CAHSS Faculty Articles

From Atabey to Hatuey: Manifestations of the Indigenous in Cuban Art and Literature

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Daína Chaviano’s Webpage

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Returning to Fernando Ortiz's ideas on the Cuban ajiaco, Chaviano's novel centers on Claudia, a young female protagonist, her struggles on the island and her communication with ghosts from the past, who represent Cuba's various ethnic groups. [...] By using these ghostly figures to represent nation, Chaviano both rewrites previous narrations, as well as redefines national identity. Indeed, these figures represent and confront nation. That is, their continuous interventions in the narration serve to disrupt the present, opening a space for the past to seep in and for Cuba's history to be retold. [...] El Indio, a native Cuban also plays an important role in the novel. [...]; el Indio represents Cuba's pre-Colombian past, a peaceful, idyllic time, ruptured by the arrival of the Spanish. Initially appearing during Claudia's childhood, shortly before the death of her parents, El Indio's appearances always foreshadow tragedy. At that moment, he speaks to Claudia in his native tongue, repeating incomprehensible phrases. But, outside his world, El Indio is mutilated, unable to act or speak. Nevertheless, his ghostly presence in the novel is significant for it points to a deep-seated, unconscious presence of the native in the Cuban collective and his appearance contributes to yet another element of hybridity found in the novel and in Cuban society, in general.

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