Literature, Arts and Culture in Cuba
Since Castro’s Revolution in 1959, the U.S. and Cuba have been seemingly irreparably divided. Literature and film by Cubans and Cuban Americans attest to this division (and, frequently, have attempted to bridge it). But Cuba has often been beyond the reach—even though just 90 miles away--of students wishing to learn about its culture, history, and politics.
In this program, students will explore Cuban culture—including the centrality and importance of Afro-Cuban culture, the continuing legacy of Castro’s Revolution and of links to the former Soviet Union, the divide with the Cuban Diaspora, and Cuba’s rich literary, film, and music production. Potential activities will include a film viewing, a music performance, a presentation on Santería (the set of religious practices linking Catholicism and beliefs brought over from enslaved African peoples), a visit to the literary and cultural center Casa de las Americas, and more. On our return, we will spend a full day in Miami in order to explore the cultural transformations of the Cuban exile community in South Florida.
Rich in diverse cultural influences including Spanish colonialism, AfroCuban syncretism, U.S. political and economic domination (pre-1959), and even the infusion of culture from imported and exploited Chinese labor, Cuba is a place like no other. Since 1959, the Cuban Revolution itself, with its politics, ideals, and ideology, as well as its efforts to redefine the Cuban "nation", has also greatly affected Cuban culture, down to the most basic aspects of daily life, and has certainly given shape to its contemporary cultural production.
Havana, Cuba: Cuba’s capital and largest city, Havana, is central in any discussion of the island’s culture. Founded by the Spanish in the 16th century, today’s Havana features Old Havana (the colonial area), Vedado, the Malecón (sea wall), the Plaza de la Revolución, Morro Castle, the Havana Cathedral / Plaza de la Catedral, Parque Lennon (Lennon Park, after John Lennon), the Museo de la Revolución (Museum of the Revolution), and more. Havana is also home to Cuba’s major university, the University of Havana, and to the Casa de las Américas, Cuba’s foremost cultural institution.
Trinidad & Cienfuegos, Cuba: Located on Cuba’s southern coast, Trinidad is an open-air museum of colonial architecture and planning. In 1988 this small city was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Cienfuegos, known as the Pearl of the South, is a port city with a distinctive French cultural influence.
Miami, Florida: Nicknamed the ‘Capital of Latin America’, Miami is an American city with a Spanish-speaking majority. 35% of its population is of Cuban origin. Since the early 1960s the Cuban exile community has greatly influenced its art, culture, and politics. This is a great place to explore the writing and culture of the Cuban Diaspora in the U.S.
All students will enroll in LAA 302 / 602 Topics In: Literature, Arts and Culture in Cuba (3 credit hours)
During the second part of the Spring Semester, KU students will be expected to attend meetings and discussions in order to become acquainted with examples of Cuban and Cuban diaspora cultural production, and will be assigned readings and videos along with responses. A final research paper on some aspect of Cuban cultural production will be completed after return to the United States.
In Cuba, participants will stay in casas particulares (bed and breakfast accommodations in a private home). In Miami, participants will stay in multi-occupancy rooms at a centrally located Miami hotel.
Priority will be given to KU graduate and undergraduate students, however this program is open to all undergraduate or graduate degree-seeking students from any accredited U.S. college or university. Minimum 2.5 GPA. Exceptions considered after submission of a petition.
Marta Caminero-Santangelo is Director of the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, and a professor in the English Department, specializing on Latinx Literature. She was born in Canada to Cuban immigrant parents who had become American Citizens. She teaches classes in Latinx Literature of Trauma and Testimony and Literature of Social Justice. She has written two books on Latinx Literature: On Latinidad: Latino Literature and the Construction of Ethnicity, and Documenting the Undocumented: Latino/a Narrative and Social Justice in the Era of Operation Gatekeeper. She regularly co-facilitates (with Mary Klayder) a Study Abroad program in Costa Rica.
Director, Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies
Professor, Dept. of English
Bailey Hall, Room 320