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The Atlantic slave trade and its legacy represents one of the strongest currents that shaped and continues to influence identities in the Americas. The largest forced migration in human history uprooted more than ten million Africans from their home communities and scattered them throughout the Americas. Although ownership of human beings in one form or another had been a feature common to most societies of the world until about 1800, the racial component of slavery in the Americas, whereby people of white European ancestry owned people of black African ancestry, made the institution distinct from its Old World precedents. As a result, over time, the identification as black or white often defined the boundaries that separated slave and free, rich and poor, employer and employee, and ruler and subject. In this chapter, I shift the attention away from racial identities shaped by New World slavery to examine how Africans identified themselves in their new Cuban surroundings. Africans recognized that a white ruling class of European ancestry governed Cuban society and that all people of the African diaspora shared a common association with racial oppression. However, Africans did not define themselves only in racialized terms of European derivation.
Africans in Cuba voluntarily formed associations based upon a common ethnicity that often reflected a shared geographic origin, language, and common culture. Prevalent in colonial society, these collective organizations became known as cabildos de nación to reflect the voluntary grouping by common ethnic identity of the numerous African “nations” forcibly imported to Cuba. The Spanish term cabildo represents the English language equivalent of a town council or a town government. Consequently, the labeling of these societies as cabildos provides some indication of how they functioned as representative bodies for African nations by providing political, administrative, social, and cultural services. Almost all the activities of the cabildos revolved around the ownership of a home that served numerous functions vital to the society: a boarding-house which rented rooms; a conference center for holding meetings and reunions; a school for education and training in the artisan trades; a bank by collecting membership dues, offering loans, and even purchasing the freedom for slaves; a restaurant through food services such as the “plate of the day”; a theater for dances; and even a funeral parlor. The cabildo house provided a sacred space for ethnic solidarity in a society increasingly divided along racial lines between slavery and freedom.
At the turn of the nineteenth century, the Spanish Crown issued a Real Cédula (Royal Decree) authorizing the administration of public education in Cuba to an elite Creole group of twenty-seven large landholders known as the Sociedad Económica de Amigos del País. The Real Cédula provided for the expansion and secularization of primary education in Cuba. The Sociedad embodied the elite planter Creole class whose influence had increased in Cuba steadily during the second half of the eighteenth century with the initial development of a slave-labor plantation economy. During the nineteenth century, their power and strength grew rapidly with the proliferation of sugar cultivation, culminating in the 1840s when Cuba became the world's primary producer. The Real Cédula entrusting the Sociedad with education recognized the emergence of the Creole planter class as a major influence in Cuban society. Just as the Creoles increasingly wielded more influence economically and politically in determining the future of the island, their control over the administration of public education allowed them to articulate their vision for the cultural and intellectual development of Cuba. The promotion of public education provided an essential medium to express the Sociedad's vision of Cubanidad (Cubanness), precisely at the time when the racial composition of the population was changing dramatically through the massive importation of African slave labor.
This article provides an analysis of Ernesto Che Guevara's theory of guerrilla warfare, the foco. The numerous changes to the original foco thesis, as presented in Guerrilla Warfare (1960), are examined in detail covering two dozen articles, speeches, essays, interviews and books authored by Guevara, Castro and Debray while stressing their relation to national and international politics. The author argues that there was an apparent discourse between Cuban politics and the numerous changes in Guevara's writings. Juxtaposing changes to the foco theory from 1960 to 1967, to Cuban historical events, reflects the political expedience of the 1960s and the primary interests of the fidelistas, specifically Guevara.
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