How and why has Cuba's national identity been cast in terms of a cross-cultural synthesis called "mestizaje", and what roles have race, gender, sexuality and class played in the construction of that synthesis? What specific cultural, political and economic interests does "mestizaje" represent? Exploring these and other questions, the author focuses on images of the "mulata" in 19th- and 20th-century Cuban poetry, fiction and visual arts. These images, she argues, are at the heart of Cuba's peculiar form of multiculturalism. "Mestizaje" and related cross-cultural paradigms that have developed in other parts of the Caribbean, in Hispanic America and Brazil, are controversially tied to nationalist interests and ideologies. But do they really mark the promise of a diverse cross-culture? Or do they constitute a form of ethnic "lynching"? According to Kutzinski, "mestizaje" in Cuba and elsewhere celebrates racial diversity, while at the same time refusing to acknowledge a historical reality of racial conflict. In "Sugar's Secrets", she examines traces of this fundamental paradox in Cuban literature and popular culture.
The foundation of the author's argument is that Cuban "mestizaje" is a distinctly masculine concept. It articulates itself through the female racial stereotype of the "mulata", which becomes a symbol for the reconciliation of Spanish and African elements in Cuban culture. Women, especially non-white women, are excluded from this inter-racial vision of cultural and political bonding. Though "mestizaje" assumes heterosexual disguises, the unifying fiction it projects is often the product of male homoerotic desire, across racial lines. Kutzinski is interested in how the "mulata" has been used by Cuban cultural institutions, as well as by writers of various racial affiliations, either to maintain or expose that fiction. This study focuses on constructions of inter-racial masculinity hidden behind racially mixed femininity; constructions that have had the effect of legitimising male social, economic and political power.
Publisher: University of Virginia Press