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Geographies of Cubanidad - Place, Race, and Musical Performance in Contemporary Cuba

Geographies of Cubanidad

Place, Race, and Musical Performance in Contemporary Cuba

By Rebecca M. Bodenheimer
Series: Caribbean Studies Series

Paperback : 9781496813152, 324 pages, 14 b&w illustrations; 1 map; 3 tables, May 2017
Hardcover : 9781628462395, 328 pages, 14 b&w illustrations; 1 map; 3 tables, July 2015

A study of how notions of place and race inform the identities and performances of musicians in contemporary Cuba


Derived from the nationalist writings of José Martí, the concept of Cubanidad (Cubanness) has always imagined a unified hybrid nation where racial difference is nonexistent and nationality trumps all other axes identities. Scholars have critiqued this celebration of racial mixture, highlighting a gap between the claim of racial harmony and the realities of inequality faced by Afro-Cubans since independence in 1898. In this book, Rebecca M. Bodenheimer argues that it is not only the recognition of racial difference that threatens to divide the nation, but that popular regional sentiment further contests the hegemonic national discourse. Given that the music is a prominent symbol of Cubanidad, musical practices play an important role in constructing regional, local, and national identities.

This book suggests that regional identity exerts a significant influence on the aesthetic choices made by Cuban musicians. Through the examination of several genres, Bodenheimer explores the various ways that race and place are entangled in contemporary Cuban music. She argues that racialized notions which circulate about different cities affect both the formation of local identity and musical performance. Thus, the musical practices discussed in the book—including rumba, timba, eastern Cuban folklore, and son—are examples of the intersections between regional identity formation, racialized notions of place, and music-making.


"An important contribution to understanding the contemporary music scene of the country."

- Cary Peñate, University of Texas at Austin, Latin American Music Review

"An insightful and well theorized contribution to existing literature, Rebecca Bodenheimer's book is the first on Cuban music to explore the topic of regionalism in detail, discursively and musically, as well as its intersections with hybridity and racial conflict. A fascinating study."

- Robin Moore, professor of ethnomusicology, the University of Texas at Austin

"By avoiding a Havana-centric approach, Bodenheimer examines the presence of significant cultural and musical distance between eastern and western Cuba as well as the different meanings of 'blackness' in various parts of the island. She lays bare the contradiction that eastern Cuba, widely regarded in Havana as the 'blackest' region of the island, is simultaneously celebrated as the cradle of the 'mestizo' Son genre. Bodenheimer documents in impressive detail the rise in the last forty years of two new rumba styles, the batarumba and the guarapachangueo. This is a truly refreshing book about Cuban music and culture which, by connecting notions of race and place, explores the way in which musical practices define regional identities in the island."

- Raul Fernandez, author of From Afro-Cuban Rhythms to Latin Jazz