Posted by: lisaparavisini | February 27, 2014

It’s a blogaversary! Celebrating 5 years of


Repeating Islands is 5 and we have received this lovely post from Peter Jordens. Thank you, Peter, for all your contributions to the blog. And heartfelt thanks to all our readers for their support.

Congratulations to Lisa and Ivette on the fifth anniversary of the launch of! It all started with two simple posts on February 27, 2009. Now, five years and over 14,370 posts later, is a (re)source that its faithful readers have described as:

“One of my favorite blogs to read […]. At Repeating Islands, Ivette Romero-Cesareo and Lisa Paravisini-Gebert present news, politics, and commentary from across the Caribbean and from across the world as it relates to the region.  There the Caribbean is centered, without apology or fanfare.” — Jessica Marie Johnson, Assistant Professor of History at Michigan State University, formerly at Bowdoin College, (February 2010)

“Superblog di altissima qualità dedicato alla vita e alla cultura delle comunità caraibiche” [superblog of the highest quality devoted to the life and culture of the Caribbean community] — Marina Petrillo, Italian radio reporter and blogger, director of Radio Popolare, (March 2010)

“A broad, bubbling stream of information about new books, exhibitions, films, and scholarly conferences, with particularly strong coverage of the Spanish and French Caribbean” and “an essential resource for keeping up with cultural developments in the Caribbean and its wide international diaspora. Thanks to the backgrounds, research interests, and multilingual fluency of its authors, the blog transcends the linguistic barriers that can make it difficult to engage with the whole region” — Nicholas Laughlin, editor of The Caribbean Review of Books and program director for the Bocas Lit Fest, (March 2010), (April 2010)

“An incredibly informative, comprehensive daily overview of cultural life around the Caribbean” — ‘Petchary’, a blogger from Kingston, Jamaica, (June 2012).

“My one-stop shop for all things Caribbean, high and low brow all bundled up nicely by two great Caribbeanists” — Alex Gil, digital scholarship coordinator at Columbia University for the Humanities and History division, (February 2013)

“[A] trail-blazing Caribbean cultural blog which has become an invaluable research resource for anyone interested in all aspects of the Caribbean” — Alessandro Corio, Italian blogger, (May 2013)

“An avenue through which the modern scholar can reread the Caribbean from many angles so that it is seen for more than what history books have defined it to be. […] I feel a greater sense of comfort knowing that websites like Repeating Islands exist.” — Jamal George, a student of The Digital Caribbean, a Spring 2014 graduate seminar at CUNY taught by Professor Kelly Baker Josephs, (February 2014).

Thank you Lisa and Ivette for, post by post, connecting the repeating island, (re)constructing Caribbeanness, and nurturing a poetics of Relation. Wishing you the best on this memorable day and for many more blogaversaries to come.

Peter Jordens


cubaandAs part of its Conferencias Caribeñas 14 lecture series, the Institute of Caribbean Studies of the University of Puerto Rico-Río Piedras (UPR-RP), invites the academic community and the general public to the lecture “Comparing Democracy and Elections in Cuba, Venezuela and the United States” by Arnold August.

A well-known journalist, writer, and lecturer based in Montreal, Canada, Arnold August is the recipient of the Distinción Félix Elmuza (2013)—Cuba’s highest award for journalism—and author of Cuba and its Neighbours: Democracy in Motion (2013) [see previous post, New Book: Arnold August’s “Cuba and its Neighbours—Democracy in Motion”]. Dr. Javier Colón Morera (Department of Political Science, UPR-RP) will present the speaker.

This activity will take place on Thursday, March 6, 2014, from 1:00 to 3:30pm at the Manuel Maldonado Denis Amphitheatre (CRA 108) of the Carmen Rivera de Alvarado Building, School of Social Sciences, UPR-RP.

Arnold-AugustDescription: The U.S. approach to democracy and elections is either promoted as the guiding norm for the world or simplistically dismissed as being money-driven. However, its real inner workings are exposed in this lecture through an original case study of Barack Obama. In different circumstances, Cuba has chosen another path to democracy and elections. Its initial stages, spearheaded by José Martí and others, can be traced back to the second half of the 19th century. The innovative 1959 armed revolution is a continuation of this, thus demonstrating Cuba’s capacity to renew itself. The Venezuela Bolivarian Revolution has been experimenting with yet another route to democracy since the 1998 elections.

[This lecture is co-sponsored by the Institute of Caribbean Studies, the Dean’s Office, the School of Social Sciences, the Department of Political Science, the Regional Library of the Caribbean—all at UPR-RP—and the journal El Post Antillano.]

This lecture will be broadcast LIVE online through the following website:

Also see,

Comments and suggestions on this presentation will be welcome at:

For further information, you may call Dr. Humberto García Muñiz, Director, at (787) 764-0000, extension 4212, or write to

See the Institute of Caribbean Studies on Facebook at

Posted by: ivetteromero | February 27, 2014

16th Havana Cigar Festival


In the photo above, a Cuban worker harvests tobacco leaves on a plantation in the San Juan y Martinez municipality, Pinar del Rio province, Cuba. NBC News features a selection of breathtaking photos related to the ongoing Havana Cigar Festival, which began on Monday, February 24, 2014. Also see excerpts below of an EFE article on the festival:  

The 16th Havana Festival, the world’s premier cigar event, began on Monday with cigar enthusiasts from around the world coming to Cuba to visit tobacco farms and factories and savor new brands. The festival will conclude on Friday with a gala dinner and auction, where cigar buyers bid on cigars and humidors to raise money for Cuba’s healthcare system.

Some 1,500 tobacco specialists and cigar lovers from five continents have flocked to Cuba’s capital for the 16th Havana Cigar Festival, an annual occasion for savoring what’s new in cigars and disovering how they combine with drinks, chocolates and haute cuisine.

For guests at this year’s festival who believe nothing can equal made-in-Cuba cigars, the host company Corporacion Habanos S.A. has announced the launch of new brands before they go on sale in 2014, plus the first contest to see who can burn the longest cigar ash.

The star of the show is, of course, the tobacco, accompanied at the Monday night welcome by the music of the salsa band Los Van Van, led by bassist Juan Formell, along with other Cuban artists at the exclusive Club Habana, the former Yacht Club.

Planned for the occasion is the launch of new cigar band labels: Le Hoyo de San Juan, made with leaves of a light, dry taste from plantations in the western province of Pinar del Rio, and the Serie D No. 6 of the Partagas brand, designed to be smoked in some 15 minutes.

Entrepreneurs, businessmen, collectors, sommeliers, cigar tasters, executives, artists, producers, journalists and lovers of hand-rolled tobacco can go Tuesday to the markets in Vuelta Abajo, where, some say, the best tobacco in the world is grown, and on the same day enjoy a special tasting session to savor cigars make with leaves grown in different soils.

The festival will wind up Friday with the traditional gala dinner, this time featuring the premier H. Upmann Reserve No. 2, made from leaves aged for three years and whose production has been limited to just 5,000 cigars.

For full article, see

For photo above and others, see


Britain’s best freerunners have flipped and dived their way around Jamaica and even taken on sprinter Yohan Blake in a special film (Dream Runners) created to celebrate Thomson Cruises’ new sailings from the Caribbean island. Here are excerpts; to read complete article and view film, see link below.

The world’s second-fastest sprinter may outrun 3RUN – the British group who have worked on Hollywood blockbusters like Casino Royale and World War Z – but the team certainly get their revenge as they flip over the Jamaican as he sets off from the starting blocks.

The stunt professionals met the sprinter while filming a freerunning video to showcase the best of Jamaica and even managed to convince him to strike his famous pose for the cameras.

The film sees the group – who are currently working on the latest Avengers film – taking in the island’s most famous sights, but not in the traditional way.

They scale Dunn’s River Falls, flip over market stalls in Ocho Rios and dive from the cliffs in Negril, before vaulting onto jet skis to chase Thomson Dream and scale its sides, James Bond style.

The video is a follow-up to one they created last year to mark the multi-million pound makeover of Thomson Dream. It was the first time freerunning took to the high seas.

This year the action movie – titled Dream Runners – celebrates Thomson’s presence in the Caribbean for the 2014/15 season, sailing from Jamaica to destinations including Costa Rica, Panama, Cuba, Honduras, Belize and Mexico.

Speaking at the launch of the video, freerunner Sam Parham told TravelMail that working with Blake was one of the highlights of the trip. ‘Yohan was the coolest guy, it felt like he was just one of our mates, now we talk on Twitter.’

Having never been to Jamaica before, the 3RUN team managed to squeeze the best of the island into 10 days’ filming to create the two-minute video. [. . .]

For full article and film, see


In the true spirit of designing for a cause, Dominican designer Oscar de la Renta gave Miami an early Valentine’s Day present: his Designed for A Cure 2014 collection.

oscar-design-for-a-cause02Three days after showing his fall collection in New York, the determined designer turned around and recreated his entire spring presentation to raise money for the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of the Miami Miller School of Medicine.

After arriving at one airport to find it closed due to weather and rerouting to Newark, he wondered if he should even bother making the trip. “But I knew I couldn’t let down one person,” said de la Renta of his physician and friend Dr. Stephen Nimer, Sylvester’s director who still checks in on his prized patient every week since a lymphoma diagnosis in 2006. “I’m alive because of this man.”

After the de la Renta team thawed out appropriately to an extended remix of the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun,” a sold-out audience of 800 locals gave a standing ovation. It was a quick visit for de la Renta, who returned home the next morning but was looking forward to heading to his native Dominican Republic soon. Perhaps he’ll check in on Miami more often with the renovation and expansion of his Bal Harbour store this summer. “They used to say all roads lead to Rome. But now I think all roads lead to Miami,” he said.

For full article, see


Posted by: ivetteromero | February 27, 2014

Cuba Has Dismissed 596,500 State Workers Since 2009


According to Juan Tamayo of El Nuevo Herald reports that Cuba has slashed 596,500 workers from its state payrolls, but remains far short of its initial goals for cutting public spending and making its economy more efficient, according to official figures. He says that Raúl Castro’s reforms have slowed down:

The campaign to cut back on government and state enterprise jobs, launched in earnest in 2010, has been part of ruler Raul Castro’s efforts to make the Soviet-style economy more efficient by opening the doors to more private enterprise. But after setting ambitious goals, Castro has slowed the reforms, recognizing that faster reforms might be risky and acknowledging resistance from bureaucrats reluctant to surrender their tight – and personally profitable – controls on economic activities.

A report submitted to a congress of the Cuban Labor Confederation, or CTC, showed that jobs in the public sector fell by 596,500 since 2009, according to a report Sunday in the newspaper Juventud Rebelde, the official voice of the Young Communists’ League. The report also noted that the number of licenses issued for small-scale private businesses such as restaurants and “self-employed” jobs such as plumbers and gardeners, had increased to more than 450,000 in 2013, the newspaper said.

Castro, addressing the closing session of the CTC congress in Havana last week, warned that his government would not consider major salary increases for state workers – their average wage now stands at $20 per month – unless productivity rises.

“It would be irresponsible and counterproductive to order a generalized salary increase in the state sector, because it would only cause an inflationary spiral unless it is fully backed by a matching increase in the goods and services on offer,” he said. “Let’s keep in mind the essential principle that in order to distribute wealth, it must first be created.” [. . .]

Nevertheless, he added, Cuba’s economy “will remain based on the ownership by all the people of the fundamental means of production, with the state enterprise as its principal form.”

Cuba has a labor force of about 5 million. Until Castro’s reforms, launched largely after he officially succeeded ailing brother Fidel Castro in 2008, the government controlled an estimated 85 percent of the economy and jobs.

[. . .] Castro has been trying to kick the economy into a higher gear by shifting second-tier state enterprises – Fidel nationalized every single business on the island in 1968, down to shoeshine stands and sandwich shops – to the private sector and self-employed. His government has been renting barber shops to their employees, for instance, and taxis to their private drivers. It also has been licensing private cooperatives to take over state enterprises such as restaurants.

But the Juventud Rebelde report noted that the congress of the CTC, the island’s only legal labor union, heard complaints that the government retained too many controls over the “self-employed” and needs to do more to support private businesses. [. . .]

For full article, see or

Photo from

Posted by: lisaparavisini | February 27, 2014

Finally, a probe into Rodney’s death


The Guyana government this week appointed a team of top Caribbean lawyers to probe the 1980 assassination of acclaimed historian Walter Rodney, a top opposition figure and international icon; but the party he helped found has said it hopes the truth will emerge as to who exactly ordered Rodney’s murder, Bert Wilkinson reports in this article for Caribbean Life News.

Dr. Walter Rodney, then 37, died when a bomb exploded in his lap near the main city prison facility in Georgetown on the night of June 13, 1980 as he was leading a spirited challenge against the then governing People’s National Congress (PNC) in the run up the 1980 general elections, which opposition parties had boycotted because of alleged widespread rigging.

Walter Rodney’s Working People’s Alliance (WPA) which today, ironically, is part of the main opposition APNU coalition with the PNC, immediately blamed the PNC for his assassination, contending that Rodney was handed the device by military intelligence agents who had infiltrated his inner circle.

Caribbean and international governments, academics and civil society also pointed fingers at the PNC led then by its founder, Prime Minister Forbes Burnham; charges the PNC has denied, even as it says it welcomes any probe.

Army Chief of Staff Brig. Gen Mark Phillips has promised full cooperation of the military with the commission, after meeting with the commission this week.

Rodney’s brother Donald, who was in the car with him when the explosion rocked the quiet of the city on that fateful Friday night, was injured and hid for several days before emerging, pointing fingers at the military for conspiracy in Walter’s death.

Barbadian Jurist Sir Richard Cheltenham, who incidentally is also part of a regional team investigating a 1990 Muslim-led attempted coup in neighboring Trinidad — will chair the three-person team that also includes Jamaican, Jacqueline Samuels-Brown and Trinidadian, Seenath Jairam.

The three were sworn in on Monday but the WPA Wednesday demanded “to see the terms of reference to determine whether it will enable the entire truth to come out in the public,” spokesman Desmond Trotman said.

Rodney was well known in the Caribbean, Africa and the U.S. for a series of well-acclaimed books he wrote, including: “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa,” a reference text that is widely used in American and other universities.

Cheltenham said the long delay in holding a commission of inquiry should not affect the outcome. At least 100 witnesses, many of them opposition and government politicians and ex-soldiers, are listed to testify. Others will have to be summoned.

He said the commission will likely sit for two-week stretches when work begins at a date to be determined by the readiness of organizers. He also noted that “many of them (witnesses) remembered the events as though they happened yesterday and (there were) several pieces of documentary evidence that allowed us to have no difficulties in finding facts and coming to conclusions. The fact that it happened 30 years or so ago need not be any bar to a full exposure of what took place and for the commission to make some firm conclusions,” he said.

For the original repot go to–Showcasing-art-and-culture/

Posted by: lisaparavisini | February 27, 2014

Cayfest: Showcasing art and culture


Cayfest, the annual national arts festival organized by the Cayman National Cultural Foundation, will run from Feb. 27 to March 1, Joanna Lewis reports for Compass Cayman

Now in its 20th year, the festival includes a host of events that showcase Cayman’s arts and cultural heritage.

Arts and culture awards 

The festival kicks off with the National Arts and Culture Awards at Papagallos restaurant. The awards ceremony, which is invitation only, recognizes those who attain a level of merit in their artistic discipline, contribute to the arts, culture and heritage of the Cayman Islands and support the work of the CNCF. Past recipients include Consuelo Ebanks, Aunt Julia Hydes, Radley Gourzong and Luelan Bodden.

This year, 16 people will receive awards, including the Heritage Cross Gold, Heritage Cross Silver and Heritage Cross Bronze. The Heritage Cross awards recognize consistent, active and quality engagement in the preservation and/or celebration of Caymanian cultural heritage.

Dress for Culture

On Feb. 28, residents will have the opportunity to highlight their cultural roots with the Dress for Culture Day.

“Apart from raising the awareness of the many nationalities that live, work and play in harmony in the Cayman Islands, the aim of Dress for Culture Day is to raise funds that go directly to support the Cayman National Cultural Foundation’s youth programming,” says Lorna Bush, CNCF programs officer.

“The dress up/dress down day fundraiser highlights the virtual kaleidoscope of cultures that coexist and work together in the Cayman Islands, and confirms the commonalities, which can be embraced and appreciated. Participants can show expressions of their culture by wearing their national colors, or an item that demonstrates something specific and special to their culture, such as sports pins, caps and other types of headdress, to name a few. …Dress for Culture Day is for everyone to indulge in,” Bush said, adding that “sharing culinary delights from near and far can also be a real treat and a fundraiser on Dress for Culture Day.”

Donations of $3 for students and $5 for adults are suggested amounts.

Red Sky at Night 

On March 1, the Red Sky at Night festival takes place at the F.J. Harquail Cultural Centre, with dancers, actors, storytellers and an exhibition featuring works of more than 50 local artists. There will also be performances by local musicians and celebrated films from across the Caribbean. The festivities run from 4 p.m. to midnight.

“The Red Sky at Night event is the highlight of Cayfest,” Bush said. “Last year was the first Red Sky at Night event and it was a huge success with more than 2,000 people attending. This year we are expecting even higher attendance numbers.”

Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the gate, with discounts for seniors, youth and children 12 and under. Advance tickets are available from Foster’s Food Fair Airport, Funky Tangs on Shedden Road, or from the CNCF offices at the Harquail Theatre.

To nominate someone for an award, join in Dress for Culture Day, or for more information on Red Sky at Night, email, or call 949-5477. Also, visit

For the original report go to–Showcasing-art-and-culture/

Video at


Posted by: lisaparavisini | February 27, 2014

An often misunderstood faith, Santeria community thrives in Houston


Allan Turner of the Houston Chronicle reports on a community in Houston, Texas, that practices Santeria, an often misunderstood Afro-Caribbean faith. Our thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention. FOr the original report and a gallery of photos, follow the link below.

Disciples fill Faizah Perry’s sunny suburban Houston home for a day of worship as chanting emanates from a sheet-curtained side room in which she divines the future and enacts other secret rituals. Perry, a priestess, feels a deep spiritual connection to a saint-like “patron” called Ogun and predicts events channeling other spirits using sacred seashells. Her faith is called Santeria, a religion grounded in African beliefs that were transported to the New World aboard slave ships and melded with Christian beliefs in Cuba. By at least one survey now a decade old, there were about 22,000 Santeria practitioners active in the United States. Perry estimates the greater Houston area is home to thousands of Santeria believers, although the community here is small compared to those in New York or Miami.

Normally, Perry, 44, embraces the roles of educator and publicist for the religion, putting her among a generation of religious leaders moving Santeria out of the shadows and onto the Internet. While many believers, troubled by the sensational depiction of Santeria in print and film, eschew publicity, Perry speaks to college classes and the media. “We believe in one god and his emissaries,” she said, likening the nature-based deities to Catholic saints, with which they sometimes are associated. “The orishas are our saints. We talk to them for earthly matters, to get spiritual fulfillment. When they come on a person, on their priest, he channels their energy. It’s not the zombie-walking, buck-eyed trance of Hollywood movies … It’s very much like what you’d see in a charismatic church.”

While the Afro-Cuban religion transformed her life, Perry knows all too well that it is often wildly misunderstood. Once, she was confronted by a group of tattooed men while pumping gas at a Houston service station. “Yo mami,” she remembers one saying. “You’re Santeria. Give me protection.” The menace was unmistakable. The men, she knew, had recognized her colorful religious jewelry and likely had seen a popular online Spanish video in which a Santeria priest’s spell enables border-crossing outlaws to vanish as agents move in for the nab. Perry, an international health worker with a doctorate, played dumb. In feigned broken English, she told the men they were mistaken, explaining that her bracelets were souvenirs of an African trip. To Perry’s relief, the men, thwarted in coercing magical protection, let the matter drop.

“We have attorneys, a school administrator, a writer, teachers, firemen, bakers, construction workers, computer workers and college students,” she said of temple members. “We have African-Americans, Latinos and a lot of whites. We’re just normal taxpaying people struggling with our problems like everyone else. We’re not into hocus-pocus, not boiling frogs or horse paws in the back yard. It simply doesn’t go like that.”


Grounded in the beliefs of Yoruban-speaking cultures centered in the West African nations of Nigeria and Benin, Santeria shares some characteristics with Haitian Vodou and Brazilian Condomble. Santeria blossomed in Cuba in the 19th century as that Spanish island became a center for the brutal sugar trade. Between 1512 and 1761, about 60,000 slaves were brought to Cuba. By 1838, the slave population had grown to about 400,000. Key to the growth of Santeria, many scholars believe, was the creation of cabildos, slave societies sanctioned by the Catholic Church to encourage Christianity in society’s lowest ranks. What happened through the melding of African and Catholic beliefs, said University of Houston anthropologist Keith McNeal, was that African deities took on the public identity of Catholic saints, in part because slaves sought to disguise those beliefs from whites. Santeria, McNeal said, also incorporated aspects of other religions, both in Africa and in the New World.

Divination plays a major role in the religion, said UH anthropologist Susan Rasmussen. Priestess Perry has been trained to enlist the orishas in foretelling the future through the casting of sacred cowrie shells. Her husband, Rony, a higher-level priest or babaloa, can employ the Ifa system, relating the patterns of a tossed divination chain to the hundreds of parables he has memorized. “It’s a lot like binary code,” said Rony Perry, whose college discipline was computer science. “There are 265 possible combinations.” Rasmussen likened such sessions to “social counseling. A diviner is almost like a psychotherapist,” she said. Orishas also communicate with their disciples through spirit possession, a process Rasmussen compared to “group therapy.” In such ceremonies, believers enter a trance state in which the characteristics of their orisha are manifest. The orisha may deliver messages to the group, predict the future, bestow blessings or dance.

Many believers in Santeria, which came to the US with waves of Cuban immigrants fleeing the island’s 1959 communist takeover, said much of the religion’s appeal lies in its ritual and direct contact with the divine. “It’s a hands-on religion,” said Bernardo Longoria, a Mexican-born Santeria priest who was among recent visitors to Perry’s house-temple. Longoria, 62, was reared as a Catholic but found the church hierarchy and liturgical formality off-putting.

Although introduced to Santeria as a child, Perry, born in Trinidad, the daughter of a devout Egypt-born Muslim father and a West Indian Hindu mother, actively became involved in 2005. The belief system, she said, was a remedy for a feeling that despite a loving husband and three successful children, something was missing from her life. What she found, she said, was transformative. “Orishas,” she said, “rule over every force of nature. They guide us to a better life spiritually. Communication between orishas and humans take many forms – meditation, prayers, rituals, divinations, offerings, songs and dance. Its premise is based on iwa pele – good and gentle character – and we’re held to higher standards, expected to always take the high road, to become better people.” Perry is a “child” of the hypermasculine Ogun, patron of those who work with iron or steel whose purview extends from the lethal results of a metal weapon in a killer’s hands to the life-sparing skills of a scalpel-wielding surgeon. Perry’s duties consist primarily of serving Ogun and overseeing daily activities at her temple, which also is her residence. She oversees the training of future priests and joins her husband in officiating at ceremonies, events that often feature channeling of orishas and occasionally animal sacrifice. “When you go to a church and a minister gives a sermon to 100 or 200 people, that’s nice. People may take something away from it,” Perry said. “But with (this religion) when you get that message, it’s very specific about what you should be doing.”

The original article is at

Posted by: lisaparavisini | February 27, 2014

Modern Cuban Art in New York: The MoMA Exhibition of 1944


“Modern Cuban Painters” (MoMA, 1944) was the first exhibition to illustrate the diversity and complexity of the Modern Art movement in Cuba. Fidelio Ponce de León, Amelia Peláez, Carlos Enríquez, Mario Carreño, René Portocarrero, Cundo Bermúdez, among others, were some of the artists featured in this important exhibition. “Modern Cuban Painters” played a major role in Cuban and Modern art history.

Friday, March 7, 2014, 4PM
The Graduate Center, Room 9206/07
365 Fifth Avenue (@ 34th Street)


The 1944 Modern Cuban Painters Exhibition at MoMA: Background
Alejandro Anreus, William Paterson University

This lecture will present and discuss the genesis of the 1944 MoMA exhibition of modern Cuban painters. In 1942 Alfred H. Barr, Jr. and Edgar Kauffman visited Havana with a couple of thousand dollars donated by Nelson Rockefeller to purchase work by modern Cuban painters. What started out as a modest art acquisition trip to Latin America, culminated in a curatorial project for the exhibition “Modern Cuban Painters” in the Spring of 1944. During the 1942 visit Barr befriended the young critic/curator José Gómez Sicre (1916-1991), who would be his consultant for the 1944 show. Barr in turn would mentor Gómez Sicre, who would become one of the most influential critics/curators to introduce the art of Latin America to the United States in the years 1946-81. How did the exhibition’s content develop? What effect did Barr’s presence have on Cuban artists and the very small Cuban art world in 1942? What did an exhibition of Cuban paintings signify for MoMA in 1944? These and other questions will be proposed and discussed.

Cuban Vanguardismo in the 1950’s
Abigail McEwen, University of Maryland

Modern Cuban art reached a crescendo in 1950s Havana, responding dynamically to the island’s changed cultural politics after Fulgencio Batista’s coup d’état in 1952. During this period, in which Cuba could dare envision itself as a future “New York of the Caribbean,” a new vanguardia generation began to promote modernist values of abstraction and expressive freedom, taking visual and promotional cues from their North American peers. Indeed, as international currents shifted from the School of Paris to the New York School, Cuban art drew productively from different strands of americanista philosophy and aesthetics. This presentation considers the impact of this third-generation vanguardia through the brief history of “Los Once,” a group of painters and sculptors who pioneered gestural abstraction in Havana. The group staged fifteen exhibitions between 1953 and 1963, the last of which – Expresionismo abstracto – may be seen as a late reflection on the legacy of the “Modern Cuban Painters” of 1944.

MoMA’s 1944 Cuban Exhibition and the Expanding Collection
Rocío Aranda-Alvarado, El Museo del Barrio

This presentation explores the context of the 1944 Museum of Modern Art exhibition “Modern Cuban Painters.” Press reactions, images of the installation and letters between Alfred Barr and José Gómez Sicre and various artists are explored as evidence of the significance of the exhibition, particularly in its role as a part of MoMA’s expanded interest into the Americas. Other exhibitions that were on view at the same time allow for an understanding of the larger museum context in which the show was placed, and the potential audiences that would have reached its works. Finally, close reading of a few of these works will provide a deeper understanding of the narratives implied through the exhibition and through MoMA’s acquisitions made on the same 1942 trip that led to the show’s development.

Ana María Hernández, LaGuardia Community College, CUNY

Alejandro Anreus

Alejandro Anreus is Professor of Art History and Latin American/Latino Studies at William Paterson University. He worked as an assistant to the archivist at the Museum of the Americas, O.A.S., where he met José Gómez Sicre and interviewed him. He is author of Mexican Muralism. A Critical History (in collaboration with Leonard Folgarait and Robin Adèle Greeley) (Univ. of California Press, 2012), among other books. His monograph on Cuban-American painter Luis Cruz Azaceta (A Ver series of monographs) is forthcoming in July 2014. His next research project is titled “Havana in the 1940s: Painters, Critics and Exhibitions.”

Abby McEwen largel

Abigail McEwen is Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland. She specializes in the history of modern and contemporary Latin American art with a particular concentration on Cuba and the Caribbean. Her research interests include Latin American avant-garde movements and the transnational history of abstraction across the Americas. Her current book project, Revolutionary Horizons: Art and Polemics in 1950s Cuba, describes the visual strategies and political purchase of the last vanguardia generation in pre-Revolutionary Cuba.


Rocío Aranda-Alvarado is curator at El Museo del Barrio.

fellows clip image002

Ana María Hernández specializes in Caribbean and River Plate studies and is Professor of Latin American Literature and Culture at LaGuardia Community College (CUNY). She coordinates the Latin American Studies and Spanish translation programs at LaGuardia. As a fellow of the Bildner Center, she participates in the coordination of events about Cuban art, music and literature. Her publications have focused on Julio Cortázar, Horacio Quiroga, Julio Herrera y Reissig, Felisberto Hernández and Antonio Benítez Rojo. Her recent publications include an annotated edition of Fantoches 1926: Folletín Moderno por Once Escritores Cubanos (Stockcero, 2011), and an edition of Cirilo Villaverde’s novel Cecilia Valdés o La Loma del Angel (Stockcero, 2013).

TO RESERVE please send an email to

NOTE: One of our readers, Mariano Sánchez, points out that the artwork used in the poster featured above is the work of Viredo (Cuban artist Viredo Espinosa), who created this painting in celebration of the 50th anniversary of “Los Once.” For more information on this fascinating painter, please visit his site at IR


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