“Provides invaluable insight into the histories and lives of Cubans who trace their origins to the Anglo-Caribbean.”—Robert Whitney, author of State and Revolution in Cuba: Mass Mobilization and Political Change, 1920–1940
“Adds a missing piece to the existing literature about the renewal of black activism in Cuba, all the while showing the links and fractures between pre- and post-1959 society.”—Devyn Spence Benson, Louisiana State University
Based on her work in Santiago and Guantánamo, Andrea Queeley’s Rescuing Our Roots: The African Anglo-Caribbean Diaspora in Contemporary Cuba looks at local and regional identity formations as well as racial politics in revolutionary Cuba. In the early twentieth century, laborers from the British West Indies immigrated to Cuba. Anglo-Caribbean communities flourished, but after 1959, many of their cultural institutions were dismantled: the revolution dictated that in the name of unity there would be no hyphenated Cubans.
Queeley argues that, as the island experienced a resurgence in racism, Anglo-Caribbean Cubans moved to “rescue their roots” by revitalizing their ethnic associations and reestablishing ties outside the island. They sought transnational connections not just in the hope of material support but also to challenge the association between blackness, inferiority, and immorality. Their desire for social mobility, political engagement, and a better economic situation operated alongside the fight for black respectability.
Unlike most studies of black Cubans, which focus on Afro-Cuban religion or popular culture, Queeley’s penetrating investigation offers a view of strategies and modes of black belonging that transcend ideological, temporal, and spatial boundaries.
Andrea J. Queeley is assistant professor of anthropology and African diaspora studies at Florida International University.