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Diasporaliterariacubana

Diasporaliterariacubana

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Published by: lstecher on Mar 11, 2012
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06/26/2014

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The Cuban Literary Diaspora and Its Contexts: A Glossary
Ambrosio Fornet 
I propose to approach the theme of the literature of the Cuban dias-pora from the perspective of a literary critic committed to the cultural projectof the Revolution. I will do so by means of a glossary that, starting withthe term
diaspora 
itself, includes, in alphabetical order,
exile 
,
identity 
,
lan- guage 
, and
nationality 
. Each one of these terms refers in turn to a semanticfield whose intersections and ramifications, whenever possible, I will try topoint out. I will not avoid the danger of contradiction, because what seemsto me to be more important at this stage, in which we have only begun toexplore the terrain, is the possibility of opening up a collective reflection onthefutureofourliterarycriticism.Inthisfuture—whichhasalreadybeguntotake shape—is inscribed the need to incorporate the literary production ofthe diaspora into the horizon of expectations of our critical reflections, thatis to say, into the internal trend of Cuban literature. I warn the reader that Ihave many questions to ask and few answers to give.
AnabbreviatedversionofthisessaywasreadattheconferenceonCubanliteratureofthediaspora, organized by the Centro Cultural de España in Havana, 27 September 2000.
boundary 2 
29:3, 2002. Copyright © 2002 by Duke University Press.
 
92 boundary 2 / Fall 2002
Diaspora
Diaspora 
is a term marked by the dramatic history of the Jewishpeople, above all from the third century B.C., but today—by extension, asthedictionarysays—itisusedtoindicate‘thedispersionofhumanindividu-als who previously lived together or formed an ethnic group.’’ In this sense,we can speak of the ‘African diaspora’’ as one of these phenomena of mas-sive displacement that is close to us. But the term has not been traditionallypart of our arsenal of concepts and metaphors, perhaps for the simple rea-son that there were two others—
emigration 
and
exile 
—not to mention theslave trade, that were firmly entrenched in our historiography. I myself foryears resisted using
diaspora 
because it seemed to me that to do so wouldmean,rst,takingitoutofcontext,andsecond,thatthiswouldserveonlytooccludetheconnotationsofthetraditionalterms,especiallythoseofapoliti-cal nature. The question of political connotations, however, was what finallymade me adopt it, because I became aware that its ‘‘semantic neutrality,’’so to speak, facilitated its insertion into a terrain—that of literary criticism—where it was necessary to work without preconceived ideas, without preju-dices.Besides,todaytheCubandiasporaisahybridofexileandemigration,to which we would have to add unclassified displacements, from the socio-logicalpointofview,suchastheso-calledPeterPanchildren,forcedbytheirown parents to emigrate while still young.Although it sometimes takes dramatic forms—the case of the Mexi-can wet-backs, the Dominican
yoleros 
,
the Haitian boat people, the Cuban
balseros 
—within the demographic crisis of the modern world, diaspora is a‘‘natural’’ phenomenon, the simple consequence of injustice on a planetaryscale, a law of gravity in reverse that makes the underdogs, with no otherrecourse than to trust their luck, desperately seek a way of falling upward.Thisconstantmigratoryflowposesproblemsrelatedtonationalandculturalidentity, problems that completely subvert our ideas on this subject.Naturally, the Cuban diaspora is concentrated in the United Statesand especially in Dade County, one of the sixty-seven counties in Florida,in which the city of Miami is located. Of the 2.5 million inhabitants resid-ing in the metropolitan area of Miami, some eight hundred thousand—morethan one-third—are Cubans. The ‘‘Hispanic’’ (to use the American phrase)
1
character of the Miami area is reinforced by the presence there of some
1. In literary and artistic circles the term
Latinos 
is preferred to
Hispanos 
or
Hispanics 
.Those who argue that this population forms such a heterogeneous conglomerate—givenits national and class precedence, its level of education, its legal status—are correct that
 
Fornet / The Cuban Literary Diaspora 93
seven hundred thousand additional Latin Americans and some five thou-sand Spaniards, which results in a total of approximately 1.5 million His-panics. In this regard, only Los Angeles and New York compete with Miami.Indeed,onanationalscale,therearealreadymorethan30millionHispanicsin the United States—half of them Chicanos concentrated in California andTexas—anditisestimatedthatwithinfiveyearsHispanicswillbethelargestminority group in the country, and that within ten, their numbers will exceed40 million. It is possible that by 2020, one in every four North Americans willbeofHispanicancestry.Itwouldbeequallyfoolishtoexaggerate,ontheonehand,ortounderestimate,ontheother,whatthesefiguresrepresentforthepossible development of an editorial market for literature in Spanish or byHispanicsintheUnitedStates.Amongotherthings,thisdemographicexplo-sion has resulted in the boom of Latin American studies and Departmentsof Spanish in North American universities, as well as the gradual openingup of the mass media and advertising toward this not to be disdained newclientele, which in the decade of the nineties was already spending annu-ally $200 billion on services and consumer goods and which had begun totransform itself into an active electoral force.Placing ourselves as literary or cultural critics before a phenomenonof these dimensions, we run the risk of losing a sense of proportion and notseeing beyond our noses. We could then fall into a ‘‘Miami-ization’’—if youwill allow the term—of our perspective. And we know well that in the liter-ary field, the map of the Cuban diaspora greatly exceeds the territory of agiven city or country. Cuban writers reside, or their works are published, inIowaandChicago;inMexico;inVenezuelaandEcuador;inSpain,Sweden,and France. The question is, then, To what extent do their works respondto the influence of these respective markets or literary environments, withtheir corresponding traditions, trends, and linguistic codes?
Exile
When I read in the
Diccionario etimológico 
of Corominas that
exile 
had been a ‘‘rare term until 1939,’’ it seemed a partial observation to me, towhich should be added ‘in Spain.’’ But I soon recalled that in Cuba, too, dur-ing the whole of the nineteenth century and the first third of the twentiethcentury, one spoke preferably of
banishment 
and
emigration 
, not of exile. It
togroupitlikethisunderasupposedcommondenominator,thelanguageofitsancestors,does not help in understanding the true nature of the whole.

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