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Aline HelgAline Helg
University of Geneva, Switzerland

Aline Helg is a professor of contemporary history at the University of Geneva, Switzerland. She has written a most important book, the subject of 3 awards: Our Rightful Share : The Afro-Cuban Struggle for Equality, 1886-1912, University of North Carolina Press, 1995  

It is fair to say that this book rescued a crucial episode for understanding Cuban history right out from oblivion, for the memory of the 1912 Massacre, "El Doce," and the events leading up to it had been repressed from both the neocolonial republic and the one created after 1959. Other Cuban authors had studied this period - Portuondo Linares, whose father was a member of the Independent Party of Color and wrote about in 1950, was the first, but he was criticized by the Communist Party of that period for focusing on race and not class warfare, and his book was ignored. Tomas Fernandez Robaina devoted some chapters to it in his 1990 book, El Negro en Cuba: Apuntes para la historia de la lucha contra la discriminacion racial, but this was published in Cuba and not appreciated at first. It was Aline Helg who documented many aspects of this period and fully brought to light such shameful episodes as the 1912 celebratory banquet in Havana's Central Park, presided over by Jose Marti's son right under the large statue of Marti. This book received prizes from the American Historical Association, the Association of Caribbean Historians, and the Caribbean Studies Association.

  Aline Helg has had a broad experience in a number of Latin American countries rescuing similarly forgotten yet significant episodes having to do with the history of Afro-Latins as they shaped the continent.

Aline Helg obtained her Ph.D. degree from the University of Geneva (1983), where she is Professor of History since 2003. She also taught at Universidad de los Andes (Bogotá) and the University of Texas at Austin (1989-2003). She has been awarded research grants in Switzerland by the National Fund and the Foreign Affairs Ministry, and in the USA by the National Humanities Center, the University of Texas, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Philosophical Society, and the Ford, Mellon and Rockefeller foundations. Her fields of studies are the Americas and the Atlantic world since the wars of independence, the African Diaspora, ethnicity, racism, and compared civil rights. She published Civiliser le peuple et former les élites. L'éducation en Colombie, 1918-1957 (Paris, 1984), also in Spanish as La educación en Colombia, 1918-1957 (Bogotá, 1987 and 2001). Her second book, Our Rightful Share. The Afro-Cuban Struggle for Equality, 1886-1912 (Chapel Hill, 1995), also in Spanish translation as Lo que nos corresponde: La lucha de los negros y mulatos en Cuba, 1886-1912 (La Habana, 2000), has received prizes from the American Historical Association, the Association of Caribbean Historians, and the Caribbean Studies Association. Dr Helg's Liberty and Equality in Caribbean Colombia, 1770-1835 (Chapel Hill, 2004, soon to be published in Spanish) has also been the recipient of a prize from the American Historical Association. She has published chapters in edited volumes and articles in Comparative Studies in Society and History, Colonial Latin American Historical Review, Ethnohistory, Journal of Latin American Studies, Revista de Indias, Slavery & Abolition, América Negra, Cuadernos de Historia Contemporánea, and Revista Iberoamericana. She is now working on a new book, Après l'esclavage : unité et diversité des Amériques noires de l'abolition à la mondialisation, to be published by André Versaille in Brussels. -- http://www.irlandeses.org/09grants2.htm

"Simón Bolívar's Republic: A Bulwark against the 'Tyranny' of the Majority" In Revista de Sociologia e Política, vol. 20, No. 4, June 2012. issn 0104-4478. PDF, 300kb

Cien años de casi silencio: El Partido Independiente de Color y la masacre de 1912 en la memoria cubana. Reflexiones alrededor de la filmación del documental de Gloria Rolando: 1912, Voces para un Silencio, en Memorias de un simposio, Ginebra, Suiza, 2012

La masacre de los Independientes de Color en Cuba en la historiografía cubana (1912-2012), en Memorias de un simposio, Ginebra, Suiza, 2012

Histoire en lutte Aline Helg 2011 11 25, video YouTube, Penser L'émancipation.

José Prudencio Padilla: El gigante sacrificado 11/20/2011 El Universal, Colombia: "Hemos escuchado hipnotizados por tanta maravilla informativa y reveladora a la historiadora Aline Helg, de la Universidad de Ginebra (sin duda la que más conoce de manera abrumadora sobre la vida de Padilla), las hazañas y las pequeñeces humanas que perturbaron a este gigante y lo llevaron de manera atroz al sacrificio. Cartagena que puso el mayor número de muertos en la Independencia (los mártires fueron cerca o más de 6 mil cartageneros), no se pronunció sobre la ejecución de Padilla… ¿Por qué los cartageneros no levantaron su voz para defender a Padilla? ¿Por qué el Caribe colombiano se quedó enmudecido ante semejante injusticia que se estaba cometiendo con él? Allí está la gran pregunta que se formula y responde la historiadora Aline Helg, quien afirma que desde los inicios de la guerra contra España, Bolívar estaba obsesionado y prevenido de la repercusión que tendría el poder de los pardos y su impacto en las sociedades de Venezuela y en la Costa, hasta el punto de una repetición de Haití."

Entrevista con Aline Helg: "Hay una nueva conciencia de lo afro entre la gente del Caribe y del Pacífico" 9/25/2011 Biblioteca Luis Ángel Arango: "La historiadora suiza Aline Helg está de visita en el país. Antes de emprender un viaje por el Caribe Colombiano con la Expedición Padilla, la autora pasó por la Biblioteca Luis Ángel Arango para el lanzamiento de su libro "Libertad e igualdad en el Caribe colombiano 1770-1835", editado en español por el Banco de la República y la Universidad Eafit. En su libro, Helg examina cómo durante los primeros años de la República, cuando se configuró la identidad nacional, se ‘invisibilizó’ a las comunidades afrocaribeñas."

Jorge Conde Calderón, Aline Helg, Padilla Libertador del Caribe Grancolombiano. Cartagena de Indias: Ediciones Unitecnológica, 2011. p. 60 (Cuadernos de la Expedición Padilla)

Aline Helg (Parte 1) - Mesa Redonda "Raza e Independencia" 10/19/2009 Biblioteca Luis Ángel Arango, Colombia: Video YouTube

Aline Helg (Parte 2) - Mesa Redonda "Raza e Independencia" 10/19/2009 Biblioteca Luis Ángel Arango, Colombia: Video YouTube

Liberty and Equality in Caribbean Colombia, 1770-1835, published 2004. Reviewed  by Helen Delpar in Colombianistas

"La Mejorana y la independencia cubana: Un choque de ideas y liderazgo entre José Martí y Antonio Maceo". Cuadernos de Historia Contemporánea, 1999, vol. 21, pp. 227-257. PDF, 2MB, Universidad Complutense Madrid

Struggle and Repression: Afro-Cubans after Independence 11/21/1989 LASA: by Aline Helg 

Our Rightful Share : The Afro-Cuban Struggle for Equality, 1886-1912, University of North Carolina Press, 1995  top

In Our Rightful Share, Aline Helg examines the issue of race in Cuban society, politics, and ideology during the island's transition from a Spanish colony to an independent state. She challenges Cuba's well-established myth of racial equality and shows that racism is deeply rooted in Cuban creole society.

Helg argues that despite Cuba's abolition of slavery in 1886 and its winning of independence in 1902, Afro-Cubans remained marginalized in all aspects of society. After the wars for independence, in which they fought en masse, Afro-Cubans demanded change politically by forming the first national black party in the Western Hemisphere. This challenge met with strong opposition from the white Cuban elite, culminating in the massacre of thousands of Afro-Cubans in 1912. The event effectively ended Afro-Cubans' political organization along racial lines, and Helg stresses that although some cultural elements of African origin were integrated into official Cuban culture, true racial equality has remained elusive.

Our Rightful Share is the winner of 3 awards: the American Historical Association's and the Association of Caribbean Historians' awards.  It just won the the 1998 Gordon K. Lewis Memorial Award from the Caribbean Studies Association, given "to an outstanding book that addresses a Pan-Caribbean problem issue."

Aline Helg served as advisor to Gloria Rolando on her feature film dealing with the Independents of Color and the 1912 massacre: "Roots of My Heart."  She was also an advisor for the filming of 1912: Breaking the Silence (2010-2013), a documentary series whose production she helped finance.

It is fair to say that it was Aline Helg's book which launched the commemoration of 1912. Without her, it is not clear the Cubans would have been able to rescue this forgotten and repressed story in time for the 2012 commemoration.

Click for pricing & to order ==>

Reviews

Review in the Latin America Resource Review, The African Experience in Latin America, Volume 2 Issue 2:

Our Rightful Share: up.gif (925 bytes)
The Afro-Cuban Struggle for Equality, 1886-1912

Aline Helg. University of North Carolina Press, 1995 Aline Helg examines the issue of race in Cuban society, politics, and ideology during the island's transition from a Spanish colony to an independent states. She challenges Cuba's well-established myth of racial equality and shows that racism is deeply rooted in Cuban Creole society. Helg argues that despite Cuba's abolition of slavery in 1886 and its winning of independence in 1902, Afro-Cubans have remained marginalized in all aspects of society. After the wars for independence in which they fought en masse, Afro-Cubans demanded change politically by forming the first national black party in the western hemisphere. This challenge met with strong opposition from the white Cuban elite, culminating in the massacre of thousands of Afro-Cubans in 1912. The event effectively ended the Afro-Cuban's political organization along racial lines, and Helg stresses that although some cultural elements of African origin were integrated into official Cuban culture, true racial equality has remained elusive.

Review at Trinity College
www.trincoll.edu/~jdivney/race.htm

 

Liberty and Equality in Caribbean Colombia, 1770-1835top
by Aline Helg                                       Click for pricing & to order ==>
published in winter, 2004




After Brazil and the United States, Colombia has the third-largest population of African-descended peoples in the Western hemisphere. Yet the country is commonly viewed as a nation of Andeans, whites, and mestizos (peoples of mixed Spanish and indigenous Indian ancestry). Aline Helg examines the historical roots of Colombia's treatment and neglect of its Afro-Caribbean identity within the comparative perspective of the Americas. Concentrating on the Caribbean region, she explores the role of free and enslaved peoples of full and mixed African ancestry, elite whites, and Indians in the late colonial period and in the processes of independence and early nation building.

Why did race not become an organizational category in Caribbean Colombia as it did in several other societies with significant African-descended populations? Helg argues that divisions within the lower and upper classes, silence on the issue of race, and Afro-Colombians' preference for individual, local, and transient forms of resistance resulted in particular spheres of popular autonomy but prevented the development of an Afro-Caribbean identity in the region and a cohesive challenge to Andean Colombia.

Considering cities such as Cartagena and Santa Marta, the rural communities along the Magdalena River, and the vast uncontrolled frontiers, Helg illuminates an understudied Latin American region and reintegrates Colombia into the history of the Caribbean.

 

See uncpress.unc.edu/books/T-6723.html


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The 1912 Massacre

 

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