With his arrival in Cuba yesterday, President Barack Obama has become the first sitting U.S. president to visit the island nation since 1928. This three-day trip is just one step in the major shift under the Obama administration to begin to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba. For insightful historical perspective on what this trip means, we check in with some UNC Press authors who are providing helpful analysis.
As the Obama era nears its end, the politics of racial (and religious) difference seem to dominate the headlines. From the anti-Muslim violence and bigotry that have intensified following the terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015, to the heightening of the affirmative action debate to the festering controversies over racially-charged criminal justice issues such as policing and mass incarceration, this appears to be a particularly polarized moment in America. As I finished my book this past fall, I often thought of parallels between these current events and my own area of historical expertise: the Haitian Revolution and the counterrevolutionary project that followed.
Last year Mexico became the first nation in the world to impose a surtax on sweetened soft drinks. Policymakers justified the move by pointing out that people in Mexico consume more soda per capita than anywhere else in the world, a trend they argue fosters the nation’s high rates of obesity and diet-related disease. While governments around the world have also used economic incentives–or, in this case, disincentives–as a means of bolstering public health, Mexico’s soda tax does so on a much grander scale. A year later, in July 2015, public health researchers reported that consumption of soft drinks in Mexico fell by more than five percent. Many people hope for similar measures in the United States. California and New York are considering similar policies. New York City tried something similar a few years ago, before a judge overturned it, and the Navajo Nation just passed a junk food tax.
But the great Mexican soda tax debate can be viewed in a wider context than public health policy. It is, after all, also about the politics of capitalism and global trade.
In the following video, Gaffield navigates a history wrought with slavery, colonialism, racial stereotyping, and global power politics, revealing how her book answers the question: What happened after the Haitian revolution? (running time 2:19).
Dessalines’s abilities and successes have been “silenced” in order to cast him as a bad apple in the (now) celebrated Haitian Revolution that changed the course of modern history. This oversimplified version of Dessalines as a revolutionary and state leader ignores his political achievements and reduces the Haitian Revolution to a palatable and whitewashed event during the Age of Revolution. It mirrors a reluctance to study the years after the Declaration of Independence. The revolution did not produce a democratic republic based on universalist principles of freedom and equality.
Last summer, to celebrate finishing the manuscript of my book, Sugar and Civilization: American Empire and the Cultural Politics of Sweetness, I went to New York to see artist Kara Walker’s installation A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby in an old Domino sugar factory in Brooklyn. Walker is known for making bold art that calls on viewers to consider histories of racial violence in the United States, and A Subtlety did just that. Sugar, Walker points out, is historically tied to race in many and multiple ways.
Often overlooked in studies of Cuban musicians during the golden age of Latin popular music in the United States are the contributions of Afro-Cuban women singers. Two of the most prominent performers during the1940s and1950s were Graciela Pérez Grillo, lead singer for Machito y sus Afro-Cubans, and Celia Cruz, lead singer for La Sonora Matancera.
The Institute for the Study of the Americas at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and UNC Press invite manuscript submissions for a new joint initiative in open-access scholarly publishing.
One thing a détente between the U.S. and Cuba will do is reveal the truth or falsehood of an urban myth in Havana, which holds that numerous pristine 1950s Detroit models are stored in secret garages across the city.
Tomás F. Summers Sandoval Jr., author of Latinos at the Golden Gate: Creating Community and Identity in San Francisco, explains how history might not be synonymous with the past.
Criticism and embrace of identity terms like “Hispanic” and “Latino/a” have been longstanding in the field of Latino/a Studies. Puerto Ricans, Flores argued, share more in common with African Americans than with other Latino/a groups. He contended that Puerto Ricans and African Americans experience similar forms of racial and ethnic subordination in the United States because of parallels in their location in urban areas, their socioeconomic status, and their position as colonized subjects of the same nation-state.
In light of the sea change in U.S.-Cuban relations, I am delighted to recommend two books to anyone who wants to get up to speed: On Becoming Cuban: Identity, Nationality, and Culture, by Louis A. Pérez Jr., and Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana, by William LeoGrande and Peter Kornbluh.
The way in which bullfighters put themselves repeatedly on the path of a half-ton of rage, shifting at the last moment, is shocking. I am especially awed by the tribute of the bits of their own flesh left on those horns. It makes me wonder what we historians are increasingly giving up by finding our sources in air-conditioned rooms with lockers and vending machines, where the only tribute we pay is a cordial email to a helpful archivist, who then gets a credit in the standard acknowledgements page. Remotely accessible digitized collections are already making some of our work possible from the convenience of coffee shops with Wi-Fi.
Article 163 of the Penal Code defined therapeutic abortions as those demanded by women and performed by clinicians, in consultation with a committee of their peers, “if there is no other way to save a mother’s life or avoid a permanent and severe lesion in her.” However, Peruvian authorities at the time did not answer crucial questions to make the law applicable, such as which lesions counted as permanent and severe, or what interventions should be used to cause an abortion, or how far into a pregnancy an abortion could be provoked.
The University of North Carolina Press and the Institute for the Study of the Americas at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill announce a new joint initiative in open-access scholarly publishing. Studies in Latin America is a new series of short works to be published by ISA and distributed by UNC Press in digital open-access as well as in print and e-book formats.
On Sunday, June 15, Colombians will head to the polls for a runoff in the presidential election. Jason McGraw, author of The Work of Recognition: Caribbean Colombia and the Postemancipation Struggle for Citizenship (forthcoming August 2014), recently wrote about what’s at stake for rural and indigenous communities with this election.
Combating racism and other forms of discrimination, Latinos have a long history of civil rights struggles with the aim of integration. Despite being considered foreign, strangers, aliens (including “illegal aliens”), Latinos have fought in all of this country’s wars and as American soldiers in the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, and more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan. In World War II, as part of the Greatest Generation, perhaps as many as half a million Latinos fought in the military—and not for the Mexican army but for the U.S. Army. Latinos have shed their blood as Americans. The Latino Generation that I write about is the inheritor of this legacy.
No one was more successful in encouraging women’s domestic dedication and home cooking than Doña Petrona C. de Gandulfo, Argentina’s leading culinary celebrity during most of the twentieth century. And, indeed, Pan Dulce de Navidad was her most famous recipe. As the holiday season drew close, she would show her fans how to make this sweet bread step by step on television, as we can see in these two videos from the mid 1960s (watch Part 1 and Part 2 on YouTube). Such footage may not at first glance appear to be a valuable historical source, but it provides us rare insight into how changing gender expectations, economic dynamics, and food-related practices were shaping Argentines’ daily lives.
In my opinion, the most interesting topic for discussion is not that Cubans are finally embracing private enterprise, but rather that the new legislation will surely change the existing face of private enterprise on the island. Talk to Cubans about the new business, property, and internet reform measures and you are less likely to hear them marveling at the wonders of capitalism than to hear them debate the variety of state-imposed taxes that often leave them with only a few CUC (Cuban Convertible Pesos that carry a 1:1 exchange rate with the U.S. dollar) at the end of each month.
Tracy Devine Guzman gives a book talk about Native and National in Brazil: Indigeneity after Independence, at Books & Books in Coral Gables, Florida.