofrecerán diferentes evaluaciones de las exposiciones del Grupo Antillano. Pero a través de la exposición de De la Fuente y este libro valioso, ahora tenemos la oportunidad de verla por nosotros mismos."

Disidentes y activistas contra la discriminación racial participan en el Congreso de LASA 6/1/2013 Diario de Cuba: "A las conferencias asistieron asimismo el activista Juan Antonio Madrazo y el bloguero y escritor Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo; Ted Henken, profesor del Baruch College de la Universidad de Nueva York; Marcelo Fajardo-Cárdenas, de la Universidad de Mery Washington (Virginia); Alejandro de la Fuente, de la University of Pittsburgh, y el historiador y ensayista cubano Rafael Rojas, entre otros."

Did Ché Guevara write 'extensively' about the superiority of white Europeans? Rubio says yes 4/17/2013 Politifacts: "At least a couple of our experts pointed to a famous speech Guevara made at the University of Santa Clara in 1959 in which he called for greater representation in all parts of Cuban society. At workers rallies around that time, Guevara and Raul Castro talked about the need to "advance the revolution’s anti-discrimination program," wrote Alejandro de la Fuente, a University of Pittsburgh history professor in his book A Nation for All: Race, Inequality and Politics in 20th Century Cuba. In the speech at Santa Clara, Guevara called for the university to "paint itself with black, paint itself with mulatto" students and teachers, Fuente wrote."

In Conversation: Alejandro de la Fuente on Drapetomanía and Grupo Antillano 4/2/2013 DRCLAS, Harvard: "De la Fuente has described Grupo Antillano as a forgotten visual arts and cultural movement that thrived between 1978 and 1983. The group proclaimed the centrality of African practices in national culture. For them, Africa and the surrounding Caribbean was not a dead cultural heritage but a vibrant, ongoing and vital influence that continued to define what it means to be Cuban. Yet de la Fuente was surprised to discover that neither the art nor the very existence of Grupo Antillano is remembered today. As he puts it, Grupo Antillano has been removed from all accounts of the so-called "new Cuban art," which took shape precisely during those years and is frequently associated with the legendary exhibition Volumen Uno (1981). In contrast to Grupo Antillano, says de la Fuente, most of the artists of Volmen Uno did not look towards Africa or the Caribbean for inspiration, but to new trends in Western art."

TEMA RACIAL: Dos artículos de Alejandro de la Fuente 3/21/2013 Negra Cubana: "Alejandro de la Fuente, es uno de los investigadores cubanos que más a examinado la problemática racial en Cuba. En consideración a su trabajo sistemático del significado que tiene llevar un poco más de melanina en la piel, en una sociedad que se reconstruye todos los días, comparto con quienes pasan por acá dos artículos de su autoría llegados recientemente a mis manos. Ellos son: ¨Tengo una raza discriminada. El movimiento afrocubano: hacia un programa consensuado¨, salido a la luz en la revista Nueva Sociedad y ¨Diálogo virtual con mis colegas de la Isla¨, publicado en Espacio Laical."

Historian Alejandro de la Fuente to Join Harvard's Faculty 3/1/2013 DRCLAS, Harvard: "Professor de la Fuente's primary affiliation will be in the Department of African and African-American Studies. Department Chair Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham notes, "Alejandro will be a tremendous asset to us all, as he develops Afro-Latin American, Cuban, and Latin American Studies at Harvard."

«Tengo una raza oscura y discriminada» El movimiento afrocubano: hacia un programa consensuado 11/1/2012 Nueva Sociedad: "Inicialmente impulsado por intelectuales, músicos, escritores y artistas, desde fines de la década de 1990 el movimiento afrocubano ha ido logrando romper el silencio oficial que cubría el tema racial en Cuba. En los últimos años, la lucha por la igualdad racial se ha enriquecido con la participación de organizaciones y activistas que han traducido las denuncias al lenguaje de los derechos ciudadanos. Aunque el movimiento afrocubano ha ganado en complejidad y diversidad, el debate de los últimos años ha ido produciendo, en paralelo, una serie de grandes temas de interés compartido. Estos puntos de acuerdo anticipan, quizás, la posibilidad de un programa consensuado y una acción común."

Race, Ideology, And Culture In Cuba: Recent Scholarship 2/19/2012 Latin American Research Review: article by Alejandro de la Fuente, reviewing a recent crop of books, published in 2000

Race and Income Inequality in Contemporary Cuba 7/1/2011 NACLA

'Queloides': Artists Explore Racism in Cuba 6/14/2011 The Root: by Alejandro de la Fuente, with video - "Despite the social transformations implemented by the Cuban revolutionary government since the early 1960s, racism continues to be a deep wound in Cuban society, one that generates countless social and cultural scars. Racist attitudes, ideas and behaviors have gained strength in Cuban society during the last two decades, during the deep economic crisis known as "the Special Period," which followed the collapse of the Soviet Union. As the Cuban economy became dollarized, and competition for scarce jobs and resources intensified, racial discrimination and racial inequality increased. White Cubans began to use racist arguments to deny blacks access to the most attractive sectors of the economy (such as tourism), those in which it was possible to earn dollars or other hard currencies."

“Queloides” in New York: An Interview with the Curators 4/19/2011 Cuban Art Newsx: "Queloides is a long-term collective project in Cuban art. It’s not a project that belongs to me or to Elio, or to any of the artists who are exhibitng now. This is a project that was born in the late 1990s. The first exhibition was curated by Alexis Esquivel and Omar Pascual Castillo. It was a modest exhibit, in 1997, at Casa de Africa in Havana. It got very little press coverage, and very little recognition. Then there was a second, bigger exhibit organized by the late Ariel Ribeaux Diago in 1999. Ariel Ribeaux began to expand the project—gave it additional theoretical coherence. And then of course Ariel Ribeaux died a few years later and the project got suspended. Nothing else happened. When I learned about these exhibits, the first thing that caught my eye was how little information was available about the exhibits themselves, and about what I saw as a very important movement in Cuban art, and in Cuban culture more generally. But the exhibits have been ignored—and continue to be, actually—in the annals of Cuban art. If you look at the best books of Cuban art, you’ll see that in most cases the exhibits are not even mentioned."

Rafael Lopez Ramos, "La Huella del Latigo" Los Lirios del Jardin 4/19/2011 ArtSlant: "A propósito de la recién inaugurada edición del proyecto Queloides, dialogué vía correo eléctronico con sus curadores Alejandro de la Fuente y Elio Rodríguez Valdés acerca del tema en que se centra la exposición y otros detalles relacionados con esta."

Alejandro de la Fuente y Michael Olijnyk nos hablan sobre "Queloides" 2/26/2011 YouTube: "Tuyomasyo Art presenta: Alejandro de la Fuente y Michael Olijnyk nos hablan sobre "Queloides" Race and Racism in Cuban Contemporary Art. Michael Olijnyk Co-director de Mattress Factory y Alejandro de la Fuente historiador y curador de la muestra."

Diálogo virtual con mis colegas de la Isla 2/1/2011 Espacio Laical: "He leído con enorme interés sobre un curso de postgrado dedicado al tema “Racialidad en la Cuba Actual”, que se ofreció recientemente en la Facultad de Biología de la Universidad de La Habana. Dictado por tres respetados especialistas cubanos, los profesores Antonio J. Martínez Fuentes, Esteban Morales Domínguez y Armando Rangel Rivero, este curso me pareció importante y sugerente por varias razones."

"Queloides" Catalog 1/6/2011 Matress Factory Shop: "Queloides: Race and Racism in Cuban Contemporary Art," companion volume to the exhibition of the same name at the Mattress Factory Museum in Pittsburgh, PA, documents the complete exhibition in the United States as well as the previous Queloides exhibitions in Cuba. Edited by Cuban scholar and Queloides co-curator, Alejandro de la Fuente, this 172-page full-color bilingual (English and Spanish) catalog contains four essays: “Introduction: The New Afro-Cuban Cultural Movement,” by Alejandro de la Fuente; “Queloides: A History,” by Omar Pascual Castillo; “Race and Racism in Cuban Contemporary Art” by Odette Casamayor; and “Racism: Parody and Postcommunism” by Dennys Matos. The “Queloides: Race and Racism in Cuban Contemporary Art” catalog also includes extensive full-color photographic documentation of works in the exhibitions at the Wifredo Lam Center and the Mattress Factory and biographies of each of the 13 artists."

The Audacity of a Cuban Curator 10/21/2010 Havana Times: "[Havana Times:] You’ve been banned from Cuba due to the exhibition. What happened? [Alejandro:] We presented this project to Cuba’s cultural authorities in 2008. I wanted to show it first in Havana because I didn’t want to do it only for foreign consumption. I understood that this was a polemic project, but I also thought that the situation had changed in the island. Racism is something that has been recognized even by Fidel Castro, who had acknowledged publicly that racism has not been solved. The cultural authorities were never quite enthusiastic about the project, but they said we could do it. The authorities had no chance to select the artists. I think several of the bureaucrats started having nightmares that this might endanger their positions and their privileges or that state security may call them. Maybe they did call them." [Alejandro has since been able to return to Cuba.]

Cuban Art Makes Waves 10/1/2010 Pittsburgh Magazine: "Alejandro de la Fuente believes that art can improve not only the lives of individuals, but it also can benefit the future of nations. That’s one of the reasons he’s co-curating “Queloides III,” an exhibit opening at the Mattress Factory this month that examines a controversial issue in contemporary Cuba."

Racism in Contemporary Cuba Explored in Mattress Factory Exhibition, Cocurated by Pitt’s Alejandro de la Fuente 9/13/2010 Pitt Chronicle

Havana and the Atlantic in the Sixteenth Century. 4/1/2009 College of Williams and Mary: "Although previous generations of historians have documented various aspects of the city’s early development, their main emphasis has often been on Havana’s imperial role as a military outpost and major stopover of the Spanish fleet system. De la Fuente’s book revises—or, rather, complements—that limited imperial view by highlighting Havana’s maritime, commercial role as a port city, by placing it in the context of Atlantic studies, and by providing a richly textured local view of the emerging city."

La "raza" y los silencios de la cubanidad 1/7/2009 Encuentro: Alejandro de la Fuente

The New Afro-Cuban Cultural Movement and the Debate on Race in Contemporary Cuba 12/4/2008 Journal of Latin American Studies: "This paper analyses recent debates on race and racism in Cuba in the context of changing economic and social conditions in the island. Since the early 1990s, and largely in response to the negative effects that the so-called Special Period had on race relations, a group of artists and intellectuals began denouncing the persistence of racist practices and stereotypes in Cuban society. Although they are not organised around a single program or institution, these musicians, visual artists, writers, academics and activists share common grievances about racism and its social effects. It is in this sense that they constitute a new Afro-Cuban cultural movement. It is too early to fully assess the impact of this movement, but these artists and intellectuals have been largely successful in raising awareness about this problem and bringing it to the attention of authorities and the Cuban public."

Cuba’s Racial Democracy: What Now? 10/1/2007 New School: by Alejandro de la Fuente

Alejandro de la Fuente, A Nation for All: Race, Inequality, and Politics in Twentieth Century Cuba 9/1/2003 Labour: "The book's central argument is that the myth of racial equality was not simply an elite--generated idea that served to demobilize or co-opt Afro-Cubans. The author convincingly demonstrates that Afro-Cubans appropriated the same myth to fight against racism, class oppression, and neo-colonialism. The elite interpretation of racial equality saw any race-based demands, organizations, and sentiments as racist and anti-Cuban. In contrast, a subaltern popular nationalism of mostly Afro-Cuban origin saw the conscious struggle against racism as an integral aspect of the fight for social justice and national independence. Thus race relations in Cuba were characterized by ambiguity more than rigid social dichotomies, by contestation and accommodation more than violent confrontation, and by competing notions of national identity that shaped Cuban political transitions and culture."

Race, Ideology, And Culture In Cuba: Recent Scholarship 9/1/2000 LASA: by Alejandro de la Fuente, University of Pittsburgh

Myths of Racial Democracy: Cuba, 1900-1912 6/1/1999 Latin American Research Review: "This article reviews the recent literature on the so-called myths of racial democracy in Latin America and challenges current critical interpretations of the social effects of these ideologies. Typically, critics stress the elitist nature of these ideologies, their demobilizing effects among racially subordinate groups, and the role they play in legitimizing the subordination of such groups. Using the establishment of the Cuban republic as a test case, this article contends that the critical approach tends to minimize or ignore altogether the opportunities that these ideologies have created for those below, the capacity of subordinate groups to use the nation-state's cultural project to their own advantage, and the fact that these social myths also restrain the political options of their own creators."


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