“The Pleasures of Exile: Reading the Cuban Nostalgia Fair”
Albert Laguna, Columbia College Chicago
For the past 12 years, the Cuba Nostalgia Fair in Miami has celebrated pre-Castro Cuba through a combination of cultural spectacle and capitalist consumption. Musical forms popular before the revolution play while actors perform teatro bufo. Businesses dedicated to selling objects like yearbooks, magazines, phone books, and casino chips—all produced before 1959—dot the fairgrounds. Often understood as an ambivalent affective disposition described as “bitter sweet,” the celebratory tone of the fair reconfigures nostalgia as pure pleasure. But this celebratory, pleasure-driven logic is in stark contrast to prevailing representations of Cuban Miami as dominated by more negative affective dispositions—the melancholia of exile coupled with rabid anti-Castro fervor. In a city that is rapidly changing with older members of el exilio dying and the continuous arrival of Cubans from the island, what can the Cuba Nostalgia Fair tell us about the future of Cuban Miami? Through a reading of the Fair’s symbolic economy and the commodification of nostalgia more broadly, this paper will analyze how nostalgia for an idealized Cuban past can heighten understanding of the community’s political and psychic needs in the present and future.
“This Bridge Called my Back: Alma Guillermoprieto Explains Cuba Through her Memoir”
Silvia Roca-Martínez, Indiana University
In her memoir La Habana en un espejo (2005), internationally acclaimed Mexican journalist Alma Guillermoprieto writes about her life as a modern dance instructor in 1970 Cuba. As she writes her life, she also presents a narrative of Cuba during the year that many consider the beginning of the debacle of Castro’s regime. Guillermoprieto’s profession becomes instrumental in this memoir for the notion of performance transcends the artistic scope. In this essay, I argue that performance serves the author as the scalpel that helps to dissect, expose, and critique both Castro’s regime and Cuba’s reality before the eyes of an international audience.
Commentator: Emily Maguire, Northwestern University
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