Essays on Transculturation and Catalan–Cuban Intellectual History
Yairen Jerez Columbié
University College Cork
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This book is the result of an intermittent yet somehow constant process of research that started in 2006 in Havana. Its completion would not have been possible without the love of my two mothers, Carmen Rosa Columbié Osorio and Sofia Irene Sierra Piedra, who have supported and suffered my decision of being adrift, and my sister, Maidelys Samón Columbié, who has remained close to them. The love and memory of Narciso Jerez Galbán, Crescencio López García and Pedro Castillo Argote are also in this book.
Placing my research in dialogue with the work of scholars across territories and disciplines has enriched this book. I would like to acknowledge the contribution of academic discussions with Dr. Stephen Boyd, Dr.
Margarida Casacuberta, Dr. Lluís Costa, Prof. Robert Davidson, Prof.
Brad Epps, Dr. Thomas Harrington, Dr. Conrad James and all the academics who have provided insightful questions and feedback during con-ferences and seminars in Cuba, Catalonia, the United Kingdom, Portugal and Ireland. I am particularly grateful to Dr. Helena Buffery and Prof.
Nuala Finnegan, who supervised my doctoral dissertation and provided thoughtful readings and feedback during the last stage of the research that would lead to this publication.
I am indebted to my colleagues in the School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, at University College Cork, and particularly in the Department of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies, for their support. I am equally grateful to my colleagues of the Coastal and Marine Systems Group at the Science Foundation Ireland Centre for Energy, Climate and Marine research and innovation (MaREI) for giving me the space to integrate questions similar to the ones posed by this book into our work on the environment.
My gratitude also goes to staff in the Boole Library, the Archivo Pompeu Fabra of Havana, The Institut Ramon Llull, the Biblioteca Nacional de Catalunya, the Arxiu Municipal de Girona and the Biblioteca del Pabellón de la República. Thank you also to Pilar Costa, for her support and for helping me to explore the life of her granduncle Francesc Costa, a Catalan- Cuban young man who died in Havana almost 100 years ago, and whose story made us aware of the sometimes mysterious ways in which we are all connected.
This book was finished during the COVID- 19 pandemic, when even just carrying on has been particularly difficult for many. I would like to thank all the persons who, either with their example, encouragement, readings or attentions, have reminded me how important it is to write, to create and to care: Marco Amici, my very patient and talented partner, and Amaia Arakistain, Ana Iris Ávalos, Eugenia Bolado, María Luisa Cabrera, Gabriella Caponi, Carlos Garrido Castellano, Kevin Cawley, Chiara Giuliani, Kathy Grantham, Joel Jerez, Laura Linares, Nicoletta Mandolini, René Marzuk, Sofia Mendes, Mónica Navarro, Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh, Daragh O’Connell, María Esther Ortiz and Alina Padro Flores. Muchas gracias also to the rest of my family, from Guantanamo to Havana, and to my dear friends and neighbors of la calle 48.
Cork, November 2020
1.1 Interrogating Transculturation 4
1.2 A Book of Counterpoints 9
2.1 The Nucleus of Catalanism in the Americas 20
2.2 The First Decades of La Nova Catalunya (1908–1932) 25
2.3 The Confluence of Old and New Catalan-Cubans in the Revival of La Nova Catalunya (1942–1959) 30
3.1 An Americanist Catalanism 44
3.2 Els altres sentits , A Caribbean Version 54
4.1 Guantanamero Poetics 66
4.2 Guantanamero Politics 73
5 A Rereading of Fernando Ortiz’s Counterpoints 81
5.1 Ortiz, the Catalan-Cuban Intellectual 82
5.2 Transculturation and Nationalism, Ties and Tensions 89
6 Conclusion: In Praise of Contrapuntal Harmonies 99
Introduction: The Counterpoints of Transculturation
Abstract This chapter proposes a rereading and recovery of the counterpoints in Fernando Ortiz’s concept of transculturation. Both the concept of transculturation itself and its instrumentalization to tame conflict within nationalist projects are problematic. Nonetheless, ‘transculturation’ could be an appropriate term to name the reshaping of identities, as it includes both the uprooting and the process of putting down roots, the loss and the gain, as contradictory constitutive parts of the same reality. I propose to go beyond the categories mestizaje, hybridity or syncretism to reshape transculturation, and argue that the concept comprehends the unpredictability and the processual character of identities in the Caribbean and in other increasingly intercultural contexts today.
Keywords Transculturation • Mestizaje • Hybridity • Counterpoint • Identities
Counterpoint is a moderate and reasonable concord made by placement of one pitch against another, and it is called counterpoint from ‘contra’ and ‘punctus’, for the reason that it is composed of one note placed against another, thus, one point against another. (…) Simple counterpoint is called that which is made simply by the placing of one note against another of the same value. And this counterpoint has been called simple for the reason that it has been made simply through a proportion of equality only, without any ornament or diversity. Diminished counterpoint, however, is that which is made by the placing of two or more notes against one, now by a proportion of equality, now by one of inequality. And counterpoint of this kind is called diminished, since, in it a certain division of the basic notes into different minute parts is made; hence it is also called ‘florid’ by many, through metaphor, for, just as a diversity of flowers makes the fields most pleasing, so the variety of proportions produces a most agreeable counterpoint.
— Liber de arte contrapuncti (1477) by Johannes Tinctoris (1961, p. 17)
The high level of sophistication of the term ‘counterpoint’ within music studies has been highlighted by the musicologist Alfred Mann through a meaningful analogy with the turning point that Christopher Columbus’s travels meant for the history of humanity during the same period. Johannes Tinctoris’s comprehension of polyphony through the idea of counterpoint, close to mathematics and optical perspective, ‘stands apart from the writing of earlier theorists as does the global quest of Columbus from the continental expeditions of earlier explorers’ (Mann 1965, p. ix). Indeed, Columbus’s travels contributed in a definitive way to open the routes for the complex cultural exchanges that both would enrich the polyphony of humanity from the fifteenth century onward, setting the basis for modern capitalism, and made possible the genocide, enslavement and centuries of subjugation of peoples of the circum-Atlantic world.1 The subjects explored within this dissertation fall into the myriad range of sounds that emerged from that first encounter in Early Modernity, the same period that saw the term ‘counterpoint’ being coined to explain the transcultural realities to come.
In recognition of this circum-Atlantic reality, this book brings to the fore intellectuals, texts and spaces directly related not only to Catalonia and Cuba, but also to European and Hemispheric American political and cultural histories. This kind of transatlantic cultural studies can bring new topics to academic curricula and draw on the potential of memory, knowledge and culture to minimize the negative impact of the selective tradition on structures of feeling, as described by Raymond Williams (1961). The invisibility of the work of the intellectuals of the Centre Català of Havana within both Catalan and Cuban studies, as well as within the corpus of studies of migrations from the Iberian Peninsula to the Americas, under-lines the need to question dominant paradigms in order to understand contemporary cultural exchanges.
This book reactivates the cultural production of part of the Catalan community in Cuba through a reading of texts and intellectual journeys that show the contrapuntal relationship between transcultural identities and narratives of nationhood. The term ‘counterpoint’—which, designates in music the relationship between two or more melodic lines that are harmonically inter-reliant, yet independent in rhythm and color—was drawn from musicology studies by the Caribbean intellectual Fernando Ortiz to describe diasporic realities in his book Contrapunteo cubano del tabaco y el azúcar [Cuban Counterpoint of Tobacco and Sugar] (1940). In his essay, a foundational book in the field of cultural studies, Ortiz puts an emphasis on the active forces, of both contrast and harmony, that shape the polyphony of the unclosed and dynamic Cuban culture. He describes the contradictory nature of the successive migratory waves and the economic relations that had shaped and would continue to shape both Cuba and also the territories from where the colonizers, settlers, slaves, migrants and exiles came.
The intellectuals studied in this book comprised multiple positionings and performed diverse identities, in relation to different territorialities and temporalities. These processes of crossing between positionings and identities by the catalans cubans will be analyzed through a reading of their texts and performances and a cultural recompositing of their past, with a focus on the counterpoint between their transcultural life experiences and their nationalistic discourse. By interrogating the idea of a fixed Catalan identity through the reconstruction and interpretation of the cultural history of the Catalanists of Havana, I contest the idea of both a fixed Catalan and a fixed Cuban national identity and call attention over the wider counterpoint between transcultural identities and narratives of nationhood taking place in Cuba during the first half of the twentieth century. My contrapuntal reading proposes to go beyond the national, which is a form that is intimately intertwined with colonial history, and to focus on the transcultural dimension of the exchanges between human communities.
I intend to incorporate the group of Havana not only into the history of Catalonia, but also and mainly into Cuban and Caribbean cultural histories, by demonstrating how their writings and life experiences illustrate the processes of transculturation of identities described by Fernando Ortiz. ‘Transculturation’ was proposed by Ortiz as a substitute for the term ‘acculturation’, whose use was spreading by 1940, the year of first publication of Contrapunteo cubano del tabaco y del azúcar. ‘Acculturation’ was used to describe the process of transition from one culture to another, and its manifold social repercussions, but ‘transculturation’ was deemed by him as a more fitting term to express the highly varied phenomena that come about in Cuba as a result of its extremely complex transmutations of culture: the island’s actors arrived, either in sporadic waves or a continuous flow, from different lands of Africa, Europe, Asia and the Americas. As Fernando Ortiz reminds us, they were all changing their new context and being transformed in turn. In spite of not exhausting the complexity of the processes resulting from diasporic experiences and cultural contact, ‘transculturation’ seems a more appropriate term to name the reshaping of identities, as it includes both the uprooting and the process of putting down roots, the loss and the gain, as contradictory constitutive parts of the same reality:
el vocablo transculturación expresa mejor las diferentes fases del proceso transitivo de una cultura a otra, porque éste no consiste solamente en adquirir una distinta cultura, que es lo que en rigor indica la voz angloameri-cana acculturation, sino que el proceso implica también necesariamente la pérdida o desarraigo de una cultura precedente, lo que pudiera decirse una parcial desculturación, y, además, significa la consiguiente creación de nue-vos fenómenos culturales que pudieran denominarse de neoculturación. Al fin, como bien sostiene la escuela de Malinowski, 2 en todo abrazo de culturas sucede lo que en la cópula genética de los individuos: la criatura siempre tiene algo de ambos progenitores, pero también siempre es distinta de cada uno de los dos. En conjunto, el proceso es una transculturación, y este vocablo comprende todas las fases de su parábola. (Ortiz 1978, p. 96)
[the word transculturation better expresses the different phases of the transitional process from one culture to another, because this does not only consist in acquiring a different culture, which is what the Anglo-American voice acculturation strictly indicates; the process also necessarily implies the loss or uprooting of a previous culture, which could be called a partial deculturation, and also means the consequent creation of new cultural phenomena, which could be called neoculturation. After all, as the Malinowski school well maintains, in every embrace between cultures, as in the genetic copulation of individuals, the child always has something of both parents, but it is also always different from each of the two. Altogether, the process is a transculturation, and this word encompasses all the phases of its parabola.]
The transcultural perspective proposed in my book is also aligned with Antonio Benítez Rojo’s (1996) characterization of the Caribbean as a meta-archipelago, a repetition of islands that implies (dis)continuity and unpredictability, like the process of transculturation itself. In La isla que se repite: el Caribe y la perspectiva moderna [ The Repeating Island: The Caribbean and the Postmodern Perspective], first published in 1989, Benítez Rojo—assuming the perspective inaugurated by Fernando Ortiz — states that he set out to analyze the realities of the Caribbean under the influence of an approach whose end is not to find results, but ‘processes, dynamics and rhythms that show themselves within the marginal, the regional, the incoherent, the heterogeneous, or, if you like, the unpredictable’ (1996, p. 3). Although my monograph focuses on the reality of Catalan- Cuban intellectuals who represent a small sample of the diversity of the Caribbean, it aims to contribute to new readings of the region through sources that had remained unexplored until now and that confirm Benítez Rojo’s understanding of the multiplicity of the region as an unstable interculture in between diverse space-time frameworks.
Benítez Rojo’s acknowledgment of the need to reread less visible areas of the cultural history of the Caribbean is aligned with Mari Paz Balibrea’s (2017, p. 151) call to reconsider the ‘ puntos de fuga’ [vanishing points] resulting from the multiple trajectories of exiles from the Iberian Peninsula, on which my research sheds light. In order to focus on the processes behind those trajectories that fall within the residual and marginal, this monograph draws on the concept of transculturation adopted by Fernando Ortiz to apprehend the abundant and chaotic Caribbean reality later described by Benítez Rojo and also by Julio Ortega, who has acknowledged the need for more complex paradigms, models and techniques of representation to understand and explain the realities and new objects of a region ‘whose abundance and extravagance even exceed the reach of hyperbole’ (Ortega 2006, p. 102).
My analyses focus on the relationships between the sociological tableaus and the more extensive landscapes both depicted by and hidden behind the texts and remnants of performances of Catalan-Cuban intellectuals. In ‘Amateur of the Insoluble’, an essay on the work of philosopher Emil Cioran, Edward Said explains the fragmentary character of writing: ‘Our fury as readers is that we watch words that wish not to be on a page, or words that want to be read before their appearance on the page, or words that happen to be on a page’ (2002, p. 25). In the light of Said’s awareness of the importance of the extratextual dimension of writing, which determined his method of analysis, my thesis approaches texts as fossils or archeological remains, as partial imprints of events and ideas from a past that can be recomposed by putting these remains in dialogue with cultural and intellectual histories, those other reconstructions of long-lost landscapes and tableaus. The task of reassembling and interpreting the partial textual representations of the past here analyzed demanded sociologically informed crossed readings of texts and events. Activist and drama theorist Augusto Boal (2002) proposed crossed reading as one of the techniques for transforming daily news items, fragmentary representations of reality, or any other nondramatic texts into material for theatrical performances susceptible of being appropriated and interpreted in more complex ways. As in Boal’s both epistemological and practical project, in this book this technique allows texts and events to throw light on each other and to bring new relational meanings to the discussion. Ultimately, crossed reading enables the researcher to appropriate the objects of study in the contrapuntal way proposed by Ortiz and Said, and to approach research as a performance by which to participate in different temporalities and territorialities in order to understand the fossils and archaeological remains that constitute the point of departure of the study. Hence, the itinerary of the researcher—my personal and professional narrative, from Havana to Girona to Cork—has had an impact on the horizon and the results of my research.
The pages of this book reflect my own counterpoints as a Cuban-born and Cuban-raised woman in between cultures. I speak from the different positionings that I have had to assume and that I can occupy as a light-skinned, mixed-race female scholar working in Europe, with both the privileges and dilemmas of a double citizenship. By cross-reading and reenacting writings and speeches, I try to compensate the focus on male figures in this book.3 I appropriate these men’s voices—without endorsing their nationalist stand—to make new points about transculturation. Writing about identities and nationalisms from diverse cultural systems poses me with the twofold dilemma highlighted by Chicana writer Gloria Anzaldúa: ‘how to write (produce) without being inscribed (reproduced) in the dominant white [and male] structure and how to write without reinscribing and reproducing what we rebel against’ (2015, p. 8). My objective is to expose the contradictions inherent to these men’s ideologies while recycling and reinterpreting Ortiz’s concept to understand processes of construction of identities in ways that are useful for supporting alternative pathways for building better communities, with diversity and equity. Combined, diversity and equity can be seen as contrapuntal components of more harmonious communities.
Both the concept of transculturation itself and its instrumentalization to tame conflict within nationalist projects are problematic. Transculturation also contains the knotty categories ‘creolization’, ‘métissage’, ‘mestizaje’ and ‘hybridity’; however, while these concepts tend to call attention over the results, transculturation focuses on the unpredictability of the processes of construction and transformation of identities. An insightful reading of Contrapunteo, and of the ‘Caribbean text’, entails taking account of their (dis)order, which expresses the ‘chaotic and materially unrepresentable archive’ from which they emerge (Benítez Rojo 1996, p. 155). In his complex reading of Caribbean realities, the author of the The Repeating Island sees mestizaje as the opposite of synthesis:
a rereading would make it apparent that mestizaje is not a synthesis, but rather the opposite. It can’t be such a thing because nothing that is ostensi-bly syncretic constitutes a stable point. The high regard for mestizaje, the mestizaje solution, did not originate in Africa or Indoamerica or with any People of the Sea. It involves a positivistic and logocentric argument, an argument that sees in the biological, economic, and cultural whitening of Caribbean society a series of successive steps towards “progress”. And as such it refers to conquest, to slavery, neocolonialism, and dependence. (…) Then, at a given moment in our rereading, the binary oppositions Europe/Indoamerica, Europe/Africa, and Europe/Asia do not resolve themselves into the synthesis of mestizaje, but rather they resolve into insoluble differ-ential equations, which repeat their unknowns through the ages of the meta-archipelago. (Benítez Rojo 1996, p. 26)
Benítez Rojo’s characterization of the Caribbean as a meta-archipelago, a repetition of islands that implies (dis)continuity and unpredictability, transcends the less complex categories ‘ mestizaje’, ‘creolization’ and ‘hybridity’. Their focus on expected results prevents them from apprehending the processual character of the formation, construction and reshaping of identities, and makes them more susceptible of being instrumentalized by nationalist discourses. This book draws upon Ángel Rama’s (2012) identification of transculturation with the process of ‘writing across cultures’, Néstor García Canclini’s (1995) analyses of deterritorialization in hybrid cultures and Gloria Anzaldúa’s (1987) understanding of the new mestiza’s plural personality and tolerance for contradictions and ambigu-ity, while proposing to go beyond previous uses of mestizaje, creolization and hybridity to remake Ortiz’s concept.
An alternative to the aforementioned categories could be Gloria Anzaldúa’s Indigenous concept ‘ Nepantla’, a Nahuatl word meaning ‘in-betweenness’, ‘a place/space where realities interact and imaginative shifts happen’ (2015, p. 35). I propose to reformulate the meaning of transculturation in light of this sophisticated Indigenous concept not only to address the lives and writings of the male middle-class figures studied in this book from a less Euro-centric and male-centric perspective, but also to propose new intersectional alternative approaches to the interpretation of texts and the construction of identities from the present informed by the past. This approach will assist me in the task of revealing both the potentialities and limitations of these male twentieth-century Catalan-Cuban subjects’ ideas. Nepantla is a bridge between worlds, places and times; it is the moment(s), spaces(s) and process(es) this book aims to revisit and reenact:
Nepantla is the place where at once we are detached (separated) and attached (connected) to each of our several cultures. Here the watcher on the bridge (nepantla) can “see through” the larger symbolic process that’s trying to become conscious through a particular life situation or event. Nepantla is the midway point between the conscious and the unconscious, the place where transformations are enacted. Neplanta is a place where we can accept contradiction and paradox. (Anzaldúa 2015, p. 56)
Anzaldúa’s concept could be a better tool for those of us wanting to take distance from terms embedded in nationalist campaigns. It better comprehends the moments, spaces and processes of transformation of identities, as well as of human creation, interpretation and interaction with the world(s). In contrast with ‘transculturation’, ‘ Neplanta’ is a more fit tool for describing complex and fluid processes of transformation of identities from an intersectional approach. Nevertheless, transculturation’s long-standing relation with nation-making processes makes it a key concept to shed light on the contradictions between ideas about the fluidity of identities and collective identities today, in an international context where nationalist and populist discourses are gaining terrain.
Anzaldúa’s and Benítez Rojo’s focus on in-betweenness and processes is coherent with the perspective that Fernando Ortiz had chosen by the 1940s, and that Deleuze and Guattari synthesized later through the use of the metaphor of the rhizome. The concept of rhizome, extrapolated by Deleuze and Guattari (1988) from botany, describes identities and assemblages that expand themselves constantly and unpredictably: ‘unlike trees or their roots, the rhizome connects any point to any other point, and its traits are not necessarily linked to traits of the same nature’ (1988, p. 21).
The multiple cultural combinations and recombinations, both between and within subjects in the Americas, undermine the idea of a fixed national subject. This national subject, which is meant to epitomize the qualities of the ruling or hegemonic class, is vague and volatile in the context of Cuban nationalism, and also in the framework of the form of Catalan nationalism produced from Cuba. 4
This book explores how the written production of the intellectual community of the Centre Català of Havana, concentrated mainly in the journal La Nova Catalunya (1908–1932; 1942–1959), reveals the ties and tensions between narratives of nationhood and the concept of transcultural identities, proposed by Fernando Ortiz to address the recombinant character of identities in the Cuban context. Hence, the reactivation and the analysis of these texts not only contribute to the cultural history of Catalanism(s), 5 and European and Latin American cultural histories, but also bring into play a theoretical discussion on the contrapuntal relationship between nationalist narratives and transcultural identities. This monograph is also an in-depth study of documentary sources related to the intellectual nucleus of the Centre Català of Havana (1882–1965),6 and is informed by awareness of this center’s cultural significance and the potential of these documents to provide information about an alternative form of Catalanism in the Americas. The relative absence—both in Cuba and in Catalonia—of research focusing on the writings of Catalanist intellectuals in Cuba during the first half of the twentieth century confirmed the need for such a study.
The contradictory yet harmonious relationship between the construction of nationalist discourses in Cuba and its transcultural realities is exemplified through the life experiences, the work and the writings of Josep Conangla, Regino Boti and Fernando Ortiz. Josep Conangla i Fontanilles (Montblanc, 1875–Havana, 1965) arrived in Cuba for the first time in 1895, as a soldier of the Spanish army, and remained in the country until 1898. In 1904, Conangla went back to the island, where he worked as a journalist and led the Catalanist intellectual group of the Centre Català of Havana during the first half of the twentieth century. Poet and essayist Regino Boti (Guantanamo, 1878–1958) occupies a relevant position in the Cuban literary canon. He studied in Barcelona and Havana, and developed most of his career from Guantanamo, where he was an active member of the Catalan community. Cultural theorist and anthropologist Fernando Ortiz (Havana, 1881–1969) spent his childhood and early youth in the Balearic Islands. After studying law at the University of Havana, he graduated as a lawyer from the University of Barcelona and obtained the degree of Doctor in Law in Madrid in 1901. Some of his first works were published in the Menorcan language (Ortiz 1895), and his monograph on Menorcan festivities, Para la agonografía española [ For Spanish agonography: A case study of Menorcan festivities] (1908), is evidence of a precocious interest in the Catalan Countries. Ortiz was an active member of the Centre Català of Havana.
Even though the texts and the activities of the intellectual community of the Centre Català of Havana studied here are pervaded by the aim of creating and communicating narratives of Catalan national identity, their discourse exposes the contradictions between their purpose and the processes of transculturation of identities experienced through migration, exile, diaspora, associationism and active participation in the cultural and political life of a new society. It is also important to highlight that the figures studied in this book do not represent the diversity of ideological positions assumed within the Catalan community in Cuba. Without disregarding the heterogeneity of the Catalan-Cuban community during the twentieth century, this book bears in mind the contradictions inherent to discourses of national liberation that emerged from an intellectual group that directly benefitted from the more privileged position of white men of Catalan descent in Cuba as one of the consequences of colonialism and slavery. The economic power achieved by members and institutions of the Catalan community during the nineteenth century—when, as pointed out by historian Eduardo Torres Cuevas (1994), Catalan landowners and traders vied for dominance—determined a more prominent presence of intellectuals of Catalan descent in positions of both symbolic and effective power within Cuban society during the twentieth century. In order to analyze these intellectuals’ cultural production in relation to the interplay between their different cultural systems, my approach relies on a theoretical and methodological corpus drawn from cultural studies, and in dialogue with contemporary work in Catalan, Hemispheric American, Latin American and Caribbean studies. Given my focus on a diasporic, transcultural and circum-Atlantic reality, the main theories employed are drawn from intellectuals from this vast territory and, of course, Fernando Ortiz, a theorist who emerged from the Catalan-Cuban milieu here reactivated.
‘Catalans of America’ is the epithet used in La Nova Catalunya to talk about the Catalanists of the Americas. Even though the abovementioned appellation does not account for the diversity of ideological positions of the migrants from the Catalan Countries, it must have been useful to identify the intellectuals organized in Catalan political institutions in the Americas, whose personal stories and collective histories associated with Catalanism have many commonalities. This book adopts the epithet ‘Catalanists of the Americas’ to name the intellectuals linked to Catalanist culture and politics in the three Americas, North, South and Central. Some studies have addressed their activity either directly or indirectly, but an in-depth study of the Catalanists of Havana has never been undertaken until now. Víctor Castells (1986) studied the networks of the Catalanists of the Americas in Catalans d’Amèrica per la independència [ Catalans of America for Independence], whereas Albert Manent (1992) published the results of an extensive inventory in his Diccionari dels Catalans d’Amèrica [Dictionary of the Catalans of America]. Josep Carner-Ribalta (2009) included an account of the political activity carried out by the Catalanists of the Americas in his memoirs, first published in 1972. Joan Ferran (2009) and Joaquín Roy (1988) have studied the settlement of Catalans in Cuba during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries from a historiographical perspective, and the former was also the author of the first study on the Catalan constitution of Havana (see Ferran 2005). 7 Lluís Costa (2006) and Oriol Junqueras (1998) have studied the relations between Cuba, Catalonia and Spain during the nineteenth century, coinciding with the beginnings of political Catalanism. Lluís Costa (2013) also included references to my previous unpublished research about the Catalans of Havana in the book Cuba i el catalanisme, entre l’autonomia i la independència [ Cuba and Catalanism, between Autonomy and Independence], which focuses on the historical evolution of both Catalan and Cuban nationalisms during the nineteenth century and their impact on twentieth-century Catalanism. Similarly, in his doctoral thesis, Sergio Ruiz (2015) studied the creation and development of cultural, political and philan-thropic Catalan institutions in Cuba. More recently, Corina Albert, Roger Friedlein and Imma Martí (Albert et al. 2017) edited the book Els Catalans i Llatinoamèrica (s. xix i xx) [ The Catalans and Latin America]. This book compiles articles about the cultural production of Catalans in Latin America and includes an essay by Lluís Costa on the role of the Catalan printed press in Cuba.
Whereas most of these works are focused on restoring these communities to Catalan national cultural historiographies, Thomas Harrington (2001) has discussed the contributions of the Cuba-based diaspora to the construction of the nation in Galicia and Catalonia with a perspective that invites us to bear in mind the multidirectional cultural transfers involved in nation-building processes. Harrington points out the particularities of the cultural transfers between the Catalanist and Galicianist activists in the Iberian Peninsula and their counterparts in Cuba, whose ‘“performance” in this role could not help but be inflected by the very different set of institutional realities informing their daily life in the Caribbean’ (Harrington 2001, p. 98). In line with this approach, I bring a focus on the multiple elements of the circum-Atlantic and Caribbean sociohistorical contexts that framed and mediated the work of the Catalanists of Havana, led by Josep Conangla, as well as on the role of members of the Centre Català, particularly Fernando Ortiz, in the reformulation of Cuban nationalism and its institutions during the first half of the twentieth century.
Most of the previous work on the Catalan presence in Cuba focuses on colonial relationships, and none of the abovementioned books and articles include an in-depth study of the corpus of La Nova Catalunya, which is the main documentary source on the work of the Catalans of Havana and, together with the journal Ressorgiment (Buenos Aires, 1916–1972), one of the main sources for the study of the Catalanists of the Americas. This book thus aims to provide a significant contribution to historical understanding of migration and mobility between Catalonia and the Americas, while at the same time going beyond the recovery of historical events, figures and texts for Catalan, Cuban and Caribbean historiography to consider what these tell us about the construction of identities and communities in a wider circum-Atlantic context. The main contribution of this process of reactivation and analysis of unexplored texts of a Catalan diaspora will be to show the processual and transcultural character of identities and the contradictory yet theoretically harmonious relationship between the concept of transculturation and ideas of nationhood within both Catalan and Cuban nationalist discourses.
Marcela Lucci’s (2009, 2011, 2013) works on the role of Catalan expa-triates in the creation of a Catalan national identity from Buenos Aires during the first half of the twentieth century highlight the key role of the cultural and political activities of the Catalans of Buenos Aires, led by the publisher and journalist Hipòlit Nadal i Mallol through the journal Ressorgiment. Lucci’s doctoral thesis and articles, which have reactivated documents and reconstructed the cultural history of this group, have contributed to setting up a framework of reference for my research, locating it within a wider task of reconstruction of the cultural history of American Catalanism at both local and global levels. Marcela Lucci’s cultural historiography of the Catalanists of Buenos Aires, and my cultural studies approach to the Catalans of Havana, have followed a similar path of documentary reconstruction and interpretation of textual traces of a neglected Catalan community overseas in relation to its sociohistorical circumstances. Like Lucci’s, my research has had to fill in theoretical and contextual gaps in order to understand the fragments and representations of reality preserved in the pages of La Nova Catalunya. The main result of these efforts is not only an account of the work of the Catalanists of Havana and their intellectual history, but an interpretation of their cultural production in the light of theoretical discussions about the formation of identities in the Caribbean. My research contributes to filling the contextual and theoretical gaps in the history of the cultural exchanges between Catalonia and the Americas addressed by Lucci (2013). In spite of the similarities between our research projects, while Marcela Lucci aims to ‘fully’ integrate the Catalanists of Buenos Aires into the historical path of Catalonia, I intend to incorporate the group of Havana not only into the history of Catalonia, but also and mainly into Atlantic, Caribbean and Cuban cultural histories, by demonstrating how their works and life experiences illustrate complex processes of construction and formation of identities.
My research acknowledges the importance of the different territorialities and temporalities that operate at both symbolic and factual levels, in the sociohistorical context of the intellectual group of the Centre Català of Havana. Europe, Spain, Catalonia, Havana, Cuba and the Americas, all frame the narratives of the community here studied. Many of its members took Cuban nationality and lived in Havana during different sociohistorical periods. Their simultaneous integration into Cuban society and commitment to Catalonia make them exceed the limits of a fixed territoriality, a given social, political, cultural, linguistic and affective context. This circumstance also compels them toward new reterritorializations in line with the theoretical framework put forward by Deleuze and Guattari (1988). 8 For these theorists, reterritorizalization does not mean returning to the original territory, but, as highlighted by Paul Patton, it ‘refers to the ways in which deterritorialized elements recombine and enter into new relations in the constitution of a new assemblage or the modification of the old’ (2010, p. 52).
Over the next chapters, the perspectives, methodologies and methods detailed above will be the main tools used to recompose and interpret the cultural history of the Catalanists of Havana through a reading of essays, articles, poems and speeches that reveal both the continuities and the dis-continuities between theory and practice, discourse and life, within the work of the Catalan-Cuban intellectuals associated with La Nova Catalunya. Chapter 2 contextualizes the cultural history of the Catalanists of Havana within the wider history of Catalanist institutions and groups of the Americas, before discussing the role of La Nova Catalunya in the development of a Catalan nationalist political activity in dialogue with the changes taking place in Cuban society during the first decades of the twentieth century. The study highlights the need to revisit the causes and consequences of twentieth-century Catalan migrations to Cuba and reveals La Nova Catalunya to be a key documentary source to understand the construction of Catalan-Cuban identities and to reconstruct a part of the cultural history of the Catalanists of Havana. The task of reconstruction of the cultural history of the Catalan-Cuban community continues in Chap. 3 through the recovery of the political and cultural activities led by Josep Conangla from the Centre Català of Havana. The analyses focus on how Conangla’s political and literary texts reveal his personal process of transculturation, which mediated the evolution of the Catalanist group of Havana toward Americanist positionings. Chapter 4 reveals an unexplored facet of poet Regino Boti as a Catalan-Cuban intellectual and provides insight into the processes of transculturation reflected in both his poetry and his political activity. The study of Regino Boti’s collaboration with the Catalanist journal La Nova Catalunya during the year 1911 enables the reactivation of unexplored journalistic texts that disclose the nature of his relationship with the Catalan community and bring new light to the analysis of the representation of blackness within the Catalan diaspora. Finally, Chap. 5 discusses the contradictions and harmonies between Fernando Ortiz’s roles as a cultural theorist and as a political activist. Ortiz admitted the impossibility of defining a fixed Cuban national identity. Nevertheless, the need to face the imperialism of the United States and stabilize the contradictions of the young Cuban Republic pushed intellectuals, included Ortiz, to redefine the Nation. The study invites to unpack both the contradictory intentions and multiple meanings of Ortiz’s concept of transculturation and of his metaphor of the Cuban Trinity. The analyses provided throughout these chapters show the importance of versatile metaphors and categories to address the complex, nonbinary realities of the formation of identities in twentieth-century Caribbean and in increasingly intercultural contexts today.
Joseph Roach (1996, p. xii) has defined the circum-Atlantic world as the economic and cultural system bounded by Europe, Africa and the Americas, North and South, which has entailed vast movements of people and com-modities to experimental destinations.
In his introduction to the first edition of Contrapunteo cubano del tabaco y el azúcar (1940), anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski highlights the importance of Ortiz’s concept of transculturation within the social sciences. Fernando Coronil describes the evolution of Malinowski’s early apparently impartial anthropology toward a historically positioned practice: ‘Malinowski’s acknowledgment suggests how Ortiz’s ideas helped him view cultural transformations from a nonimperial perspective and support the claims of subject peoples’ (1995, p. xlvi).
The main figures of the Centre Català and La Nova Catalunya were male, and there are insufficient traces of the participation of women in the production of the journal. Future research must study the work of Montserrat Ventós i Roff (Sabadell, Barcelona, 1905–Morelos, Mèxic, 1999), who organized the feminine section of the Centre Català, the Comissió de Dames, and was part of the editorial team of La Nova Catalunya between December 1945 and November 1949. Montserrat Ventós is the only woman identified as a member of the publication staff.
By aligning Deleuze and Guattari’s epistemological project with Ortiz’s theories, I intend to highlight the foundational role of the Caribbean theorist in the development of a line of sophisticated critical theories in the face of imperialism and capitalism.
As stated by Andrew Dowling (2018, p. 60), Catalanism and Catalan nationalism are not interchangeable terms. Catalan nationalism has been one expression of Catalanism, but it is not its only expression. I use brackets here to pluralize Catalanism(s) in order to indicate that, even though the epithet is generally used in the singular, it addresses multifaceted and heterogeneous positions in favor of Catalan culture and politics.
The Centre Català of Havana (1882–1965) was a cultural center for the community of Catalan immigrants and exiles that took on an increasingly Republican character during the twentieth century.
The Provisional Constitution of the Catalan Republic, signed in Havana in October 1928, delineated the political regime for an independent Catalonia. Its full text is available in the book La Constitució de L’Havana i altres escrits by Josep Conangla, compiled by Joaquín Roy (1986).
‘there are degrees of deterritorialization that quantify the respective forms and according to which contents and expressions are conjugated, feed into each other, accelerate each other, or on the contrary, become stabilized and perform a reterritorialization’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1988, p. 88).
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Coronil, F. (1995). Introduction to the Duke University Press Edition. Transculturation and the Politics of Theory: Countering the Centre, Cuban Counterpoint. In F. Ortiz (Ed.), Cuban Counterpoint (pp. ix–lvi). Durham and London: Duke University Press.
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Ortiz, F. (1895). Principi i Prostes. Ciudadela: Imp. Fábregas.
Ortiz, F. (1978/1940). Contrapunteo cubano del tabaco y el azúcar. Caracas: Biblioteca Ayacucho.
Ortiz, F. (1998/1908). Para la agonografía española. Estudio monográfico de las fiestas menorquinas. In J. Guanche (Ed.), Fernando Ortiz y España, a cien años de 1898 (pp. 17–44). Havana: Fundación Fernando Ortiz.
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The Catalan-Cuban Intellectuals of La Nova Catalunya
Abstract This chapter contextualizes the cultural history of the Catalanists of Havana within the wider history of Catalanist institutions and groups of the Americas, before discussing the role of La Nova Catalunya (1902–1932; 1942–1959) in the development of a Catalan nationalist political activity in dialogue with the changes taking place in Cuban society during the first decades of the twentieth century. The study highlights the need to revisit the causes and consequences of twentieth-century Catalan migrations to Cuba and reveals La Nova Catalunya to be a key documentary source to understand the construction of Catalan-Cuban identities and to reconstruct a part of the cultural history of the Catalanists of Havana.
Keywords Catalanism • Nationalism • Migrations • Catalunya • Cuba
In spite of evidence of the emergence of Catalan cultural and political activity in the Americas from the beginning of the twentieth century, extant studies of Spanish migrations to the new continent have tended to focus on the economic and social characteristics, motivations and consequences of those processes at the expense of a consideration of the cultural dimension, which in all cases, and particularly in the case of the Catalan-Cuban community, are essential to understand the nature of the migratory experience. This chapter analyzes the political radicalization of the Catalanist group of Havana and includes a summary of the main activities of the journal La Nova Catalunya, main repository of their activity and their transculturations during the first half of the twentieth century.
The creation of Catalan periodical publications in the Americas during the nineteenth century such as Lo Català (Havana, 1861), La Gresca (Santiago de Cuba, 1869), La Llumanera (Nova York, 1874), L’Aureneta (Buenos Aires, 1876) and La Gralla (Montevideo, 1885) reflects the sense of an immigrant community that is beginning to institutionalize its presence in the new territories. This tendency toward associations would grow in the following decades, with the increase of the Catalan population in the Americas. 1
Víctor Castells (1986) has described the processes of foundation of new Catalan institutions in the continent at the beginning of the twentieth century. The Centre Català of Chile is created in 1906 and starts publishing its Butlletí del Centre Català in the Catalan Language in 1907, the same year as the foundation of the Orfeó Català of Mexico. 2 The Centre Català of Rosario, Argentina, had been created in 1902; and six years later, in 1908, two new Catalanist institutions appeared in that country: the Centre Català of Mendoza and the Centre Català of Buenos Aires. In 1909 came the creation of the Centre Català of Montevideo, Uruguay, and, in 1920, the Centre Nacionalista Català of New York; the latter’s president, Joan Agell, had been secretary of the Centre Català of Santiago de Cuba between 1913 and 1916. Other members of the Centre of New York who were closely related to Cuba include Joan Ventura i Sureda and Josep Carner i Ribalta, both of whom were contributors to La Nova Catalunya. Regarding Cuba, the main Catalan political associations were the Centre Català (Havana, 1882), the Grop Nacionalista Radical Catalunya (Santiago de Cuba, 1907), the Blok Nacionalista Cathalonia (Guantanamo, 1911) and Germanor Catalana (1915, Camagüey). According to Joan M. Ferran (2009), the Grop Nacionalista Radical Catalunya, led by Salvador Carbonell i Puig, was the first institution that openly declared its support for Catalan separatism in Cuba.
The oldest Catalan Casal in the world is the Societat de Beneficència de Naturals de Catalunya (Havana, 1840), which was primarily an apolitical institution.3 The Centre Català of Havana was created in 1882 as a cultural association that only became political in 1911, after the approval of a Declaration of Principles that acknowledged the Catalanist nationalist character of this institution. Many members of the Centre Català adopted Cuban citizenship. Whereas some of them saw in that process the opportunity to regularize their migratory situation, others assumed it because it was an opportunity to become citizens of a republic. 4 In response to criticism of this adoption of Cuban citizenship by some members of the Societat de Beneficència de Naturals de Catalunya, Foment Català and the Casino Español, Josep Conangla wrote his essay La ciudadanía adoptiva [The Adoptive Citizenship] (1916), which will be discussed later in this chapter.
The two main figures of the Centre Català, Claudi Mimó5 and Josep Conangla, exemplify the appropriateness of the epithet ‘ catalans cubans’ given to those Catalans who participated intensely in culture and politics within Cuban society. According to Joan M. Ferran (2009, p. 107), Claudi Mimó immigrated to Cuba in 1883, was affiliated to the Cuban Liberal Party and had responsibilities in the City Council of Havana. Mimó was president of the Real Sociedad Económica de Amigos del País and of the sciences section of the Ateneo (1902–1972) of Havana and, for many years, worked as a professor in the University of Havana. Josep Conangla i Fontanilles arrived in Cuba in 1895, as a soldier of the Spanish army, and remained in the country until 1898. 6 He went back to the island in 1904 and started working for Cuban newspapers and institutions. 7 Joaquín Roy (1986) states that Conangla worked on the Cuban newspapers El Nuevo País, Cuba, El Nuevo Día, El Mercurio, La Noche and El Sol, founded the Revista Parlamentària de Cuba, was copy editor of the minutes of the Cuban Parliament, was founder of the first Cuban press association and the Asociación de Repórters de La Habana, and was a member and collaborator of the Sociedad Económica de Amigos del País, the Sociedad Geográfica de Cuba, the Sociedad Cubana de Autores and the Sociedad Bibliográfica de Cuba.
Yet this integration within Cuban society did not keep these Catalan-Cubans from working in support of Catalonia. Joan Ferran (2009) has studied evidence indicating that, in 1922, Havana was the second city, after Barcelona, in numbers of donors to the Associació Protectora de l’Ensenyança Catalana [Association for the Protection of Catalan Teaching].8 The same year, a group of members of the Centre Català created the Club Separatista Núm. 1 de L’Havana. The radicalization of these men reached the foundations of the institution, which, in response to Primo de Rivera’s dictatorship in Spain, widened its Declaration of Principles in 1923 adding two articles in where the Centre described itself as separatist institution. 9
During the following years, the Cuban Catalanists gathered significant economic support for the separatist party Estat Català.10 Three decades later, in 1958, La Nova Catalunya published a document signed by Francesc Macià, which detailed the amounts of the contributions of the Catalanists living in different countries of the Americas. The original document, which had remained unknown until then, had recently been sent to Havana from Paris. The document provides data that is missing in the book Macià: la seva actuació a l’estranger [ Macià: His Activity Abroad] by Ramon Fabregat, first published in 1952 and which is still used as one of the main reference works to describe the extent of economic assistance to Macià’s party. Not only is this an important new source for Catalan historiography, but it also indicates the importance of the Centre Català of Havana as a focus of Catalanist activity. The document states that 228,113 francs, almost a 25% of the 920,360 received by Macià, were provided by contributors from Havana. The communities of Santiago de Cuba (172,254; 19%), New York 163,582 (un 19%), Buenos Aires (154,175; 17%) and Mendoza 115,260 (un 12%) also provided important sums of money, followed by Santiago de Xile, Mexico, Rosario and the town of Bajabonico, in the Dominican Republic. 11
Between 30 September and 2 October 1928, the Assemblea Constituent del Separatisme Català [Constituent Assembly of Catalan Separatism] took place in Havana, chaired by Francesc Macià. The main result of this meeting was the signature of the Provisional Constitution of the Catalan Republic. The document has been reproduced in the texts of La Constitució de L’Havana i altres escrits [ The Constitution of Havana and Other Writings] by Josep Conangla, compiled by Joaquín Roy (1986), and studied in La Constitució Catalana de L’Havana [ The Catalan Constitution of Havana] by Joan M. Ferran (2005). It delineated the political regime for an independent Catalonia, established Catalan as the official language and defined the collective and individual rights of citizens. The flag assumed in the Constitution had four red bars over a yellow base and a blue triangle with a white five-pointed star, clearly inspired by the Cuban flag. The estelada, which appeared in La Nova Catalunya for the first time in December 1919 and was described as ‘ ensenya del Centre Català’ [symbol of the Centre Català] in December 1921, was associated to the work of the Catalans of Santiago de Cuba as early as 1903.12 The constant presence of this flag among the Catalanists of Cuba reveals their appropriation of Americanist forms of representation as part of their processes of transculturation, as will be discussed in more detail later in this chapter.
In the document annexed to the Constitution, Conangla describes the foundational documents of the United States, Venezuela, Mexico, Colombia, Chile, Peru, Cuba and the United Provinces of Río de la Plata (Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia and a part of Brazil). The creation of the Partit Separatista Revolucionari de Catalunya, in the Havana assembly of 1928, is also a translation of American independence processes to a desired Catalan one. The new party’s name was similar to the designation of the Partido Revolucionario Cubano, created in 1892 by José Martí to organize, from exile, the uprising of 1895. Other similarities between the two parties can be found in their respective programs, which are studied in Chap. 3 of this book.
After the adoption of the Catalan Statute in 1932, which gave more autonomy to Catalonia but not independence, the Centre Català distanced itself from Francesc Macià. Nevertheless, some representatives of the institution expressed the view that it had been the Catalan politician who had initiated this estrangement some time before the proclamation of the Catalan Republic on 14 April 1931 and the ratification of the Estatut de Núria in August 1931. The Estatut de Núria or Estatut d’Autonomia de Catalunya of 1932 was promoted by Francesc Macià after the declaration of the Catalan Republic in April 1931. It was approved in a referendum held on August 1931 and accepted by the Spanish government in August 1932. The Estatut of Núria defined Catalonia as an autonomous region, governed by the Generalitat within the Spanish Federal Republic. In February 1932, members of the Centre Català stated in La Nova Catalunya that the last reports received from Francesc Macià were from 30 May 1930. The journal reproduced a letter where the member of Club Separatista Regionalista Núm. 1 de L’Havana openly expressed disappointment in relation to Macià’s estrangement and his role within what they qualified as the ‘ neoRepública catalana’ [Neo-Catalan Republic] ( La Nova Catalunya 1932c, October, p. 1).13
This disappointment might be one of the causes that led those responsible for La Nova Catalunya to a period of silence that would last ten years. However, the political instability of the final years of Gerardo Machado’s dictatorship (1925–1933) in Cuba and the increasing repression of the progressive forces by the authorities, which forced many activists and intellectuals into exile, must have also determined the disappearance of La Nova Catalunya in 1932. Among the intellectuals who went into exile during these years were the members of the Centre Català, Juan Marinello, one of the founders of the Primer Partido Comunista de Cuba (1925), and Fernando Ortiz,14 whose important work on the interplay between identities and nationalism will be discussed later in this book.
La Nova Catalunya was reactivated in 1942 by a group of refugees of the Spanish Civil War in collaboration with other members of the Centre Català who had arrived in Cuba during the previous decades. The absence of issues of the journal from 1932 to 1942 makes it difficult to track the activity of the Catalanists of Havana during those years. Jorge Domingo Cuadriello (2009) has described the different positions of the Spanish organizations in Cuba during the Spanish Civil War and highlighted the support for the refugees offered by the Círculo Español Socialista, Izquierda Republicana Española and the Centre Català of Havana. The Catalanist association was part of the Frente Democrático Español, an organization that cooperated, from Cuba, with the Republican side during the Civil War.
Josep Conangla’s (1986) speech as president of the Centre Català, on 11 September 1941, helps us to understand the activity of the Catalanists of Havana during those years. The society was preparing a collection of documents that would be presented to the authorities of the United States and Britain at the end of World War II to make them consider the viability of the independence of Catalonia. In November 1942, La Nova Catalunya resumed its activities. In 1944, the Consell Nacional de Catalunya, based in London, created its delegation in the Americas, and Josep Conangla was elected its representative in Cuba. This governing formation, alternative to the Generalitat, worked from exile. After the dissolution of the Consell Nacional de Catalunya in 1945, the Centre Català continued to demand sovereignty for Catalonia. But the establishment of a new global order after 1945 did not bring changes to Spain nor to Catalonia. Immediately after the Cuban Revolution and Fidel Castro’s arrival in power, in 1959, the representatives of the Centre Català sent a message to the new Cuban government to express their support. However, some of the new Cuban revolutionary laws were harmful for Catalan businessmen and later disagreement with the new political system provoked the emigra-tion of many to other regions of the Americas. Despite the reduction in membership, the Centre continued to be open until 2 November 1965, when, according to Ferran (2009), it was closed because of economic problems and the banning of foreign political societies by the Cuban Law of Associations of the Cuban State.
The cultural history of these Catalanists from Havana led by Josep Conangla illustrates Marcela Lucci’s (2013) acknowledgment of the importance of considering previous exiles from Spain. Like the Catalans from Buenos Aires, studied by Lucci, the intellectuals of the nucleus of Havana do not fit the description of the economic migrant of the early twentieth century. Their political work highlights the need to reevaluate the way in which their mobility has been understood. The study of their specificity will help to understand not only the diversity of the migrants from the Peninsula and the heterogeneity of Catalanism, but also the complex processes of both construction and transculturation of identities taking place in the Caribbean during the first half of the twentieth century.
The first issue of La Nova Catalunya was published on 10 October 1908 in Havana, during the commemoration of the fortieth anniversary of the beginning of the War of Cuban Independence. At first, it was published every ten days, as a cultural and informative journal, entirely in the Catalan language. 15 In 1912, it became biweekly, and, at some point between 1913 and 1916, it started to be monthly.16 Its main sources of income were subscriptions and the economic support of members of the Centre Català. Claudi Mimó, the founder and first director of the journal, was elected president of the Centre Català later that year, on 8 November 1908. The journal’s connections with the institution are undeniable, even though they were never made explicit during this period. In February 1906, Josep Murillo i Mombrú,17 who had a chair on the committee of the Centre Català, became treasurer of the journal and, in January 1910, Josep Conangla was designated editor in chief. These three men would be the foremost figures of La Nova Catalunya.
In February 1909, the journal began to advertise businesses under Catalan ownership such as the bank N. Gelats & Cia, the pharmacy Gran Farmàcia Americana, the jewelry La Acacia, the sweet factory La Estrella , the typing school Vidal and the patisserie Cuba-Cataluña. During the first years, the journal also publicized the commercial activity of some professionals from the Catalan community such as the lawyer Fernando Ortiz, the veterinary surgeon Josep Ribó and the lawyer Josep Puig Ventura. Despite the diversity of businesses and individuals that supported the project, during the first years of publication, advertising was not enough to maintain the journal, and it continued depending on subscriptions. The directors of the journal frequently published notes asking the subscribers to catch up on payments. In the 1920s, La Nova Catalunya consolidated its advertising section, and by 1932 it was a well-established journal, with a significant number of supporters. While it is true that La Nova Catalunya was never a profitable business, it was certainly financially viable. Despite the economic crisis of 1929, which impacted very negatively on Cuba, the main causes of the beginning of the silence of the journal from 1932 were not economic.
The first header of the journal was exclusively informative and did not have any ornamentation; in 1909, it incorporated the Catalan flag, the senyera, and the typography became more distinctive. The estelada, which as mentioned earlier in this chapter, appeared for the first time in the journal in 1919, became part of the headline in the issue of January–February 1920. From February 1928 onward, headlines are clearly inspired by the Art Deco movement; the information appears in a frame, using typography characterized by strong straight lines, and the emblem, now with a star, is at the center. Regarding the front covers, it was usual to find illustrations and paintings by artists such as Albert Tarascó and Jaume Valls, and pictures of politicians, monuments and both Cuban and Catalan landscapes. 18 There was a clear intention or a need for bringing Cuba and Catalonia together in the same space. Even though this section focuses primarily on the written remnants of the activities of the Catalanists of Havana, it is important to note that their efforts to harmoniously participate in diverse cultural systems, are evident also in the visual elements of La Nova Catalunya. These graphic components of the journal reveal important information to reconstruct and understand the mise-en-scène of the processes of transculturation analyzed throughout this book.
The directors of the magazine were able to revitalize its editorial office by bringing together regular writers and contributors from other provinces, countries and even continents. Josep Conangla, Ricard Estapé and Enric Coll were the first writers of La Nova Catalunya, and Joaquim Muntal i Gramunt joined the group in 1912.19 Together with Joan Güell, Ricard Estapé and Enric Coll had been the founders of the disappeared magazine Catalunya (Havana, 1907–1908) and, like Josep Conangla, had experience as journalists. Perhaps the most significant correspondents of the first period of La Nova Catalunya were those from Barcelona, not only because of the extension of the section ‘Barcelona-Havana’, created in 1914, but also due to the cultural significance of the contributors: Claudi Ametlla, Antoni Rovira i Virgili and Prudenci Bertrana. 20 The journal had also secured the collaboration of Catalan journalists from the United States, such as Eladi Homs, Joan Agell, Joan Ventura i Sureda and J.B Alemany. Carlota Guiteras wrote from Chile, Díaz-Capdevila from París and Santiago Boy, Anton Benazet, Joan Estelrich and Lluís Bertran from Catalonia. 21
Except for Conangla, the first contributors did not remain working for La Nova Catalunya during the whole period, and the composition of the editorial team changed constantly. The journalist Olindo Icari Ferrer i Puig arrived at the journal in 1918 and, in a short time, became one of its main writers. Little over ten years later, La Nova Catalunya (1931a, February) communicated his departure to Catalonia because of the dete-rioration of the economic situation in Cuba. The departure of the most active journalist of La Nova Catalunya exemplifies the negative impact of both the economic crisis of overproduction of sugar of the 1920s in Cuba and the global economic crisis of the 1930s on the Catalan community of Havana. In this period, when there was a dearth of journalists in La Nova Catalunya, the work of the correspondents assured the diversity of content. Josep Benavent and Pere Palau wrote from Santiago de Cuba. Albertet de Vilafranca and Manel Salce were the collaborators from Guantanamo, and Joanet de Cornellà, from Camagüey. Lluís G. Fàbrega i Amat reported from Peru and J. Vila-Estruch from Argentina.22
From 1908 to 1932, the magazine was not openly recognized as a publication of the Centre Català, but it nevertheless played the role of its official newspaper. In a study of the political intervention of intellectuals in the Catalan media until 1975, a group of researchers coordinated by Jordi Casassas (2005) define the characteristics that would allow us to identify an official cultural organ of an institution. The first characteristic is that it should have been created with the objective of expressing a coherent set of ideas shared by a range of intellectuals. The second prerequisite is that the publication helps generate or frame ideological groups or options. Another requirement is that it should represent an institution that has cultural objectives. Finally, they also consider as official cultural organs generalist publications that include cultural sections or that regularly reproduce cultural and political discussions. La Nova Catalunya fulfills all four premises. While the journal had well-defined political objectives, it also represented nonpolitical institutions of the Catalan community in Cuba such as the Beneficència de Naturals de Catalunya, the theater section of the Centre Català and the Orfeó Català.
Literature was a main topic in the pages of La Nova Catalunya. In this first period, poetry was, together with the chronicle, one of the literary genres that featured most prominently. It was usual to find poems by canonical Catalan authors such as Jacint Verdaguer, Joan Maragall and Àngel Guimerà. 23 In 1916, the journal created a literary prize for short novels, the Concurs de Novel·letes de La Nova Catalunya. The adjudica-tors, Claudi Mimó, Pere Camps, Fernando Ortiz, Josep Conangla and Josep Murillo, selected the novel Vers la llum [ Towards the Light] by Josep Maria Folch i Torres for the prize in the category of novel inspired by Catalan traditions and context.24 Prudenci Bertrana was awarded a second prize with L’aventura [ The Adventure]; both texts had been sent from Barcelona. In 1923, members of La Nova Catalunya and the Centre Català organized the first international contest of Catalan literature to be celebrated in Cuba, the Jocs Florals Catalans.
Between 1916 and 1923, the journal maintained one of its most intense campaigns, with the objective of collecting money for the development of education in Catalonia through the Associació Protectora de l’Ensenyança Catalana. The society reached 1126 members in Cuba, which, according to Ferran (2009, p. 153), was the American country with most contributors. Another major social and political campaign was that in support of the Catalan volunteers in World War I. In October 1916, the journal began a campaign for the collection of funds to help volunteers on the French front.
The arrival in Havana of the leader of Catalan separatism, Francesc Macià, in 1928, marked the climax of his collaboration with the separatists of Cuba. La Nova Catalunya covered the welcome reception in the port and the activities of Macià and Ventura Gassol25 in Havana, Camagüey, Santiago de Cuba, Palma Soriano and Guantanamo, and published the full text of the Provisional Constitution of the Republic of Catalonia translated into Spanish. ‘ Visca la República Catalana. Visca la Confederació de Lliures Terres Hispàniques’ [Hurrah to the Catalan Republic. Hurrah to the Confederation of Free Hispanic Homelands] is the title of the editorial published in April 1931b. La Nova Catalunya openly expressed its support of the new political situation and of Francesc Macià. However, as discussed earlier in this chapter, by August 1931 the indignation of Havana-based Catalanists was evident; the editorial team reacted negatively to the ratification, through referendum, of a Catalan Statute that did not guarantee the political independence of Catalonia and did not include Catalan exiles and migrants either in the debate or in the project for a new society. 26
After a few months of following the events in Spain from Cuba without expressing opinions on Francesc Macià, the separatists of Havana, who had been completely left out of the negotiations, accused him of political incoherence, lack of character and wasting the opportunity for achieving the independence of Catalonia.27 This perception that Catalan society was eager to be independent from Spain would change a few months later, as revealed in the editorial titled ‘ En despertar d’un somni. Dels núvols de la il·lusió, a la petja de la realitat’ [On awakening from a dream. From the clouds of illusion to a step into reality], where the separatists of Havana question the future of Catalan nationalism and announce their temporary silence ( La Nova Catalunya 1932c, October).
Even though it has not been possible to identify the consultation mentioned in the text, it might refer to previous communications with Macià addressing the topic of the future participation of the Catalans of Havana in the new republic. The motivations of the self-imposed silence of the radical Catalanists of the Centre Català of Havana are revealed in the phrase ‘ per tal que nostres preguntes no puguin ésser interpretades com a sug-gestió ni orientació determinade s’ [with the objective that our questions are not susceptible of being interpreted as suggestions]. They seemed to understand that Francesc Macià’s new positioning within the Catalan government and the Spanish republic was incompatible with the more radical positions they had shared with the Catalanist leader during the 1920s.
The effects of the world economic crisis of 1929, the end of the period of economic prosperity known as La Danza de los Millones [The Dance of the Millions] in Cuba and the political instability of the last years of Gerardo Machado’s dictatorship certainly influenced the decision to call to a halt the activity of La Nova Catalunya, but the main cause of its silence was the estrangement of the political forces with which the Catalanists of Havana had collaborated during the previous years for an independent Catalonia. Left out from the crucial debates taking place in their homeland, in only a few months, the group led by Conangla witnessed the disappearance of the Catalonia they had been reimagining for years.
In a study on Spanish Republican exile, Jorge Domingo Cuadriello (2009) refutes the generally accepted idea that Cuba was only a country of transit to other regions for political refugees after the end of the Spanish Civil War. The author attributes this misconception to the lack of in-depth research on the topic and to the lower number of exiles that arrived in the island, in comparison with those who arrived in other countries, because of the opposition of the Cuban authorities and of some institutions. Nevertheless, many members of Cuban society associated with institutions such as the Casa de la Cultura, Alianza Latinoamericana, Partido Comunista de Cuba, Asociación Nacional de Ayuda a las Víctimas de la Guerra Española and the Centre Català gave support to the refugees.
It is not coincidence, then, that in this second period initiated in November 1942, La Nova Catalunya incorporated Catalan exiles. These included the medical doctor Carles Gubern i Puig, first director of the journal of this period, and the journalist Vicenç Bernades i Viusà, editor in chief during the same time (1942–1943), as well as Gabriel Gresa i Prats, Miquel Ferrer i Sanchis and Francesc Prat i Puig.28 It is with this collaboration of ‘ vells’ [old] and ‘ nous’ [new] that the journal began its second phase (Bernades 1942, pp. 1–2). One of the ‘old guard’ in this second period was Josep Pineda i Fargas, 29 editor in chief from 1944 to 1950. The rest of the directors, who can be seen in Table 2.1, were from the new generation; some of them, such as Josep Arroyo i Maldonado and Joquim Muntal i Blanch, had long-standing connections with Cuba. 30 Notice that, generally, the responsibility of president of the Centre Català goes together with the direction of the journal.
Conangla and Murillo signed the text ‘ Recomençament’ [Restarting] in November 1942, which opened the second period of the journal. In spite of the different composition of the editorial office in comparison with the 1908–1932 era, the explicit objective of disseminating Catalanism made clear that this new La Nova Catalunya was the prolongation of that created more than 30 years earlier. Together with the commitment to the Catalanist ideas of the previous generation, the ‘new’ brought in a clear identification with social revolutions. Even though Josep Conangla continued publishing regularly in the journal until 1953 and Josep Pineda i Fargas was the editor in chief from 1944 to 1950, the ‘old guard’ of La Nova Catalunya would mainly occupy honorary positions and would hand over the management of the journal to the new entrants. Hence, the main disconnections between intellectuals and institutions of this period would not take place within the Catalanist nucleus publishing La Nova Catalunya, but within the Centre Català and, in more general terms, the heterogeneous Republican exile.
As highlighted by Mari Paz Balibrea (2007), a new paradigm for the study of the exile of the Spanish Civil War must consider the differences of social class, political affiliation, geographic origin, language and national identity, in order to understand the factors that shaped the diverse experiences and positionings of the refugees. The main clash of interests in the Catalanist-printed sphere in Cuba would occur on the inside of the Centre Català, between La Nova Catalunya and the communist journal Per Catalunya, created in 1942 by a group of members of the Centre led by Andreu Serra Pla i Enric Soliva. 31 This group, described by Cuadriello (2009, p. 297) as a strong-willed minority, managed to start publishing the monthly journal Per Catalunya, which was written in Catalan. The response of the Catalanists of the Centre Català who were not in line with the PSUC was immediate, and that same year they revived La Nova Catalunya. 32
The journal resumed its activity as ‘ periòdic sota els auspicis de la Comissió de Cultura del Centre Català’ [periodical publication under the auspices of the Commission of Culture of the Centre Català]. However, from July 1944 the information in the headline changed to ‘ Portantveu del Centre Català de L’Havana’ [Voice of the Centre Català], indicating its status as a bulletin providing information of relevance to the center’s activities. From this moment, the header also included the three first points of the Declaration of Principles of the Centre Català. In this second period, illustrations ceded space to photography; even so, the journal kept publishing illustrations, mostly to represent Cuban and Catalan patriotic symbols.
Commercial advertising is less present in this second period of La Nova Catalunya. From 1942 to 1959, the journal is supported mainly by a group of contributors whose names are revealed in the List of Honor of La Nova Catalunya, of September 1945: Joan Arana, Joan Rifé, Santiago Arxer, Josep Balcells, Josep Tous, Francesc Bartès, Rosa Claveria, Josep Gelabert, Josep Conangla, Josep Rovira, Ramon J. Planiol, Joan Montolio, Martí Molla, Enric Huguet, Tomàs Gilabert, Martí Esteve, Pere Domingo, Lluís Burgay, Josep Arroyo, Eduard Masdeu, Rafel Alberti, Heleni Ferrer, Josep Camps and Artur Galceran i Salvador Vila. Many of these names were linked in some way to the editorial team, as directors, editors or collaborators. Even though publicity was not as important in this period as in the first one, it remained useful to ensure the survival of the journal. During the first years after 1942, the periodicity of La Nova Catalunya fluctuated between monthly and bimonthly, and it generally had a print run of 2000 copies per issue. In 1945, the journal had 32 subscribers distributed in seven countries: 13 from Cuba, 10 from Mexico, 3 from Colombia, 2 from the United States and 1 in each of Ecuador, Brazil, Paraguay and Chile. The subscriptions may have increased in the following years, but even so, there is no evidence that they were decisive in the support of the journal during this period. In the first issue of 1952, which appeared belatedly in September, the editorial office of La Nova Catalunya explains the causes of the delay, letting the readers know about the journal’s economic instability.
The intellectuals who revived La Nova Catalunya in 1942 resumed the task of issuing a journal of professional standards with limited resources. The ‘old’ and the ‘new’ generations combined the knowledge accumu-lated during the previous years with training and experience in new journalistic productive routines. According to Cuadriello (2009), Vicenç Bernades, the first editor in chief of the period, had worked in Catalonia for the publications El Poble Català, La Publicitat, La Humanitat, Catalunya Esportiva and L’Esport Català; Pere Boquet de Requesens, placed in charge of activities of the Centre Català was a radio journalist, and Josep Arroyo, responsible for the international news section, was developing a journalistic career that would lead him to the position of press chief of the presidency of the Republic of Cuba in the 1950s. Josep Conangla, Josep Murillo and Josep López-Franch were the main representatives of the previous generation in the new editorial office. But the most constant voice over the period was Emili Sánchez, who had started his career as a journalist in the world of motor racing and, after that, spe-cialized in political analysis. Sánchez Martí had already published some articles in the journal in 1920. The only woman identified as part of the editorial team of La Nova Catalunya was Montserrat Ventós i Roff.33 The work of the regular journalists of the publication was supported by the efforts of correspondents and contributors. Joan Marigó reported from Camagüey and Pere Clavé did so from Santiago de Cuba. Joan Ventura i Sureda was again the correspondent in New York and sent translations of the letters that he regularly addressed to North American newspapers to disseminate Catalanism in the United States. Ferran Llardent was the correspondent in Mexico and Jordi Arquer, in France. Libòrio de Batabanó, which is surely a pseudonym, wrote from Batabanó, in the south of Havana. The exiled writers Pere Foix and Agustí Bartra also sent collaborations, from Mexico and from the United States.34
The continued task of disseminating Catalan culture reached its peak in May 1944, during the celebration in Havana of the most significant Catalan language international literary prize, the Jocs Florals Catalans. From August 1943 until the end of 1944, La Nova Catalunya published news related to the contest and award-winning works. Some of the prize-winning authors were Josep Maria Poblet i Guarro, Agustí Bartra, Josep Ferrater Mora and members of the team of La Nova Catalunya such as Josep Maria Labraña, Vicenç Bernades i Emili Sánchez Martí. During the period, the journal also maintained its social objectives and sustained a campaign to help Catalan disabled war veterans, through the society Agrupació Catalana d’Invàlids i Mutilats de Guerra [Catalan Association of Disabled and Mutilated War Veterans].
When the end of World War II did not culminate in changing the political situation in Spain as many Republicans had hoped, some members of the Centre Català considered the pertinence of an armed conflict in Catalonia. In September 1945, La Nova Catalunya published fragments of the proclamation of Prats de Molló,35 by Francesc Macià, and in March 1946 it reproduced the new manifesto of the Centre Català, which proposed the creation of a Catalan army. In this light, it was not surprising to read the vindication of the armed option published by the editorial office in 1959, with the title ‘ La gran lliçó de Cuba’ [The great lesson of Cuba], on the occasion of the success of the Cuban Revolution (Centre Català 1959, p. 4). This support of the armed option is aligned with the persistence of military operations against the backdrop of global geopolitical tensions of the Cold War period (1947–1991). Nevertheless, the positioning of the Catalanists of Havana does not reflect the complexity and diversity of forms of action used across the different continents, regions and specific communities during this period of national reconfigurations, but also of anti-imperialist and anticolonial struggles in the Global South. In spite of the adhesion of the Centre Català to the new Cuban government and the continuity of the activities of the institution until 1965, the last issue of La Nova Catalunya appeared in December 1959. There is no reference in the journal to the causes of its disappearance, yet Surroca (2004) relates it to the banning of foreign publications in Cuba.
La Nova Catalunya is the main source of texts that permit the reconstruction of the cultural history of the Catalanists of the Centre Català of Havana and their processes of transculturation. This journal, which was characterized by an almost continuous activity throughout most of the first half of the twentieth century, adapted and responded to the changeable circumstances of both Cuba and Catalonia during periods of global and local political and economic crises. It is, together with Ressorgiment — journal of the Catalanists of Buenos Aires—one of the most important documentary remains of the work, the ideological evolution and the transformation of identities of Catalanist intellectuals in the Americas. Although the ideas published in La Nova Catalunya do not reflect the diversity of positions assumed by the heterogenous Catalan community in Cuba, the study of the texts and networks of the group of the Centre Català of Havana can contribute to better understand their important role within both Cuban and Catalan nation-making processes.
The data collected by César Yáñez (1989, p. 181) reveals that the annual figure of Catalans who arrived in the Americas increased from around 2000, in the 1880s, to more than 8000 during the 1910s.
The Orfeons Catalans are amateur choral societies that promote Catalan music. The first Orfeons Catalans were created during the nineteenth century.
For more information on the apolitical character of the Sociedad de Beneficència de Naturals de Catalunya, please see Roy (1988, p. 42).
Josep Conangla discussed the meaning that adopting the Cuban citizenship had for some Catalan-Cubans in his essay La ciudadanía adoptiva [The Adoptive Citizenship] (1916).
Claudi Mimó i Caba (Vilanova i la Geltrú, 1843–Havana, 1929), founder of the Centre Català and La Nova Catalunya. In 1921, he travels to Catalonia and, as a representative of the Catalan in Cuba, establishes contacts with the government of Catalonia, the Mancomunitat.
Conangla (1998) recollects his experiences as a member of the Spanish colonial expeditionary force in the Cuban war of independence (1895–1898) in the book Memorias de mi juventud en Cuba: un soldado del ejército español en la Guerra separatista (1895–1898) [ Memoir of My Youth in Cuba: A Soldier in the Spanish Army during the Separatist War].
This date has been taken from Conangla’s brief autobiography, attached to a letter to Carles Rahola dated 5 September 1930.
The Associació Protectora de l’Ensenyança Catalana was a private organization founded in 1889 to promote the teaching of Catalan. According to Buffery and Marcer (2011, p. 56), it became an important focal point for the development of cultural and political Catalanism.
For the full Declaration of Principles, please see Centre Català (1986, pp. 153–154).
The radical Catalanist party Estat Català was founded by Francesc Macià in 1922 with the aim of achieving Catalan independence.
The original document and the comments by Josep Pineda are available in La Nova Catalunya (Pineda 1958).
Joan Creixell (1984) studied the origins of the estelada linked to the political activity of the Catalans of Cuba from the beginning of the twentieth century.
La Nova Catalunya as author indicates an unsigned text that clearly reflects a collective position of the editorial team. For the full text of the letter, please see La Nova Catalunya (1932a, February, p. 4).
Writer, lawyer, journalist and activist Juan Marinello (Las Villas, 1898 – Havana, 1977) was ‘ Soci d’Honor’ [Honorary Member] of the Centre Català of Havana. His intense political activity from the 1920s onward makes him one of the most important figures of the twentieth-century Cuban political sphere.
Although the language that prevails in the journal is Catalan, it is possible to find texts in Spanish, mainly in the section ‘En defensa del separatismo catalán’ [In defense of Catalan separatism], which was active from February 1923 to December 1927, during Miguel Primo de Rivera’s dictatorship (September 1923–January 1930).
It has been impossible to determine the exact year of this change because there are several issues from 1913 to 1916 missing from the collection in the Archivo Pomepu Fabra of Havana.
Josep Murillo i Mombrú (Sant Cugat de Vallès, 1881–Havana, 1953) emigrated to Cuba in 1907. He was an active member of the Centre Català, director of La Nova Catalunya and one of the founders of the Club Separatista Núm. 1.
Albert Tarascó (Somewhere in Catalonia, 1891–Matanzas, 1952) was a painter, antique furniture restorer and founder of the Academy of Fine Arts of Matanzas. Jaume Valls (Tarragona, 1883–Havana, 1955) built his artistic career in close relationship with the development of Cuban graphic arts and advertising and was one of the main exponents of Afrocubanismo.
Joaquim Muntal i Gramunt (Anoia, nineteenth century–Havana, 1934) was president of the Centre Català of Havana from 1914 to 1915.
Claudi Ametlla (Sarral, 1883–Barcelona, 1968), a writer and journalist, was member of the party Acció Catalana Republicana, and civil governor of Girona (1932) and Barcelona (1933). Antoni Rovira i Virgili (Tarragona, 1882–Perpignan, 1949) was a Republican politician, writer and journalist, founder of the party Esquerra Catalanista (1914) and of Acció Republicana de Catalunya (1930). Prudenci Bertrana (Tordera, 1867–Barcelona, 1941) was a writer and journalist; some of his main works are Josafat (1906), and the autobiographical L’hereu [ The Heir] (1931) and El vagabund [ The Vagabond] (1933). All three were recognized Catalan Republicans.
Xavier Laudo and Jordi Monés (2008, p. 242) have studied the important role of pedagogue Eladi Homs (Valls, 1886–Rubí, 1973) in the movement of the Escola Nova [New School] in Catalonia during the 1910s, after his return from the United States. Joan Agell (Barcelona, 1890–Andorra, 1978) was secretary of the Centre Català of Santiago de Cuba. According to Olga Giralt (2006, pp. 1–2), in 1916, Agell established his residence in the United States, where he was president of the Centre Català of New York. Xosé Aviñoa (1996, p. 215) has identified Joan Ventura i Sureda (Palamós, 1884–New York, 1960) as a translator and Catalanist activist settled in the United States. Anton Benazet was a Modernist poet and playwright who published in the journal Joventut (1900–1906), studied by Imma Farré (2016). Writer and journalist Joan Estelrich (Felanitx, Mallorca, 1886–Paris, 1958) collaborated closely with Catalanist leader Francesc Cambó and was part of the direction of the Lliga Catalana. His controversial role during the Spanish Civil War and Franco’s regime has been addressed by Josep Massot (1998) and, more recently, in a book edited by Xavier Pla (2015). Between 1919 and 1930, he contributed occasionally to La Nova Catalunya. The journal criticized his political positioning during the dictatorship in an article published in 1954. Contributors Carlota Guiteras, J.B. Alemany, Díaz-Capdevila and Lluís Bertran still remain to be identified.
According to Albert Manent (1992), Fàbrega and Vila-Estruch were correspondents of Germanor from Chile, and Fàbrega collaborated also with Ressorgiment from Buenos Aires. These cultural and political networks of the Catalanists of the Americas, studied by Víctor Castells (1986), are also reflected also in the pages of La Nova Catalunya.
Jacint Verdaguer (Folgueroles, 1845–Vallvidrera, 1902) was one of the most important nineteenth-century Catalan writers. His epic poems L’Atàntida (1878) and Canigó (1886) are at the core of the Catalan literary canon. Poet and essayist Joan Maragall (Barcelona, 1860–1911) was one of the most important figures in Catalan literary Modernism. His poem ‘Cant Espiritual’ [Spiritual Chant] is one of the most influential works in contemporary Catalan literature (Maragall 1911). In 1904, Maragall wrote the prologue to Conangla’s (1998) first poetry volume. Poet, dramatist and Catalanist activist Àngel Guimerà (Santa Cruz de Tenerife, 1845–Barcelona, 1924) is the author of canonical Catalan works of literature such as Mar i cel [ Sea and Sky] (1888) and Terra baixa [Lowlands] (1897).
Josep Maria Folch i Torres (Barcelona, 1880–1950) was a novelist and playwright best known for his novels and plays for children and young adults.
Bonaventura Gassol i Rovira (La Selva del Campo, 1893–Barcelona, 1980) was a poet, playwright and political activist. He was one of the founders of the nationalist party Acció Catalana (1922) and went into exile in France in 1924. There he came into contact with Francesc Macià; four years later, in October 1928, he would escort the political leader to Havana to participate in the Constituent Assembly of Catalan separatism.
The text published on that occasion by La Nova Catalunya (1931c, August, pp. 9–10) includes the letter of appreciation sent by the Catalanists of Havana to Josep Puig Pujades, the member of the Catalan Parliament who supported the right of the Catalans living outside Catalonia to be recognized as Catalan citizens and to take part in the referendum for the ratification of the Catalan Statute. Anna Teixidor (2017) has studied this political figure.
The harshness of the words published by La Nova Catalunya (1932b, April, p. 1) should be understood in light of the importance of the figure of Francesc Macià for a diaspora who had received him as a hero in 1928. In its first issue of the second period, in November 1942, the journal published a photograph of Francesc Macià with the description ‘ batallador de Catalunya in memoriam’ [fighter for Catalonia in memoriam]; the gesture expressed its reconciliation with the memory of Macià, who had died in 1933. The passing of time and the confluence of ‘old’ and ‘new’ Catalanists contributed to the recovering of his image as a symbol in Cuba.
Carles Gubern i Puig (Barcelona, 1901–Fajardo, Puerto Rico, 1979) arrived in Havana at the end of 1939. According to Cuadriello (2009, p. 430), he headed the process of reopening of La Nova Catalunya. Vicent Bernades i Viusà (Barcelona, 1896–1976) was a writer, member of the party Esquerra Republica de Catalunya and councillor in the City Council of Barcelona (1934–1936). Cuadriello (2009) states that he left Sapin in 1939 and arrived in Cuba a few months later. He founded the Patronat Català de Defensa de les Víctimes del Franquismo in 1948. Gabriel Gresa i Prats (Barcelona, 1908–Havana, 1992) was a podiatrist and journalist, member of Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya. Cuadriello (2009, p. 250) states that he arrived in Cuba in 1940. According to the Enciclopèdia Catalana, Miquel Ferrer i Sanchis (Baix Llobregat, 1899–Barcelona, 1990) was member of Estat Català and founder of the party Partido Socialista Unificado de Cataluña PSUC. His name does not appear in the chapter ‘Diccionario bio- bibliográfico de los republicanos españoles exiliados en Cuba’, included in the research by Cuadriello (2009); nevertheless, it is possible that the collaborator Miquel Ferrer, that appears in La Nova Catalunya without its second surname, was Miquel Ferrer i Sanchis. This significant politician could have stayed in Cuba before going to Mexico. His connections with the Catalanists of Cuba are demonstrated by the origin of some documents mentioned in the inventory by Ola Giralt (2006) of the Fons FP, Subsèrie Miquel Ferrer i Sanchis, from the archive of the Biblioteca del Pavelló de la República. Francesc Prat i Puig (Barcelona, 1906–Santiago de Cuba, 1997) was an archaeologist and historian. Cuadriello (2009) describes his route into exile, first to the concentration camp Agde Hérault, where he discovered an Iberian ancient settlement, and later to Cuba. He lived in Havana from 1939 to 1947, when he settled in Santiago de Cuba. He was lecturer at the Universidad de Oriente.
Josep Pineda i Fargas (Osona, 1884–Puerto Rico, 1973) was president of the Centre Català (1922–1923) and founder of the Club Separatista Núm. 1 de L’Havana (1922). He was back to Catalonia in 1931, but returned to Cuba at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War.
Josep Arroyo i Maldonado arrived very young to Havana, where he became a Cuban citizen . Joaquim Muntal i Blanch is the son of Joaquim Muntal i Gramunt, president of the Centre Català (1914–1915) and a journalist for La Nova Catalunya.
Cuadriello (2009) has identified some of the members of this group: Miguel Valdés, Pedro Ardiaca, Jacinto Mas Torres and Francisco Fábregas Vehil.
Olga Glondys (2012) has studied the diversity of Republican positionings assumed by the exiles after the Spanish Civil War with a particular focus on the divergences between the Stalinist line of the Partit Socialista Unificat de Catalunya (PSUC) and the more democratic perspectives within the Partit Obrer d’Unificació Marxista (POUM).
Montserrat Ventós i Roff (Sabadell, Barcelona, 1905–Morelos, Mèxic, 1999) worked for the Generalitat de Catalunya during the Second Republic. According to Cuadriello (2009, p. 523), after being in exile in France, she traveled to the Dominican Republic in 1940, and to Cuba, in 1942. Montserrat Ventós organized the feminine section of the Centre Català Comissió de Dames and participated in the radio show Catalunya Parla of Radio Universal in Havana.
Writer Pere Foix (Segarra, 1893–Barcelona, 1978) went into exile in Mexico in 1939. Poet Agustí Bartra (Barcelona, 1908–Terrassa, 1982) worked for the Institució de les Lletres Catalanes during the Second Republic and went into exile at the end of the Spanish Civil War. Bartra and writer Anna Murià (Barcelona, 1904–2002), his wife, spent around five months in Cuba in 1941 waiting for the documents they needed to go to Mexico.
This proclamation is linked to Francesc Macià’s failed campaign to liberate Catalonia through an armed uprising from Prats de Molló in 1926.
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Josep Conangla’s Americanist Catalanism
Abstract This chapter provides a cultural history of Catalanism in Cuba through the reconstruction of the political and cultural activism led by Josep Conangla from the Centre Català of Havana. The analyses focus on how Conangla’s political and literary texts reveal his personal process of transculturation, which mediated the evolution of the Catalanist group of Havana toward Americanist positionings. Josep Conangla’s intellectual journey, from his first years in Cuba as a soldier of the Spanish government in the war of independence of 1895, until his death in 1965 at the age of 90, in Havana, is characterized by a fruitful process of transformation that is evident in his writings and that enabled him to occupy relevant positions within both the Cuban and the Catalan cultural systems.
Keywords Americanism • Catalanism • Identities • Citizenship • Cuba
Josep Conangla i Fontanilles (Montblanc, Catalonia, 1875–Havana, Cuba, 1965) arrived in Cuba for the first time in 1895, as a soldier of the Spanish army, and remained in the country until 1898. In 1904, he went back to the island, where he worked as a journalist and led the Catalanist intellectual group of the Centre Català of Havana during the first half of the twentieth century. The reactivation of some of his writings is useful to understand how the processes of imagining a Catalan nation from Cuba during the first half of the twentieth century resemble the exercises on both activism and imagination carried out by the Cuban émigrés led by José Martí from the United States and Mexico to prepare the war of independence of 1895. These similarities should be analyzed bearing in mind the contradictions that emerge from the geopolitical and historical differences between the Catalan and the Cuban contexts; whereas Catalonia was an active and relevant part of the colonial metropolis, Cuba was a colonized territory. Conangla’s personal process of transculturation mediated the evolution of the Catalanist group of Havana toward Americanist positionings. His intellectual journey, from the first years in Cuba as a soldier of the Spanish government in the war of independence of 1895, until his death in 1965 at the age of 90 in Havana, is characterized by a fruitful ‘bent towards heterodoxy’, as highlighted by Thomas Harrington (2001, p. 106), that allowed him to fully integrate himself within Cuban society while developing a new form of Catalanism embedded in his contradictory and abundant—understood as diverse, complex, in constant transformation—Caribbean reality.
In 1916, Josep Conangla i Fontanilles published La ciudadanía adoptiva [The Adoptive Citizenship], an essay that defends both the Catalan and the Cuban identities of members of the Centre Català who had adopted Cuban citizenship. The first section of the book reproduces two letters written in response to the opinion articles about the topic, published in Diario de la Marina,1 which motivated Conangla’s essayistic response. The first missive is the one that members of the Centre Català, led by Conangla, sent to Nicolás Rivero, director of Diario de la Marina, to thank him for the declarations of this publication in relation to the speech delivered by Catalanist leader Francesc Cambó in the Spanish Parliament in June 1916; the second one is the response that the person behind the pen name Antonio Sangenís y Ventura sent to Rivero two days later.
In order to understand the intertextual relationships between Cambó’s speeches, the opinion pieces published in Diario de la Marina, the abovementioned letters and Conangla’s essay, it is important to go back to the text that originated the exchanges. The speeches delivered by Francesc Cambó during the sessions of 7, 8 and 15 June 1916, and published later under the title ‘ El problema català’ [ The Catalan Problem], took place in a context of radicalization of Catalanist positions. In order to illustrate this surge of Catalanism, Jordi Casassas (1991, p. 311) recalls the ‘Festa de la Unitat’ [Unity Fest], which took place in May of that year in the Parc Güell of Barcelona to celebrate the success of the party Lliga Regionalista in the general elections of 9 April 1916. Casassas states that the ‘Catalan problem’ was at the center of the debates in the sessions of the Spanish Parliament that took place from 10 May 1916. Cambó’s speech ratifies the proposal of the amendment in favor of the recognition of Catalonia as a nation and makes reference to the long journey of the ‘Catalan problem’. The Catalanist leader reminds his audience that the ‘Catalan problem’ and the issue of the recognition of Catalan nationhood had been discussed in previous years in the Spanish Parliament in similar terms to the ones included in the proposed amendment.
El problema catalán, señores diputados, no es un problema administrativo, no es un problema puramente regionalista, sino que es un problema nacionalista. Y es un problema nacionalista porque arranca del hecho de la personalidad catalana; que nosotros calificamos de nacional. (Cambó 1991, p. 318)
[The Catalan problem, honourable representatives, is not an administrative problem, it is not purely a regionalist problem, but a nationalist problem. And it is a nationalist problem because it stems from the fact of the Catalan personality, which we qualify as national.]
By 1916, in the context of World War I and minority national struggles in Europe, Cambó’s position is clearly nationalist and in favor of self-determination, but it is not separatist. Although the two pieces published in Diario de la Marina, after Cambó’s speech, are not studied in this book, the letter sent by members of the Centre Català to Nicolás Rivero, director of the newspaper, provides some information about the content of the texts and their reception by the Catalanist community of Havana. In their response to the texts published in Diario de la Marina, the signatories2 recap their belonging to Cuban society, the motivations behind their decision to immigrate and their identification with Catalan nationalist ideas, despite their independence from any political party based in Catalonia. The rectifications the group led by Conangla make to the state-ments of Diario de la Marina provide information not only about the political line of the Catalanists of Havana at this time, but also about how the ‘Catalan problem’ was perceived by one of the most important journalistic platforms in Cuba. Whereas Diario de la Marina seems to undermine the ‘problem’ by questioning the representativeness of Lliga Regionalista and Cambó in Catalonia, the team of La Nova Catalunya endorses his declarations and emphasizes the legitimacy of his ideas:
Afirman ustedes que el partido regionalista catalán no es Cataluña; y, por tanto, no puede hablar Cambó en nombre de nuestra región. Pues bien: nosotros, desligados de todo partido político catalán, pero identificados en esencia con lo que ustedes califican de radicalismos nacionalistas; nosotros que hemos venido a Cuba ansiosos de libertad y atraídos por la simpatía de las instituciones, los progresos y la bondad del pueblo cubano; (…) asegura-mos a ustedes, rotundamente, que Cambó ha sido el verbo de las aspiracio-nes más hondas y legítimas de la conciencia y voluntad de Cataluña. (Conangla et al. In Conangla 1916a, pp. 6–7)
[You say that the regionalist party is not Catalonia, thus Cambó cannot speak on behalf of our region. Well then, without connection to any Catalan political party, but identified with what you qualify as nationalist radicalism; we, who have come to Cuba eager for freedom and attracted by the conge-niality of its institutions, and by the Cuban people’s progress and kindness; (…) we emphatically assure you that Cambó has been the Word of the deep-est and most rightful aspirations of Catalonia’s consciousness and wishes.]
The previous fragment summarizes the position of the members of the Catalanist community of Havana in relation to both Catalonia and Cuba. The critique of the ambivalent position of the Catalan-Cubans by tradi-tionalist members of the Catalan and the Spanish communities is the main motivation of Conangla’s essay, which aims to answer the questions asked by the person behind the pen name Antonio Sangenís. In his defense of the members of the Centre Català who had adopted Cuban citizenship, Conangla reminds the reader that the political rights of Catalans with Cuban citizenship had been questioned before within the Catalan community of Havana. The Catalanist leader states that on three occasions voices from the Sociedad de Beneficència de Naturales de Cataluña proposed to unsubscribe the members who had rejected Spanish citizenship. Similar positions were held by some members of the Spanish organizations Centro de Dependientes and Casino Español.
In La ciudadanía adoptiva, Conangla explores the topic of citizenship in the light of the history of International Law and selected authoritative sources in Cuba, the most prominent of whom are the lawyer and anthropologist Fernando Ortiz and professor of International Law Antonio Sánchez de Bustamante. The author also includes opinions expressed by former president of the United States Theodore Roosevelt in favor of the Americanization of immigrants. Conangla values, above all, the ‘American ideal’ in Roosevelt’s project: ‘El americanismo que proposa Roosevelt, como él mismo lo aclara, “es una cuestión de espíritu, de convicción y de objetivo, no de religión ni de país natal”’ (Conangla 1916a, p. 28). [‘The Americanism proposed by Roosevelt, as he himself declared, “is a matter of spirit, of conviction and objective, rather than of religion or native country”’.]
Conangla builds his reasoning in tune with the opinions of an authoritative source in Catalonia, Domènec Martí i Julià, 3 president of the nationalist party Unió Catalanista, and recalls a conversation between the Catalan politician and the director of La Nova Catalunya, Josep Murillo, held two years earlier in Barcelona. According to Conangla, Martí i Julià told Murillo that the Catalans of Cuba did not have to be held accountable for their free acceptance of Cuban citizenship. The veracity of this exchange might easily be questioned, as there is not any documentary proof of the conversation. However, more relevant than the content of that meeting is the information that its mention provides about Josep Conangla’s identification with Martí i Julià’s new left-leaning Catalanist republicanism. For Thomas Harrington (2001, p. 106), it is clear that Conangla was ‘by conviction, a man of the rationally constituted left’. The defense of double citizenship in La ciudadanía adoptiva through the citation of legal, political and philosophical texts from diverse positionings within liberal republicanism, confirms the rational quality of Conangla’s political views. Nevertheless, Harrington has also highlighted that the Catalan-Cuban political leader acknowledged the efficacy of the efforts of more spiritually based Catalanists—not only in relation to the church, but mainly to an essentialist premodern national ontology—led by the right- leaning followers of Prat de la Riba.4 Conangla’s ability to deal with the abundant elements of his circum-Atlantic reality and to bring them to his discourse, was indeed key in the consolidation of his role as leader of the Catalanist movement in Havana: ‘This mental agility permitted him to, in effect, co-opt the right’s potential appeal among the Catalan community of the island, and in this way, free his hands to turn the Centre Català of Havana into an important laboratory for the creation of an alternative repertoire of options within the Catalan cultural system’ (Harrington 2001, p. 107).
The tone of La ciudadanía adoptiva becomes more heated toward the final section, where Conangla discusses the ‘ derecho a sacudirse la ciudadanía española’ [the right to shake off Spanish citizenship], and closes his text calling Spain the ‘ madrastra loca de Cataluña’ [Catalonia’s crazy stepmother] (Conangla 1916a, p. 44). 5 Nevertheless, what is most significant about the last part of the essay is the valuable information it provides about the fruitful counterpoints inherent to Conangla’s transcultural positionings, outlined earlier by Harrington:
Aquella condición política artificiosa de ‘español’ nada tiene que ver, pues, por ejemplo, con la cualidad inmanente de ‘catalán’: la primera la dan las leyes de un Estado político organizado de manera caprichosa y seguramente transitoria; mientras que la segunda la concede la naturaleza. (Conangla 1916a, p. 32)
[The inauthentic political condition of ‘Spanish’ has nothing to do with the immanent quality of ‘Catalan’: whereas the first one is provided by the laws of a political state organized capriciously and, without a doubt, tempo-rarily, the latter is given by nature.]
In this section of the text, Conangla shows an essentialist understanding of Catalan nationhood as a natural gift, that is coherent with José Martí’s defense of the authenticity of the politics, cultures and identities of the Americas, in close relation with the natural world, as expressed in the essay Nuestra América, in 1891:
el libro importado ha sido vencido en América por el hombre natural. Los hombres naturales han vencido a los letrados artificiales. El mestizo autóc-tono ha vencido al criollo exótico. No hay batalla entre la civilización y la barbarie, sino entre la falsa erudición y la naturaleza. (Martí 2002, p. 17)
[the imported book has been defeated by the natural man in America. The natural men have defeated the artificial men of laws. The autochthonous mestizo has defeated the exotic creole. There is no battle between civilization and barbarity, but between false knowledge and nature.]
Conangla’s emphasis on the natural character of Catalan nationhood is used to defend the legitimacy of a primordial sense of attachment to the homeland in opposition to State laws. Even though it is important to bear in mind the intrinsic contradictions of essentialist understandings of nationhood, which describe national identity as an ‘immanent’ quality, ignoring their quality of social construct, 6 here Conangla’s Americanist spiritualistic positioning in relation to the idea of nationhood is aligned with José Martí’s anticolonial claim for new ideas that emerged from the territories of the Americas to oppose imported narratives. In a contrapuntal—contradictory yet harmonious—act that exemplifies his intellectual transculturation, Conangla uses Martí’s idea of a natural nationhood in the face of imposed national identities.
This spiritualistic conception of a natural nationhood contrasts not only with the rationalist defense of double citizenship analyzed earlier, but also with the more voluntarist notion of national identity proposed in the Constitució Provisional de la República Catalana (1928) [Provisional Constitution of the Catalan Republic or Catalan Constitution of Havana], composed by Conangla himself, and signed in Havana during the Assemblea Constituent del Separatisme Català [Constituent Assembly of Catalan Separatism], which took place between 30 September and 2 October 1928, chaired by Francesc Macià. The Provisional Constitution delineated the political regime for an independent Catalonia, established Catalan as the official language and defined the collective and individual rights of citizens7:
Artículo 8: Son catalanes:
A) Todos los nacidos en territorio de Cataluña aunque de padres no catalanes, con tal que en ella estén domiciliados.
B) Todos los que, habiendo nacido en Cataluña, residan fuera de ella y estén inscriptos voluntariamente como tales.
C) Todos los que, siendo hijos de padres catalanes o de padre catalán o madre catalana, y habiendo nacido fuera de Cataluña, reclamen la ciudadanía catalana al llegar a la mayoría de edad.
D) Los extranjeros que hayan ayudado con las armas o con servicios insignes a obtener la independencia o el progreso de cualquier orden, de Cataluña.
E) Los extranjeros mayores de edad establecidos en Cataluña por espacio de más de cinco años, siempre que reclamen voluntariamente la nacionalidad catalana y sepan hablar y escribir en catalán. (Assemblea Constituent del Separatisme Català 1928, p. 3)
[Article 8: Catalan citizens are:
A) All persons born and domiciled in Catalan territory even when their parents are not Catalan.
B) All persons born in Catalonia who live abroad and are registered as such.
C) All persons who, having a Catalan parent, have been born outside Catalonia and claim citizenship on reaching the age of legal majority.
D) The foreign nationals who have assisted Catalonia either through armed struggle or distinguished services to obtain the independence or progress of any nature.
E) The foreign nationals of legal age established in Catalonia for over five years who voluntarily claim citizenship and know how to speak and write in the Catalan language.]
This article of the Catalan Constitution of Havana illustrates Anthony Smith’s observations on the cultural or linguistic character of Catalan nationalism: ‘a form to be distinguished from the genealogical basis of ethnic nationalism and the territorial referent of civic nationalism, and one that requires of outsiders only full socialization into the host language and culture to gain social acceptance’ (2000, p. 19). Smith adds that, even though in theory there may be a good case for such a distinction, in practice it is difficult to find any examples of a ‘pure’ cultural nationalism, freed from its ‘ethnic moorings’. The counterpoint between the idea of transcultural identities and nationalist discourses is evident in both the political activity of the Catalanists of Havana and the construction of Cuban nationalism. As will be analyzed further on in this book, Fernando Ortiz’s attempts to tame the contradictions inherent to national discourse through the idea of a transcultural nationalism were only partially successful. The assimilation of the claims of Afro-descendants and the incorporation of Afro-Cuban elements to national discourse through the cultural and political movement of Afrocubanismo by middle-class white intellectuals, which will be also discussed later in this book, are evidence of the limitations of this approach.8
The process that led to the composition of the Catalan Provisional Constitution started in 1927, under the leadership of Josep Conangla and with the approval of Francesc Macià. The Club Separatista Núm. 1 of Havana, created in 1922 as the nucleus of the secret societies connected to the Federació Internacional de Clubs Separatistes Catalans, made a call to separatists from inside and outside Catalonia, in both Europe and the Americas, to participate in the Assemblea Constituent del Separatisme Català. As stated by Conangla (1986a, p. 182), the call included two questionnaires, the answers to which would set the basis for the arrangements and decisions related to the assembly, including the composition and approval of the Catalan Constitution of Havana. Josep Conangla compiled and edited the answers to the questionnaires in the final document.
The flag assumed in the Constitution had four red bars over a yellow base and a blue triangle with a white five-pointed star. It was the estelada, clearly inspired by the Cuban flag and other starred flags from the Americas. Nevertheless, the Catalanists of Havana did not only take inspiration from Cuba and the Americas for its symbols, but also for its political program. In answer to those who questioned the need to create a Constitution for Catalonia before achieving independence from Spain, Josep Conangla stated: ‘En cada nucli matriu de les nacionalitats americanes destriades després en Repúbliques, va precedir (en alguns anys, quasi en totes), la reunió d’Assemblees deliberants revolucionàries i el fixament de les Constitucions polítiques respectives’ [Each matrix nucleus of the American nationalities that became independent Republics was preceded by revolutionary deliberative assemblies and the establishment of political constitu-tions (generally a few years earlier)] (Conangla 1986a, p. 186).
In the section of the foreword of the Constitution titled ‘ Antecedents històrics lluminosos’[Bright historical background], Conangla describes the foundational documents of the United States, Venezuela, Mexico, Colombia, Chile, Peru, the United Provinces of Río de la Plata (Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia and a part of Brazil) and Cuba. Further on, the author of the preface and main editor of the Provisional Catalan Constitution quotes Argentinian intellectual Carlos Sánchez Viamonde to highlight the Americanist character of the document: ‘En América, la Constitución tiene un significado propio desconocido en Europa. Allá es simplemente una etapa en la transformación secular; aquí, el punto de par-tida de toda evolución’ [In America, the Constitution has a meaning that is unknown in Europe. There is just a phase of secular transformation; here, it is the starting point of all evolution] (Carlos Sánchez Viamonde in Conangla 1986a, p. 190). This emphasis on constitutional right as the right to be constituted, to become a legal subject, reveals the self-consciously anticolonial character of the political program of the Catalan Constitution of Havana, deep-rooted in Americanist traditions of nationhood. The concept of americanismo is appropriate to describe the transnational networks of solidarity and collaboration that made possible the meeting of Havana. Dalia Muller has explained how americanismo, a fore-runner to the anti-imperialist latinoamericanismo of the twentieth century, has been overshadowed by ‘the tendency to consider US-Latin American relations at the turn of the century as a struggle between a conquering Anglo race and a beleaguered Latin race’ (2017, p. 6), which left PanHispanism as the main option for those who would take a stance against US Imperialism. ‘This position, however, does not leave room for the recognition of an ideology of solidarity like americanismo rooted in a vigor-ous rejection of both Spanish and U.S. imperialism’ (Muller 2017, p. 6).
Pan-Hispanism has been stronger and more visible to date than americanismo or Pan-Americanism, not only because it has been a way to take a stance against the imperialism of the United States, but also because it has served as a tool for Spanish cultural imperialism in the Americas. PanHispanism has shaped the postcolonial national discourses of the territories of the Spanish-speaking Americas, which reproduce colonial cultural relations with the ex-Metropolis by placing emphasis on a white Hispanic heritage and on the Spanish Language. This is particularly evident in the area of the Caribbean, where a postimperial classification of cultures based on linguistic and colonially imposed criteria has resulted in the isolation of peoples and cultures that share very similar histories. In a text first published in 1910, Fernando Ortiz stated: ‘aunque el panhispanismo sea por ahora intelectual y económico, no deja de ser un imperialismo’ [although Pan-Hispanism is for now intellectual and economic, it is still an imperialism] (Ortiz 1998, p. 133).
Between 8 and 10 October 1922, the Federació d’Entitats Nacionalistes de Cuba held a meeting in Santiago de Cuba to establish the bases of their association and to plan the creation of the Federació d’Entitats Nacionalistes de les Amèriques. Delegates from Blok Cathalonia of Guantanamo, Casal Nacionalista Català de Camagüey, Centre Català of Havana and the journals Prou, Nació Catalana, Vida Catalana and La Nova Catalunya9 proposed forms of organization and action inspired by the system of secret clubs used by José Martí in exile to prepare the Cuban war of independence of 1895. As explained earlier in this chapter, the Club Separatista Núm. 1, created in Havana that same year of 1922, would be the nucleus of the organizations that would support Francesc Macià’s separatist party Estat Català from the Americas. The clearest example of this international collaboration is provided by the document signed by Francesc Macià that details the contributions of the Catalanists living in different countries of the American continent. It is important to recall that the document, discussed in La Nova Catalunya by Josep Pineda (1958, pp. 1 and 12), reveals that almost 25% of the 920,360 francs sent to Macià from the Americas had been provided by the Catalanists of Havana, who also coordinated the contributions from Santiago de Cuba, New York, Buenos Aires, Mendoza, Rosario, Santiago de Chile, Mexico City and the town of Bajabonico, in the Dominican Republic.
In spite of the profound geopolitical and historical differences between the Catalan and the Cuban contexts—this latter being severely impacted by colonialism—the processes of imagining a Catalan nation from Cuba during the first half of the twentieth century resemble the exercises on both activism and imagination carried out by the Cuban émigrés led by Martí from the United States and Mexico, toward the end of the nineteenth century: ‘“Nation” was, or became, the core aspiration of Cuban migrants affiliated with the revolutionary movement. However, their conception of the nation was shaped by a revolutionary politics made abroad’ (Muller 2017, p. 9). For the Catalanists of Havana, as much as for the Cuban revolutionaries working from Mexico and the United States in the nineteenth century, the circumstance of exile enhanced the significance of the ‘Nation’, the lost homeland that had to be recovered.
The creation of the Partit Separatista Revolucionari de Catalunya, in the assembly of 1928, also connects the program of the Catalanists of Havana with the experiences of José Martí. The Catalan separatist party’s name is very similar to the designation of Partido Revolucionario Cubano, created in April 1892 by José Martí to organize, from exile, the uprising of 1895. Other similarities can be found in their programs, presented in both cases through nine articles. 10 Martí’s political organization integrated different social classes and sectors in heterogeneous secret clubs united by the common purpose of obtaining the independence of Cuba through ideological work and an armed revolution.11 Likewise, Conangla’s secret party aims to achieve the independence of Catalonia through both ideological and armed struggle, and to establish a republic. But, while Martí presents his party as both the brains and the hands of the revolution, Conangla puts Partit Separatista Revolucionari de Catalunya at the service of the party Estat Català, led by Macià from his exile in Paris.12
By putting Partit Separatista Revolucionari de Catalunya at the service of Estat Català and naming Francesc Macià as its president, Josep Conangla fully integrates the trans-American networks he had helped to create and consolidate within the core of radical Catalanism in Europe. This political move, together with the composition of the Catalan Provisional Constitution of Havana, opened the possibility to incorporate the progressive views of Americanist Catalanism into the nation-building project led by Macià. But despite the intense collaboration discussed earlier, the relationship between the Catalanists of Havana and Francesc Macià would end before the proclamation of the Catalan Republic and its incorporation into the Second Spanish Republic on 14 April 1931. It is timely to remember that La Nova Catalunya (1932, February) states that the last report from Francesc Macià as president of Partit Separatista Revolucionari de Catalunya had been received on 30 May 1930. The text marks the formal end of the collaboration between the Centre Català of Havana and the new leader of the party Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, which had won the elections in Catalonia.
Josep Conangla’s intellectual journey, from his first years in Cuba as a soldier of the Spanish government, until his death in 1965, at the age of 90, in Havana, is very different from the briefer, yet also indisputably more prominent role of José Martí within the history of both Cuba and the Americas. This section does not intend to equate the works of these two figures, but to illustrate the weight of Latin American thought in the particular form of separatism proposed by the Catalanism of the Americas led by Conangla, as well as to introduce proof of the process of transculturation experienced by the Catalanist leader. Conangla’s fruitful ‘bent toward heterodoxy’—highlighted by Thomas Harrington (2001, p. 106) — allowed him to fully integrate himself within Cuban society while developing a new form of Catalanism embedded in his immediate abundant and contradictory Caribbean reality. It is probably Conangla’s essay Els altres sentits [ The Other Senses] (Conangla 1957), written toward the end of his life, the text that best shows his tendency toward complexity and heterodoxy as a result of his experiences as an intellectual who had to learn how to move between diverse territorialities and temporalities.
It was spring 1911 in Havana when Josep Conangla received a book that had just been published in Barcelona. The addressee states that his copy of Seqüències [ Sequences], the last anthology by the prominent Catalan poet Joan Maragall,13 was affectionately autographed by its author, who, a few years earlier, had written the prologue to Conangla’s first poetry volume, Elegía de la Guerra (1904) [ Elegy of the War], inspired by his experience as a colonial soldier in Cuba (1957).14 ‘Cant Espiritual’[Spiritual Chant], the last poem of Sequències, was to become Maragall’s best-known composition and one of the most influential works in contemporary Catalan literature. In a study about the influences of this text on Catalan postmodern poetry, Marta Font i Espriu (2014, p. 12) sees it as part of a ‘cultural continuum’ that keeps activating previously constructed meanings, and she identifies its resonances in other spiritual canticles by well-known authors such as Susanna Rafart, Jacint Sala, Enric Casasses and Sebastià Alzamora. Back then, Conangla, a poet himself, could not hold off the spell of Maragall’s words. He not only immediately translated the poem into Spanish, publishing it in Bohemia, one of the most prestigious Cuban cultural magazines, but he also took it as a point of departure of a book that would be published almost 50 years later, with the title of Els altres sentits: Ressonàncies del Cant Espiritual [ The Other Senses: Resonances of the Spiritual Chant] (Conangla 1957).15
Josep Miquel Sobrer (2012, p. 113) believes that Conangla’s translation of ‘Cant Espiritual’, published in Havana in May 1911, can be considered ‘ digna’ [worthy] and that perhaps the contact with the Castilian language of America, considered by Sobrer to be less ‘ apegalós,’ [cloying] had helped him—and also Teodor Banús i Grau, who published a translation of the poem in Argentina16—to avoid the ‘baroque whiff’ of many other versions. While this could be considered just a subjective statement, it nevertheless leads us to take into account the importance of the many different factors, both objective and subjective, that can determine the impact of a translation or of any other text. However, Conangla’s most interesting version of Maragall’s text is arguably his book Els altres sentits, published by the Catalan-Mexican publishing house Xaloc in 1957. While in the translation of ‘Cant Espiritual’ Conangla seems to restrain his vehe-mence and his own poetic character in favor of Maragall’s words, in Els altres sentits, he develops a personal text, a version which is described by André Lefevere (1992) as one of the two ways of interpretation, one of the strategies used by translators in poetry. This perspective is coherent with Julio Ortega’s (2006) understanding of translation as the junction of different codes in an act of cultural reappropriation and transformation. The experiences of migration, exile, settlement and political activism in favor of a nationalist Catalanism from Cuba pushed Conangla to assume multiple and shifting positionings between different cultural systems, and to bring those systems together, both through and in his writing. Even though Els atres sentits is written in Catalan, the same language as the original, Maragall’s poem ‘ Cant Espiritual’, we can see here not only an adaptation of a poem into an essay, but also the continuity of an act of translation that had been left incomplete. Conangla’s initial respectful, and also partial, rewriting is amended almost 50 years later, in what even then, in 1957, could have been considered an improper act: ‘Permanent translation is the gesture that defines the imaginary subject of the Americas’, says Ortega (2006, p. 101), in an understanding of the terms ‘translation’ that goes beyond its linguistic and literary implications.
Conangla, an American subject himself, transgresses the rules and bor-ders of colonial normative culture through both his literary and political practices, as member of foundational institutions of the new independent Republic of Cuba and as leader of the Catalanist nucleus of Havana. He understands and takes part in what Ortega has called the ‘discourse of abundance’, ‘the paradigm that represents the American as fertility, extravagance and inexhaustible wealth’ (2006, p. 187). Conangla’s literary inheritance includes both Santiago Rusiñol’s Catalan Modernism, and José Martí’s and Rubén Darío’s American Modernism. In 1896, Rubén Darío (2018) described José Martí as the main influence in the consolidation of literary Modernism, and, more recently, Fina García Marruz and Cintio Vitier (1969) drew attention to the significance of José Martí’s renovating literary spirit, expressed through his adaptation of language to new topics embedded in Americanist imaginaries. Both Martí’s formal and conceptual experimentation modernized the reference framework for writing in the Castilian language. Conangla’s familiarity with Martí’s work is evident in both his early and more mature writings. 17 The Other Senses draws on Martí’s tradition of ‘both subjective and historical inspiration’ (Rama 2015, pp. 3–10), as much as from Maragall’s poetics.18
In Els altres sentits, as a version of a previous work, both the form and the substance show Conangla’s transcultural tendency to experimentation. The author not only ventures to write an essay as the continuity of a poem, but also develops its most provocative ideas, concerning the possibility of perception after death. He states that the most emotive impres-sion he got from Maragall’s poem came from the question about those other new senses acquired by the soul in its transmigration: Amb quins altres sentits me’l fareu veure
Aquest cel blau damunt de les muntanyes,
i el mar immens, i el sol que per tot brilla?
Deu-me en aquests sentits l’eterna pau
i no voldré més cel que aquest cel blau.
(Maragall 1911, p. 49)
[With what other senses will you make me see
This blue sky above the mountains,
and the vast sea, and the sun shining all over?
Give me eternal peace in these senses and
I shall wish for no other than this blue sky.]
Conangla’s book is a personal reflection on Maragall’s metaphysical questioning and a dialogue with poets and philosophers who have expressed opposing views while facing this question. After a first introduc-tory chapter, Conangla looks at the possible origins of Maragall’s interest in the other senses. Even though the title of the second chapter is ‘Arrels probables del Cant Espiritual’ [Possible origins of the Spiritual Chant], the author mainly explores the origins of his own interest in the matter. During his argumentation, Conangla references authors and works that both could and could not have been read by Maragall. He makes reference to the book La amada inmóvil (1920), published by Mexican poet Amado Nervo almost a decade after Maragall’s death. Attracted by the mystical elements in Nervo’s book, Conangla highlights the parallelisms between Maragall and the Mexican author, by reporting that, in the preface to La amada inmóvil, the poet speaks about people who try to communicate with the dead and describes his own soul as a little princess caught in the impregnable prison of the body, which contains just five little windows, all too high and too narrow, and limited, like the senses of Maragall’s poetic subject (1957, p. 20). The author of Els altres sentits introduces then some notions from the feminist theosophist writer Annie Besant about the pitu-itary and the pineal glands as organs of astral vision. There are also mentions of the novelist and poet Paul Morand, the spiritualist philosopher Ralph Waldo Trine and the astronomer and theosophist Mario Roso. To support the need for an in-depth reflection about the other senses, Conangla brings in theories from well-known thinkers, such as Voltaire, Volney, Victor Hugo or the Nobel-laureate in Medicine and Physiology of 1912, Alexis Carrel, but, as we can see, he also backs up his discourse by citing theories formulated by less canonical figures of the time, including a woman, occultists and theosopher poets.
Conangla — who was a member of the Freemasons order and had beliefs that were considered incompatible with the Christian canon of traditional hegemonic Catholicism19—defends his own pantheism as a free Christian spiritualism, with the potential of improving humanity’s perception of the universe through the new senses that may develop in ‘ persones selectes’ [selected people] (1957, p. 38). This idea of a superior kind of spiritually evolved human is one of the pillars of Freemasonry and a notion that Maragall, a freemason himself, 20 had probably found not only in his lodge but also in Friedrich Nietzsche, identified by Jordi Castellanos (2012) as one of the principal influences on Maragall’s poetry. Conangla’s human-centered alternative Christianity—with roots in Romanticism and Catalan Modernism and seasoned by many years of living in Cuba, where despite the hegemony of Catholicism, other faiths had achieved a certain degree of freedom and recognition—finds a mirror in ‘Cant Espiritual’ and its author, a man who, for Conangla, has much in common with other ‘famous western pantheists’ such as Spinoza, Kant and Hegel. He finds in Maragall ‘ni racionalismes ni abstraccions metafísiques, sinó l’emoció directa, sensorial, i més aviat epicúria’ [neither rationalisms nor metaphysical abstractions, but direct feeling that is sensorial, rather epicurean] (1957, p. 44). But Catholicism has never been epicurean, at least not in its most traditional interpretations. Foreseeing the end of his life, Conangla, like Maragall, looks for answers and reevaluates his own faith. Notwithstanding his search for alternative truths, he does not give up the mystery:
Perquè segurament hi ha realitats l’explicació o comprensió de les quals mai no seria possible d’obtenir per l’únic mitjà de les nostres percepcions sensorials, ni tampoc per les més rígides investigacions de la Ciència estricta; però aquestes realitats són susceptibles, en canvi, d’ésser descobertes o almenys compreses o explicables metafísicament o per l’impuls de la consabuda fac-ultat intuïtiva. (Conangla 1957, p. 132)
[Because probably there are realities whose explanation and understanding would not be possible only through human sensory perception nor via the most rigorous scientific research of strict Science; however these realities are susceptible of being uncovered or, at least, understood or metaphysically explained, through the impetus of the well-known intuitive capacity.]
Conangla’s reading and rewriting of Maragall evolved toward an extravagant, abundant interpretation. Els altres sentits exemplifies his process of transculturation and the incorporation of elements of the Caribbean reality to both his personal identity and his writing. Conangla’s own process of transculturation, expounded in this book through a reading of his texts and political activity, also exemplifies the interplay between collective and personal experience addressed by Edward Said (2002, p. 185). Said’s view that the experience of exile puts its protagonists face to face with the secular and contingent character of the world and the provisionality of homes, includes the idea of the volatility of both identities and certainties.
Els altres sentits—the last book Conangla published before his death in 1965—can be read as a reevaluation of both his faith and his life, and an account of the interplay between his beliefs and practices. It can also be approached as a complement to his unfinished memoirs21 and as an experimental autobiography that reveals the complex process of transculturation experienced by Conangla as a Cuban citizen reimagining Catalonia from the Caribbean.
Although Conangla’s political essays illustrate his intellectual evolution, this is better reflected in Els altres sentits, a (re)writing that exemplifies the processes of transculturation analyzed throughout this book. His need to oppose Spanish imperialism and his life experience in Cuba were contrapuntal—contradictory yet complementary forces—that pushed him to conceive diverse ways of being a Catalan, which he described in both La ciudadanía adoptiva and the Catalan Constitution of Havana. Likewise, Fernando Ortiz, who admitted the impossibility of defining a fixed Cuban national identity, had to participate in the redefinition of Cuban nationalism, to face the imperialism of the United States and stabilize the contradictions of the young Republic. Relying on forms of experimentation with high doses of successful improvisation, both Conangla and Ortiz performed diverse roles, in order to participate within different convergent cultural systems and transform them.
Diario de la Marina (1844–1959) was one of the most widely read newspapers in Cuba for over a century. In spite of its conservative political editorial line, this publication had a successful literary section that became an important space for Cuban intellectual avant-garde from the 1920s onward.
The signatories of this letter were José Conangla, Claudio Mimó, Francisco Molla, Juan Agell, J. López-Franch, Salvador Angelet, Andrés Petit, José Murillo, Pedro Domingo Fort, Raimundo Bardera, Francisco Perdigó, Vicente Cortés, Luis Burgay, Juan Valentí, Gaspar Estada Coll, Jaime Viladesau, J. Soteras, Ramiro Andrés, José Roses Blanch, José Ferreras Riera, José Porta, Miguel Burgay, Max Sautalell, Antonio Albareda, Ramón Estapé, Rafael Gabaldá, Ramón Folch, Tomás Miró and N. Zenón. Notice that this transcription follows the Spanish variant of the Catalan names, as written in the original document (Murillo et al. 1916). 60 Y. JEREZ COLUMBIÉ
Isidre Molas (1974, p. 139) and Josep Grau (2006, p. 247) have analyzed how, in 1915, Domènec Martí i Julià moved the nationalist party Unió Catalanista toward the left.
Enric Prat de la Riba (Castelltersol, 1870–1917) was a Catalanist politician, leader of the Unió Catalanista, and a key figure in the creation of the administrative institution the Mancomunitat de Catalunya (1914–1925).
Notice that the expression ‘la madrastra folla de Catalunya’ [Catalonia’s crazy stepmother] had been already used by Conangla (1916b, p. 12) in a text written in Catalan and published in La Nova Catalunya at the beginning of the year, in which he outlined the ideas developed in his essay La ciudadanía adoptiva.
Stuart Hall (1996, 2003) discussed the diverse social, psychological and historical variables that mediate the construction and formation of identities.
The Constitution has been reproduced in the book La Constitució de L’Havana i altres escrits by Josep Conangla (Roy 1986), compiled by Joaquín Roy, and studied in La Constitució Catalana de L’Havana by Joan M. Ferran (2005). The full text of the Constitution was made available in both Catalan and Spanish.
Afrocubanismo was an artistic and political movement that aimed to integrate black cultures into the Cuban cultural system during the 1920s and 1930s. It was the hegemonic white liberal class’s answer to the impossibility of continuing to create ideological unity without recognizing the diversity of Cuban society and the significant representation of the Afro-descendants.
The sessions of this meeting were documented by La Nova Catalunya (1922, November).
For more details on the statues of the party of Partido Revolucionario Cubano and the context of its main activities, please see the study by Aurea Matilde Fernández (Martí and Fernández 1998).
As elected delegate of the Partido Revolucionario Cubano, José Martí continued his efforts of coordination of the actions and contributions of members and sympathizers across Cuba, Mexico and the United States, mainly in Tampa, Cayo Hueso, and other localities of Florida. In September 1892, he traveled to Santo Domingo and met with Máximo Gómez, one of the leaders of Cuba’s Ten Year’s War (1868–1878). In October of that year, the delegate of Cuban revolutionaries visited Haiti and Jamaica, where he found enough support to create clubs of the PRC in those countries. In April 1895, Martí arrived in Cuba to join the independence war that had started in February and was killed in his first incursion into the battlefield, on 19 May.
The statues of Partit Separatista Revolucionari de Catalunya are available in the book La Constitució Catalana de l’Havana i altres escrits (Conangla 1986b).
Joan Maragall died a few months later, on 20 December 1911.
Thomas Harrington has discussed the impact of the poetic example of Joan Maragall in Josep Conangla’s intellectual career, as well as the main differences between the two figures, evident in Maragall’s prologue to Conangla’s first book of poetry Elegía de la Guerra: ‘The younger man [Conangla] would never shy away from participating in the messy commotion of the public space throughout his long and eventful life. Maragall always sought to maintain the posture of an observer as opposed to an activist when it came to the key social and political conflicts of his time’ (Harrington 2001, p. 106).
Even though the poem published in Bohemia in 1911 has not been accessed during this research, a Castilian translation by Conangla was found in the book El alma de Catalunya. Antología poética catalana (Conangla 1941) and has been used to study his approach to Maragall’s poem. In this text, which could be the same one Conangla published in 1911, there is a clear indication of the translator’s aim to make the poem available to a Cuban audience, while avoiding changes and reinterpretations as much as possible.
Josep Miquel Sobrer (2012, p. 113) references the number 109 of 1939 of the magazine Catalunya, revista d’informació y expansión catalana, from Buenos Aires, as the source of Teodor Banús i Grau’s translation of ‘Cant Espiritual’.
In the essay Martí y Cataluña (Conangla 1954), published three years before Els altres sentits, Josep Conangla questioned the authorship of two chronicles published by José Martí on 15 April and 23 May 1882 in La Opinión Nacional of Caracas, Venezuela, in which the Cuban revolutionary doubted the legitimacy of the claims made by the Catalan industrial bourgeoisie to the Spanish government.
The continuity between Latin American and Catalan literary Modernist tradition has been studied by Kristine Doll (1994) and Cathy L. Jrade (1998).
In the autobiography attached to a letter to Carles Rahola, Josep Conangla (1930, September 5) states that he was secretary of the Lodge Redención 2 of the Federación Masónica Catalano-Balear.
In a recent journalistic article, Pasqual Maragall (In Valeri 2010, n.p.), ex-president of the Catalan Generalitat, describes Joan Maragall’s freema-sonry as an alternative lay Christian faith in times of a very rigid Catholic church.
Joaquín Roy (2017, pp. 1–2) has stated that Conangla finished the first volume of his projected memoir on 27 December 1958 in Havana. In the book, titled Memorias de mi juventud en Cuba: un soldado del ejército español en la Guerra separatista (1895–1898) [ Memoir of My Youth in Cuba: A Soldier in the Spanish Army during the Separatist War], Conangla (1998, 2017) recollects his experiences as a member of the Spanish colonial expeditionary force in the Cuban war of independence (1895–1898).
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Abstract This chapter reveals an unexplored facet of poet Regino Boti (Guantanamo, 1878–1958) as a Catalan-Cuban intellectual and provides insight into the processes of transculturation reflected in both his poetry and his political activity. The study of Regino Boti’s collaboration with the Catalanist journal La Nova Catalunya during the year 1911 enables the reactivation of unexplored journalistic texts that reveal the nature of his relationship with the Catalan community and bring new light to the analysis of the representation of Afro-descendants within the Catalan diaspora. The first section of this chapter focuses on the evolution of Boti’s poetry toward a form of Afrocubanismo closely related to other avant-garde aesthetic movements. The second section discusses Boti’s federal republicanism, which is a response to the centralism of Cuban nationalism from Guantanamo, a peripheral territory the meanings of which have been shaped by colonialism, imperialism and centralism.
Keywords Afrocubanismo • Avant-garde • Poetry • Nationalism • Guantanamo
The positive yet moderate evolution in the representation of the diversity of Cuban society within La Nova Catalunya is exemplified by poet Regino Boti (Guantanamo, 1878–1958), who lived and died in one of the most peripheral Cuban regions, Guantanamo. This important Caribbean poet is the only nonwhite person that I have identified to have ever published in La Nova Catalunya. The study of his collaboration with the Catalanist journal during the year 1911 will enable the reactivation of unexplored journalistic texts that reveal the nature of his relationship with the Catalan community and bring new light to the analysis of the representation of Afro-descendants within the Catalan diaspora. By including Regino Boti in the discussion, this book abandons the economic, political and cultural center of the island to look at the most prominent intellectual who was part of the Catalan community of Guantanamo. In this territory, the United States established the naval base that, from 1903 onwards, made physically evident the weakness of Cuban sovereignty. Nevertheless, by the beginning of the twentieth century the apparent isolation of Guantanamo’s people in relation to Havana, had been shaped by the unequal distribution of power by the Spanish colonial Metropolis throughout the island during the past four centuries.
Hernán Venegas (2003) has called attention to the fact that one of the most serious deficiencies of Latin American and Caribbean historiographies is that they have been built upon the historical processes of capital cities. Similarly, in Cuba, the most recent national history seems to be located mainly in Havana and its hinterland. Far from negating the Occidentalism of the present book, this chapter confirms it and attempts to correct it. By studying Regino Boti’s localist cosmopolitanism, evinced in both his vital experiences and cultural production, this chapter calls attention over the potentialities of figures who moved between differently central and peripheral cultural systems, to understand and explain processes of transculturation. Here transculturation is understood as transformation of identities, an interpretation that emerges from both Ortiz’s (1940) work and the type of evolving transboundary writing exemplified by Boti’s texts.
Boti’s position within the Cuban literary canon should be understood in relation to his evolution from a local Modernist universalism to an avant-garde universal localism, expressed not only in his poetry, but in his isolation in Cuba’s most easterly region. Although Roberto Fernández Retamar (2017) has identified Boti’s first book, Arabescos mentales [ Mental Arabesques], as one of the texts that revitalized Cuban poetry after the intellectual crisis that followed the War of Independence of 1895, Boti remains a peripheral figure in the Cuban literary canon.
Both the burst of images and the unleashed lexis and sounds with which the poet describes the seascape in the sonnet ‘Aguaza’ [Sap] illustrate what Fernández Retamar has called Boti’s ‘ modernismo tardío’. This can be understood not only as a late Modernism, but also as a type of writing that, although rooted in the Americanist tradition of José Martí and Rubén Darío, connects with the new poetic realities and forms of the emerging twentieth-century avant-gardes.
Para José Manuel Poveda1
Hiende el berilo una gaviota
con reverberación de plata,
y sobre el mar vibra la nota
de un foque gris que se desata.
La ventolera ruda azota,
el horizonte se dilata,
un penacho de humo brota
y la baliza es una oblata.
En la imbricada superficie
no hay color viril que oficie
ante el altar de Helios fulgente.
Que su cinábrica rodela
en el marino nácar riela
12 diciembre 1911
(Boti 1913, n.p.)
To José Manuel Poveda
Now a seagull cuts across the beryl,
leaves a silver-plated effervescence,
and, over the surface, mother-of-pearl,
a lost jib unleashes luminescence.
The gale whirls, lashes, batters, pounds, whips;
the horizon moves back, it expands;
beyond the buoy that guides laggard ships
as sacred bread, a plume of smoke rises and stands.
No other colour is over the water
where Helios builds his altar of glaze
Like a projection on the marine nacre,
his teetering cinnabar crest shimmers
12 December 1911]
In contrast with Arabescos mentales, Regino Boti’s second book of poetry, El mar y la montaña: versículos indemnes [ The Sea and the Mountain: Unscathed Verses], shows not only a more modest lexis but also a restrained approach to external elements and a quasi-meditative self-centeredness. If in his first book there is an explosion of images from both nature and the mind, El mar y la montaña is characterized by the presence of continuous implosions toward the soul of the poetic subject:
Yo tallo mi diamante,
yo soy mi diamante.
Mientras otros gritan.
yo enmudezco, yo corto, yo tallo;
hago arte en silencio.
(Boti 1921, n.p.)
[I sculpt my diamond,
I am my diamond.
While others scream.
I am silent, I cut, I sculpt;
I make art in silence.]
The previous lines belong to the poem ‘Luz’ [Light], and mirror Boti’s recogimiento, his retreat in Guantanamo, the hometown that is granted Catalan attributes in a poem from 1916:
¡Aldea, mi aldea,
Mi natal aldea,
Término que clavó entre el mar y la montaña
la flecha siboney!
Amo tu parquedad catalana
y tus calles rectas
porque—selvas antaño—por ellas
discurrió Guayo el siboney.
(Boti 2017, p. 258)
¡Hamlet, my hamlet,
My native hamlet,
Boundary pinned between the sea and the mountain
by the Siboney arrow!
I love your Catalan moderation
And your straight streets
because through them—formerly selva—
flew proud the Siboney.]
Regino Boti came into contact with what he calls ‘Catalan moderation’ at an early age, when his father sent him to study in Barcelona after the beginning of the War of Independence of 1895. According to the Boletín of the Academia Cubana de la Lengua, Boti’s father, Regino Boti Morales, was a Catalan and his mother, Florentina Barreiro, was Cuban (1956, p. 247). The previous poem illustrates the use of references to the indigenous people of the island and to Catalonia for building a discourse about the hometown that still does not include blackness.
In his poem ‘En la barbería’ [In the barbershop], published in the book Kodak-ensueño [Kodak-daydream], the reader can identify one of Boti’s first subtle approaches to the aesthetics of blackness: ‘el mar se riza las crenchas cabe el verdegueante toldo de los manglares, a los que las tijeras del tiempo les ha recortado al ras la pelambrera encrespada’ [The sea curls its locks by the viridescent awning of the mangroves, their kinky hair cut off by the scissors of time] (Boti 1929, n.p.). But it is in ‘Babul’, 3 published in Kindergarten, where we have one of the best examples of Boti’s Afro-Cuban expression:
Súbito brama una fiera: la sirena—cien voces
de un central: fa, fa, fa-sí, fi-ííí.
Y a lo lejos el babul
con el etiópico repique
de los bolillos del catá.
La lechuza chilla: chúa.
Sola vaya! Digo yo.
Un elefante rasca el aire:
el radio que no puede sincronizar.
Y a lo lejos el babul
Escandaliza en el catá:
Símile con símile.
(Boti 1930, n.p.)
[Suddenly, a beast roars: the siren—one hundred voices
of a sugar plant: fa, fa, fa-sí, fi-ííí.
And in the distance the babul
with the Ethiopian beat
of the catà’s drumsticks.
The owl screeches: chúa.
Sola vaya! I say.
An elephant scrapes the air:
the radio that cannot synchronize.
An in the distance the babul
scandalizing on the catá:
Símile con símile.
Regino Boti’s Afrocubanismo is expressed in close association with futurism and ultraism. Inaugurated by poet, visual artist and theorist Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, who published his Manifesto of Futurism in 1909, futurism praised the value of technological imagination, movement and renewal in both the arts and collective life. Ultraism appeared in 1919 and proposed to merge contemporary artistic tendencies: ‘The poets of ultraism rejected narrative and anecdotal matter as well as sentimentality, ornamentality—a reference to the style of Rubén Darío—and rhetorical effusion, preferring to cultivate a humor and playfulness reminiscent of futurism’ (Philips et al. 2012, pp. 1479–1480). In the previous poem, the focus of futurism on technology is present in both the mechanical sound of the sugar plant and the radio that does not reach the waves. The rest-lessness of the poem ‘Babul’ echoes the call in Filippo Tommaso Marinetti’s Manifesto of Futurism: ‘We intend to aggressive action, a feverish insom-nia, the racer’s stride, the mortal leap, the punch and the slap’ (Marinetti 2001, p. 187). On the other hand, the rejection of ornaments and the playfulness of ultraism are expressed through the grandiloquent propar-oxytonic words that are displayed to imitate the sound of Afro-Cuban drums, and also through the Cuban popular expression ‘ Sola vaya’, which Boti recognizes as a poetic metaphor. This linguistic expression is commonly used in Cuba to reject bad luck and undesired outcomes. Some say that its origin can be found in the Cuban rural world, where there is the extended belief that one should use the phrase after hearing the call of an owl, to cast out Death by inviting her to leave unaccompanied.
Miguel Arnedo Gómez (2006, p. 31) has acknowledged the influence on Afrocubanismo of the rise of primitivism in the European avant-garde, and of other black movements, such as the Harlem Renaissance in the United States and Négritude in the Francophone Caribbean and France. Nevertheless, he has also stated that these external influences are not enough to explain the radical shift of Cuban intellectuals from an emphasis on the Hispanic elements of the nation to a revalorization of the island’s African heritage. Indeed, the emergence and evolution of Afrocubanismo during the 1920s and 1930s is closely related to the contradictions of the Cuban context, which forced intellectuals and political figures to define and reformulate Cuban nationalism. Miguel Arnedo Gómez has studied how during this period of economic, social and political turmoil, prominent Cuban intellectual and political figures began to stress the importance of a distinct Cuban national culture for the struggle against United States’ dominance. In this context, ‘Afro-Cuban culture began to appear as the perfect raw material for the production of a distinctive Cuban art, because it was assumed not to have been affected by U.S. culture. As Alejo Carpentier put it in his Afrocubanista novel Écue-yamba-ó, Afro-Cuban deities had nothing to do with such things as “Yankee hot-dogs”’ (Arnedo Gómez 2006, pp. 33–34).
The transculturation experienced by the Catalan-Cuban intellectual community is located within the wider processes of cultural mutation of Cuban society that led to the reformulation of Cuban nationalism by the 1920s and 1930s. As Robin Moore (1997, p. 115) reminds us, ‘nationalist discourse is inevitably contested and thus must constantly change, accom-modating itself to new criticisms and new social realities’ in order to maintain its hegemony. Moore discusses the social conditions that gave rise to the sudden vogue for Afrocubanismo in the 1920s, a phenomenon that was expression of the climax of the ongoing contradictions and inequality within Cuban society. The study of Afrocubanismo enables understanding of how Cuba’s historically established ‘white nationalism’ adapted in order to rationalize and exploit the transcultural qualities common to the territories of the Caribbean, in a time of economic and political crisis. The main actors of Afrocubanismo were white middle-class individuals who mostly represented black Cuban culture from a perspective shaped by estrangement. Among their number were none other than Catalan-Cuban intellectuals Fernando Ortiz and Emilio Roig de Leuchsenring, agents of the new hegemonic middle-class of liberal professionals and intellectuals, in which Catalan immigrants and descendants had featured prominently, as indeed they had done during the nineteenth century in the hegemonic industrial class. As explained by Ana Cairo (1978), the term Minoristas refers to the artistic minority or elite promoting Afrocubanismo and shaping Cuban artistic avant-garde. They came from relatively wealthy backgrounds, were generally white, well educated, and often prominent social and political leaders: ‘Minorista artists kept abreast of progressive intellectual currents in Europe and the United States and created unique works that demonstrate both the influence of Afrocubanismo nationalism and of modern aesthetics in the form of cubism, serialism, atonality, and other styles’ (Moore 1997, p. 191). One of the most prominent Minoristas was Catalan-Cuban artist Jaume Valls (Tarragona, 1883–Havana, 1955), who built his career in close relationship with the development of graphic arts and advertising in Havana, and was described by historian Emilio Roig de Leuchsenring (1927) as the first Cuban visual artist who dedi-cated himself completely to Cuban artistic creation through the representation of Afro-Cuban types and traditions.
Afrocubanismo was, at least in part, the hegemonic white liberal class’ answer to the impossibility of continuing to create ideological unity without recognizing the diversity of Cuban society and the significant representation of the Afro-descendants.4 This situation was exacerbated by the economic crisis of the 1920s and the 1930s, the increase in corruption and repression during the government of Gerardo Machado (1925–1933) and subsequent political instability. Boti writes in this changing context which, according to Jorge Ibarra (1981, p. 219), lacked a sufficiently developed and solid literary market, and was particularly unfavorable for poets. In spite of an upsurge of interest in Afro-Cuban subjects without precedent in Cuban history, this incipient literary market was particularly hostile for both nonwhite and peripheral intellectuals, two categories that shaped Boti’s context and, consequently, his poetics.
Jorge Ibarra (1981) has stated that during the first years of the twentieth century, some Cuban writers turned to the political arena as a means of survival. Nevertheless, in the case of Boti, who worked most of his life as a teacher and a notary, politics does not seem to have been a source of income. The poet from Guantanamo had been involved in politics since 1907, when he participated in the foundation of the Partido Conservador Nacional, which he would lead between 1920 and 1922. Boti was also secretary of the Junta Municipal Electoral of Guantanamo and, during 1911, wrote in the pages of La Nova Catalunya, about the activities of the nationalist Blok Cathalonia, founded in March of that year. In spite of the absence of evidence of Boti’s membership of the organization, his collaborations with La Nova Catalunya reveal his involvement with the activities of the Blok and with the desire for the recognition of Catalonia as a nation:
Con caracteres más o menos definidos, la Nación catalana tuvo vida en el pasado; y para bien de los que sentimos el ideal de la Federación por la independencia absoluta, en el futuro volverá a ser la Nación Catalana. (…) Lo que sí no ha tenido inmersiones ni eclipses, al través de las encrucijadas de la Historia, es el pueblo catalán, el bloc cathalonia, entidad perfecta y definida, si no desde un punto de vista rigurosamente étnico al menos en términos sociológicos. Y mientras haya un pueblo existen probabilidades de que cristalice en Nación. (Boti 1911a, p. 7)
[With more or less defined characteristics, the Catalan Nation was alive in the past; and for those of us who feel the ideal of the Federation for the absolute independence, it will be the Catalan Nation again in the future. (…) What, indeed, has not had immersions nor eclipses, through History’s crossroads, is the Catalan people, the bloc cathalonia, a perfect and defined entity, not from a rigorously ethnic point of view but in sociological terms. And as long as there are the people, there are possibilities for the Nation to crystallize.]
It is important to note that by 1911, neither the Catalanist nucleus of the Centre Català of Havana nor the Blok Cathalonia of Guantanamo had yet openly expressed the more radical shared position in favor of independence that they will assume from 1923 onwards; they still believed in the possibility of a federal Spain. The fact that Regino Boti highlights the lack of an ethnic definition of Catalan nationhood reveals that his Catalan nationalism was in tune with the kind of porous national identity that would be described in the Catalan Constitution of Havana (Assemblea Constituent del Speratisme Català 1928), which was introduced and analyzed earlier in this book.
Shortly after its creation, the Blok Cathalonia started collaborating with the intellectuals of the Centre Català of Havana. In March 1911, the members of the new organization from Guantanamo made public in La Nova Catalunya the circumstances of its creation. In its inception, the Block was mainly a youth organization, fueled by a Catalanist sentiment that, according to its members, differed from the ‘ cohibit’ [timid] and ‘ raquitich’ [rachitic] approach of the previous generations of Catalans living in Cuba (Blok Cathalonia 1911, p. 5). This group also aimed to counteract the ‘ indiferencia’ [indifference] of their ‘ compatricis feble’ [weak compatriots] by getting together to talk about Catalan arts and culture.
The indifference of an important segment of the Catalan community, criticized by the members of the Blok Cathalonia, shows the heterogeneity of the Catalan diaspora in Cuba. This also illustrates the importance of the tertulia—the literary or artistic social gathering—as an alternative mechanism for political action. In a study about the social history of print culture in Cuba, Pamela María Smorkaloff (1997, p. 32) describes the tertulia as the oldest literary institution in Latin America, with a constant presence in Cuban literary history, from the nineteenth century to the present. For instance, the tertulia enabled the consolidation of the Minorista group and its journal Revista de Avance, directed by Alejo Carpentier.
The second collaboration of Regino Boti with La Nova Catalunya took place in July 1911, at the time of a conflict between the Spanish community and the local authorities of Guantanamo, caused by the display of the Catalan flag of the Blok—four red bars over a yellow base, with a blue triangle and a white five-pointed star (the estelada, inspired by the Cuban flag)—on the façade of the building that served as the headquarters of the organization.5 Boti criticizes the attitude of a group of members of the Spanish community of Guantanamo who demanded that the Blok take the flag down, and he also praises the local authorities, who invited the complainants to respect the right of association guaranteed by the Cuban Constitution. This opinion piece allows Boti to introduce his own political views not only about the rights of Catalan nationalist associations, but also on Cuban postcolonial nationalist discourses:
Nuestra alma colectiva, vaciada en la vieja alma castellana, todavía es un tanto colonial, y por eso nuestra República es unitaria. Por nada más. La misma Metrópoli dividió nuestro territorio en dos, tres y luego seis regiones, a las que llamó departamentos o provincias. (…) a pesar de lo uniforme de nuestra vida, cada provincia cubana tiene su alma de pueblo, su concepto de la patria chica y por ende del gobierno propio. (…) Desde el momento en que una de las provincias trabajara, en ese sentido, izando bandera regional, dejaría, desde luego, de trabajar en la sombra. Y su separatismo sería un hecho lógico, que veríamos con gusto, y que lejos de hacer jirones nuestra bandera tendería a fijarla con más tesón en lo alto de nuestras cumbres. (Boti 1911b, p. 2)
[Our collective soul, emptied into the old Castilian soul, is still somewhat colonial, and that is why our Republic is unitary. For no other reason. The same Metropolis divided our territory into two, three, and then six regions, which it called departments or provinces. (…) Despite the uniformity of our life, each Cuban province has its own people’s soul, its concept of small homeland and therefore of its own government. (…) From the moment that one of the provinces worked, in that sense, raising the regional flag, it would, of course, stop working in the shadows. And their separatism would be a logical fact, which we would see with pleasure, and that far from making shreds our flag, would tend to fix it with more determination at the top of our peaks.]
Boti’s federal republicanism is a response to the centralism of Cuban nationalism from the periphery of the country. The presence of the United States’ military forces in Guantanamo from 1898 to the present makes clear the geopolitical relevance of a territory that has been considered the corner of the island, but that locates Cuba and the Caribbean at the core of the main international conflicts of the present. The uniqueness of the geographical and political situation of the region within the archipelago has shaped and continues mediating the social life of its inhabitants, their identities and cultural production6: ‘In the Caribbean, the Cold War and neocolonialism worked hand in hand to consolidate United States’ power, affecting not just national politics but everyday encounters’ (Lipman 2009, p. 6). Guantanamo, historically subject to both Havana and Santiago de Cuba, but also to the United States, exemplifies the rich regional diversity of Cuba which, according to Hernán Venegas (2003, p. 155), was already evident in the nineteenth century, and whose neglect was one of the main causes of the failure of the first War of Independence (1868–1878).
In spite of the undeniable symbolic and political power of the naval base in Guantanamo, the identities and social dynamics of its people are not reduced to their relations with the United States, Catalonia, Santiago de Cuba or Havana. The province and its city, towns, valley, mountains, rivers, bays and people have been the object of diverse and often contradictory representations. It has been perceived as the territory of the military base or the last corner of the island, but also as a place of natural beauty with spiritualist undertones. For Regino Boti, it was his hometown, a small village of both Catalan and Taino heritage. Boti’s Catalanism might have been influenced by his Catalan ancestry, to a certain extent, but the texts published in La Nova Catalunya show that his Catalan nationalism went closely together with his federalist Cuban republicanism and his Guantanamero nationalism, motivated not only by an awareness of the intrinsic diversity of Cuba, but mainly by the subaltern position of his hometown, Guantanamo, within the configuration of both the Cuban state and the idea of Cuban nationhood.
The transcultural quality of the Catalans of Cuba could be misinter-preted as exoticism from perspectives that neglect the fluid character of identities. The Catalanists of the Americas have even been described as ‘ pintorescos’ [eccentric] by Victor Castells (1986, p. 94), yet the same author has recognized and studied their important role within Catalan cultural history. What is indeed undeniable is their capacity to use language and performance as tools to struggle against displacement and turn it into a constructive experience of self-transformation and construction of alternative spaces for action. Although the Catalan-Cuban intellectual community emphasized through its writings the representation of a particular type of individual, an idealized white male self-made middle-class intellectual, Regino Boti brought some nuance to that stereotype. His occasional collaborations with La Nova Catalunya show how the construction of the ideal Self by this Catalan-Cuban community was embedded in the wider processes of reformulation of Cuban nationalism taking place during the first half of the twentieth century. The study of Regino Boti’s collaboration with La Nova Catalunya illustrates how Catalan nationalism in Cuba was shaped in close association with the construction and contestation of local national discourses and identities. The youth and instability of the Cuban Republic, its feeble sovereignty, the multicultural exogenous character of its inhabitants, and the evident discrimination of the Afro-descendants, pushed intellectuals and politicians to reevaluate those discourses.
According to Kathrin Theumer (2017, p. 16), José Manuel Poveda (Santiago de Cuba, 1888–Manzanillo, 1926) is a contradictory figure in the Cuban literary canon, who has been criticized for his individualistic approach. For Theumer, Poveda’s apparent individualism and nomadism anticipate the migratory discourse of cubanía [Cubanness] later developed by Fernando Ortiz.
This free version of the poem intends to make accessible the images written by Boti to the reader without knowledge of the Castilian language, while keeping part of the form of the original sonnet. I provide two alternative titles: ‘Open water’ as a cultural translation of ‘ Aguaza’, which could be read as a deformation or transformation of the word ‘ agua’ [water] through the augmentative suffix ‘-aza’ to indicate vastness; and ‘Sap’, as a linguistic translation of the term.
Babul is the name of a music and dance of African origin from the Caribbean.
Aline Helg (1995) has studied the Afro-Cuban struggle for equality in Cuba after the end of slavery in 1886. This included the armed revolt of the antiracist party Partido Independiente de Color in 1912 and the subsequent massacre of its members by the professional troops of the Government, which are evidence of the magnitude of the conflicts within Cuban society.
Joan Creixell (1984) has studied the origin of the estelada.
In Beatón and Guitérrez (2016), artists Alexander Beatón Galeano and Pedro Frank Gutiérrez launched the exhibition Mnemotecnia. Palabras al hombre new in Guantanamo, in the context of the Regino E. Boti literary and visual arts prizes. According to Víctor Hugo Purón (2016, n.p.), the art installations, photographs and videos by Beatón and Gutiérrez explored the impact of the naval base of Guantanamo on the identities, imaginaries and attitudes of the people of the region.
Academia Cubana de la Lengua. (1956). Guantánamo en la obra de Regino E. Boti. Boletín de la Academia Cubana de la Lengua, 5–7, n.p.
Arnedo Gómez, M. (2006). Writing Rumba: The Afrocubanista Movement in Poetry. Charlottesville and London: University of Virginia Press.
Assemblea Constituent del Separatisme Català (1928, December). Constitución Provisional de la República Catalana, La Nova Catalunya, 330, 1–14.
Beatón, A., & Guitérrez, P. F. (2016, June). Mnemotecnia. Palabras al hombre new (Art Exhibition). Guantanamo: Galería Autografía del Centro Provincial de Artes Plásticas.
Blok Cathalonia. (1911, March 10). La tasca del Blok. La Nova Catalunya, 86, 5.
Boti, R. (1911a, March 10). A propòsit del ‘Bloc Cathalonia’. La Nova Catalunya, 86, 7.
Boti, R. (1911b, July 10). La cuestión de la bandera catalana. La Nova Catalunya, 98, 1–2.
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Lipman, J. (2009). Guantánamo: A Working-Class History between Empire and Revolution. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.
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Moore, R. D. (1997). Nationalizing Blackness: Afrocubanismo and the Artistic Revolution in Havana, 1920–1940. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.
Ortiz, F. (1978/1940). Contrapunteo cubano del tabaco y el azúcar. Caracas: Biblioteca Ayacucho.
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Theumer, K. (2017). Nomadic identity and lo cubano in José Manuel Poveda. Latin American Literary Review, 44, 16–23.
Venegas, H. (2003). La formación de las regiones históricas en Cuba (Una propu-esta de periodización). Contrastes, Revista de Historia, 12, 143–158.
Abstract Fernando Ortiz held a central position in different cultural fields, which allowed him to speak on behalf of both Cubans and Catalans with equal authority. This chapter discusses the contradictions and harmonies between Ortiz’s roles as a cultural theorist and as a political activist. Ortiz admitted the impossibility of defining a fixed Cuban national identity. Nevertheless, the need to face the imperialism of the United States and stabilize the contradictions of the young Cuban Republic pushed intellectuals and politicians, included Ortiz, to redefine the Nation. The study invites to unpack both the contradictory intentions and multiple meanings of Ortiz’s concept of transculturation and of his metaphor of the Cuban Trinity. The analyses provided in this chapter show the importance of versatile metaphors and categories to address the complex, nonbinary realities of the formation of identities in twentieth-century Caribbean and in increasingly intercultural contexts today.
Keywords Transculturation • Identities • Nationalism • Interculturality • Afrocubanismo
Fernando Ortiz’s intellectual evolution as well as the contradictions between his theories and political activism show the ties and tensions between transcultural realities and nationalist narratives. An evaluation of Ortiz’s corpus should avoid the danger either of deifying him as a symbol of liberal and socialist nationalist projects or of vilifying him as an agent of racial prejudice, as acknowledged by Fernando Coronil (1995, p. xlix). Echoing works by Aline Helg (1990) and Maria Poumier (1993) about the presence of evolutionist and racist ideologies in Ortiz’s work, and its context of production, Coronil invites us to transcend polarized readings and to bear in mind the complex dynamic between Ortiz’s ideas and dominant ideologies: ‘The challenge is to appreciate at once Ortiz’s striking transformation and its limits, given the origins of his work in racist ideologies and his position as an elite intellectual under changing political regimes’ (1995, p. xlix). A comparative reading of the works published by Fernando Ortiz at the early stage of his career and those conceived from the 1920s shows his evolution toward a more inclusive cultural approach to both ethnicity and national identity. My analysis of Ortiz’s role and works related to the Catalan-Cuban community of Havana adds new elements to reflections on the counterpoints within the cultural production of one of the most influential intellectuals within both Cuban society and the Catalan-Cuban community. This chapter discusses Fernando Ortiz’s theories in relation to his political activism as a member of both the Catalanist community and Cuban institutions, in order to understand the contrapuntal relationship between transcultural identities and nationalism in the Cuban context.
In an article published in February 1929 in La Nova Catalunya, the editorial voice of the journal describes Fernando Ortiz as one of the most illustrious Cubans, because of his books, intellectual and social activities and public responsibilities. The text presents him as lawyer, journalist, publi-cist, diplomat, anthropologist, professor, sociologist, historian, tireless scholar of all cultural topics and ‘valor dels més positius i gloriosos de la intel·lectualitat cubana contemporània’ [One of the most positive and glorious values among contemporary Cuban intellectuals] (La Nova Catalunya 1929, February, p. 13). At that time, Ortiz was president of the Sociedad Económica de Amigos del País, the Academia Nacional de Historia and the Sociedad Hispano-Cubana de Cultura, as well as director of the journals Revista Bimestre Cubana and Archivos de Folklore Cubano. Although the text stresses Ortiz’s Cubanness, it also clarifies the origin of his attachment to Catalonia. Shortly after his birth in Cuba, in 1881, Ortiz had been taken to the Balearic Islands, where he began his studies and published his first essay, Principi i Prostes (1895). These were the first steps of an intellectual experience whose imprint—according to the journal—was perceptible in his accent. 1 Fernando Ortiz held a central position in different cultural fields, which allowed him to speak on behalf of both Cubans and Catalans with equal authority. Even so, in his writings in La Nova Catalunya, he tended to speak as a Cuban citizen:
Es riguroso deber cubano, que yo cumplo gustoso, aunque sea en la insig-nificante esfera en que puedo hacerlo, el de prestar apoyo a todas las fiestas nacionalistas que se celebran en Cuba, a todas, y especialmente a las fiestas catalanas, porque como bien dijera el Dr. Mimó, la identidad idealista de cubanos y catalanes ha sido estrecha durante los largos años de nuestra historia común. Vosotros sabéis por qué. (Ortiz 1918a, p. 22)
[It is a rigorous Cuban duty which I gladly fulfill, even in the insignificant sphere from which I can do it, to support all the nationalist festivities that are celebrated in Cuba, all of them, and especially the Catalan ones, because as Dr. Mimó rightfully said, the idealistic identity of Cubans and Catalans has been very close during the long years of our common history. You know why.]
By using the phrase ‘ vosotros sabéis por qué’ [you know why], Ortiz identifies the Republican causes of both Cuban society and the Catalan community of the Centre Català in the face of a common Metropolis, the Spanish state. In this speech delivered on 11 September 1918, during the celebration of the Catalan Diada at the Centre Català, Ortiz mentions Catalan intellectuals who played important roles in the configuration of the Cuban nation: Marià Cubí i Soler, founder of the journal Revista Bimestre Cubana, publication of the Sociedad Económica de Amigos del País, created in 1892 to promote the economic and cultural development of Cuba; the revolutionary Ramon Pintó, president of the Liceo de La Habana, sentenced to death in 1855 for plotting for the independence of Cuba; Federico Capdevila, defense attorney of the medical students who were sentenced to death by firing squad in 1871, after being accused, without evidence, of having scratched the glass on the tomb of a journalist loyal to Spain; and Catalan politician Francisco Pi i Margall, who positioned himself in favor of the independence of Cuba and against the intervention of the United States during the war of 1895–1898. 2
The applause provoked by these names among the attendees, and documented in the printed version of the speech, reveals the importance of these historical figures within the imaginary of the Catalan community of Cuba. The position of Cubí i Soler, Pintó, Capdevila and Pi i Margall in the political and cultural life of Cuba is backed by the general economic status of the Catalan community during the nineteenth century, in which, as pointed out by historian Eduardo Torres Cuevas (1994), landowners and traders, mainly Catalans, vied for dominance. In a study about the journal La Llumanera de Nueva York, Lluís Costa (2005) describes the nineteenth-century Catalan commercial and industrial bourgeoisie as a social class associated with the Spanish colonial power and moved by economic interests. It is in the light of these historical facts that the qualitative relevance of the exceptional figures referenced by Ortiz should be understood. Even though by the 1910s the Catalan community was heterogeneous and different from that of the previous century, the economic power achieved by members and institutions of the Catalan community during the nineteenth century, determined a more prominent presence of Catalan intellectuals in positions of both symbolic and effective power within Cuban society. Ortiz’s speeches and essays should be analyzed in the light of this reality that shaped his position of enunciation as a member of both a new Cuban Republic, and of institutions of colonial heritage, such as the Sociedad Económica de Amigos del País.
Nico Wouters and Laurence van Ypersele (2018, p. 7) have studied the creation of a framework of national identification for minority identities during World War I, in which Ortiz’s works are also embedded. According to these authors, belligerent states tried to offer projects of territorial expansion and national independence after the war to different minority groups in order to win them over. Nevertheless, studies by Jennifer Jackson Preece (1998) and Christian Raitz von Frentz (1999) point out the need to acknowledge both the agency of minority communities and the importance of the Minorities Protection System of the League of Nations (1919–1939) in the shaping of international laws for the recognition of national minorities and the protection of minority communities in Europe. In October 1918, toward the end of both World War I, and the third decade of a Cuban Republic that he would describe as decadent,3 Fernando Ortiz was positive about the prospects of the Catalan nation:
Si derecho tienen todas las naciones hay que dárselos también a Cataluña. ( Aplausos. ) Yo no sé si tarde o pronto; yo no sé si dentro del marco político hispano o fuera de él; pero sí sé, porque ello es deducción de las más elemen-tales leyes sociológicas, que Cataluña logrará vivir exclusiva política catalana, alcanzará ser dueña de sus destinos catalanes, y reanudará algún día la redac-ción de su propia historia en su idioma peculiar. ( Aplausos. ) (…) dejad que os augure cordialmente que después de esta guerra universal, en que el mundo se está rompiendo en pedazos para ser reconstruido después al calor de la justicia, pueda Cataluña, feliz y soberana, seguir librando batallas de cultura y progreso, embarazado el escudo de las rojas barras de Wifredo el Conde. (Ortiz 1918b, pp. 24–25)
[If all nations have rights, they must also be given to Catalonia. ( Applause.) I do not know if this will happen late or soon; I do not know if it will happen within the Hispanic political framework or outside of it; but I do know, because of its being deduced from the most elementary sociological laws, that Catalonia will manage to live exclusively Catalan politics, that it will become the owner of its Catalan destinies, and that it will one day resume writing its own history in its peculiar language. ( Applause.) (…) Allow me, cordially, to foretell you that after this universal war, in which the world breaks into pieces so that it can be later reconstituted within the heat of justice, Catalonia, happy and sovereign, will continue to fight battles for culture and progress, carrying Wifredo the Count’s red-barred shield.]
Even though Ortiz’s reference to the both historical and mythical figure of Wilfredo o Guifré el Pilós4 locates the origins of Catalan culture in medieval times, his discourse does not reflect the medievalist nostalgia of nineteenth-century Catalan regionalism; on the contrary, it is an invitation to look at the future, in line with the more radical separatist positions that were taking shape within the Centre Català of Havana:
No durmáis sobre los laureles de las conquistas ya obtenidas. No os dejéis adormecer por las plañideras añoranzas de vuestros poetas del pasado histórico. Mirad hacia el presente, meditad lo que en la historia se está escribiendo. Tened virtud para reclamar, viriles, vuestra futura patria. “¡Desperta ferro!”, como decían vuestros antepasados heroicos, los almogávares, en el Mediterráneo oriental. ( Aplausos. ) (Ortiz 1918b, p. 25)
[Do not rest on the laurels of the conquests already obtained. Do not let yourselves be lulled by the mourning longings of your poets for the historical past. Look at the present, meditate on what is being written in history. Have virtue to claim, virile, your future homeland. ‘Wake up, iron!’, As your heroic ancestors, the Almogavars, used to say in the eastern Mediterranean. ( Applause.)]
Ortiz’s panegyric was not only intensely applauded, as reflected in its textual reproduction, but taken to heart by the separatist group of the Centre Català of Havana, led by Josep Conangla, who created the Club Separatista Núm. 1 de L’Havana in 1922. The radicalization of these men reached the foundations of the institution, which, in response to Primo de Rivera’s dictatorship in Spain, issued a separatist Declaration of Principles in 1923. The culminating point of the radicalization of the Club Separatista Núm. 1 was the composition of the Catalan Constitution of Havana, in 1928.
Two decades after the speech analyzed above, Fernando Ortiz is once again invited to talk to the Catalan political community during the act of celebration of 11 September 1941 in the Centre Català of Havana. The context of this new communication, after the Spanish Civil War, and in the middle of World War II, resembles the context of international geopolitical crisis of his previous speech, in 1918, when the end of World War I was near. The similarities were clearly behind his decision to reproduce his 1918 speech in the first part of this new lecture, titled ‘Por las libertades de Cataluña y de Cuba’ [For the freedoms of Catalonia and Cuba] (1998, p. 63). Ortiz acknowledges the global and transnational character of present and future political conflicts and their implications for both Catalonia and Cuba. He also questions the legitimacy of Spanish peace under dictator Francisco Franco’s rule, and warns about the presence of fascist forces, which he calls ‘servidores de Hitler’ [Hitler’s servants], in Cuba (1998, p. 64).
The revolutionary climate of the 1930s persisted during the 1940s in Cuba. The Universidad de La Habana was reopened in 1937, and the Communist Party legalized in 1938. The new progressive Constitution of 1940 and the relatively long-lasting state of calm and stability positively impacted Cuban culture and institutions. The heterogeneous Partido Revolucionario Cubano Auténtico, 5 the party Joven Cuba, led by Antonio Guiteras, the reformist party ABC, and the Communist Party represented the progressive forces that continued to call for the social justice that had not been achieved after the end of Machado’s dictatorship (1925–1933). As head of the army during the 1930s and as president of the Republic (1940–1944; 1952–1959), Fulgencio Batista supported Franco’s dictatorship. Jules R. Benjamin (1990, p. 101) states that Batista had personal and political ties to elements of the pro-Franco forces in Cuba. The Falange Española was constituted in Cuba in June of 1936, right before the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. Consuelo Naranjo Orovio (1988, p. 17) explains how Spanish traders, members of the Cuban oligarchy and the Catholic church gave economic support to the new party. In October of 1936, this and other right-wing organizations joined in the Juntas de Ofensiva Nacional Sindicalista de España en Cuba. Additionally, Jorge Domingo Cuadriello (2009, p. 12) states that the members of this coali-tion led an intense campaign within the Iberian communities that was counteracted by anti-fascist organizations such as the Círculo Español Socialista, Círculo Republicano Español and Izquierda Republicana Española, through the publication of gazettes and newsletters, and the radio shows Hora del Círculo Español Socialista [ Hour of the Spanish Socialist Circle], Radiodifusión del Círculo Republicano Español [ Broadcasting of the Spanish Republican Circle] and Diario Español del Aire [ On-air Spanish Gazette]. On the opposing side, the forces criticized by Ortiz broadcast the radio show Falange Española [ Spanish Phalanx].
In his speech, the Cuban intellectual highlights the danger represented by fascist propaganda: ‘No olvidemos que la cortina de humo es arma de guerra’ [Let’s not forget that the smokescreen is a weapon of war] (Ortiz 1998, pp. 64–65). It is important to recall at this point Cuadriello’s (2009) reference to the position of both the Centre Català and the Societat de Beneficència de Naturals de Catalunya of Havana during the aftermath of the Spanish war. The marked Catalan sentiment that prevailed in these organizations, which contrasted with the centralism of the Francoist regime, contributed to the incorporation of the exiles into the Catalan-Cuban community. This author also highlights the radio show Catalunya Parla, broadcast by three Catalan exiles during 1944: Ramon Costa i Jou, Montserrat Ventós i Roff and Gabriel Gresa i Prats; the latter two were journalists of La Nova Catalunya.6 Cuadriello’s research provides information about the context in which Ortiz’s praise for the position of the Centre Català takes place:
Sabemos que los catalanes están alerta y que aquí ellos trabajan por la libertad de todos. Para los cubanos, el Centre Català ha sido y es un campamento de libertad; y hoy, como hace 25 años, aquí sentimos unidos a la misma fe nacionalista, la misma seguridad de la victoria y la misma obligación de luchar por ganarla, para poder intervenir luego con personalidad propia en las futuras organizaciones confederativas y continentales de las economías y de las democracias. (Ortiz 1998, p. 65)
[We know that Catalans are alert and that here they work for the freedom of all. For Cubans, the Centre Català has been and is a freedom camp-ground; and today, like 25 years ago, here we feel united under the same nationalist faith, the same assurance of victory and the same duty to fight in order to earn it, to be able to take part, afterwards, with our own personalities, in the future confederative and continental organizations of the economies and of the democracies.]
Ortiz’s combination of the third person to talk about the Catalans and of the first-person plural to both position himself within the Catalanist community and locate this community within Cuban society, illustrate the multiple positionings assumed by this Caribbean intellectual. Like Conangla, Ortiz works between different cultural fields, brought together through his writings and public speeches, in which Americanist, anti-fascist and anti-imperialist arguments run in parallel:
Los libres catalanes y los libres cubanos de viejo nos conocemos y somos aliados. Unos y otros lucharemos juntos y con los demás pueblos libertado-res, particularmente, porque para nosotros es mayor el peligro contra quienes de Cataluña y de Cuba y de toda la América Hispana quisieran hacer explotados feudos de conquista. Renovemos en esta solemnidad patriótica de Cataluña, el juramento de alianza contra esos agresores que quieren robarnos las libertades nacionales y someternos a su fantástico imperio, a ese mitológico imperio que, para mayor afrenta, viene simbolizado por una monstruosa ave de rapiña, que siempre fue alegoría heráldica germana, por unas flechas, que son armas de barbarie; y por un yugo de bueyes, que es símbolo de bestial subyugación. (Ortiz 1998, p. 65)
[The free Catalans and the free Cubans know each other from long ago and we are allies. We will fight together, and with the other liberating peoples, particularly, because the danger is greater for us, against those who would like to exploit Catalonia and Cuba and all of Hispanic America as fiefdoms of conquest. Let us renew, in this patriotic solemnity of Catalonia, the oath of alliance against those aggressors who want to steal our national freedoms and submit us to their fantastical empire, to that mythological empire that, to add insult to injury, is symbolized by a monstrous bird of prey, which was always Germanic heraldic allegory; by arrows, which are weapons of barbarism; and by a yoke of oxen, which is a symbol of bestial subjugation]
Despite the absence of the name of dictator Francisco Franco or any mention of the Spanish state throughout the speech, the clear description of the Francoist coat of arms of the Eagle, with which Ortiz closes his communication, connotes a condemnation of the Spanish dictatorship and Nazi imperial aims. The reproduction of the full text of his 1918 words to the Catalan community in the commemoration of the Catalan Diada of 1941 is not only a consequence of the similarity of the frameworks, but proof of the continuity of the main political line of the members of the Centre Català over the years.
A comparative reading of the works published by Fernando Ortiz at the early stage of his career and those conceived from the 1920s shows his evolution toward a more inclusive cultural approach to both ethnicity and national identity. As Rafael Rojas (2008, p. 45) has pointed out, the author of Hampa afrocubana, los negros brujos: apuntes para un estudio de etnología criminal [ Afro-Cuban Underworld, Black Sorcerers: Notes for a Study of Criminal Ethnology] (1906) and Las fases de la evolución religiosa [ The Phases of Religious Evolution] (1919), progressed from a positivist paradigm to an idea of culture in which Cuban national identity appears as an historical construction by successive ethnic immigrations. By 1922, Ortiz defended the theory of the exogenous origin of Cuban aboriginals, in Historia de la arqueología indocubana [ History of Indo-Cuban Archaeology], against the idea of the existence of an autochthonous homo cubensis, based on archeological findings by Luis Montané and descriptions by Juan Antonio Cosculluela, which were questioned by the Society of Americanists of Paris. Rojas argues that the critique of nationalist Cuban archeology in the 1920s and 1930s forms a bridge between the first and the second Ortiz, who proved the theory that the first inhabitants of the Americas had been Asian settlers. Even so, Rojas’ acknowledgment of this evolution does not imply a disregard of the tensions between the anthropological discourse of identity and the cultural practice of difference, present in Ortiz’s mature works. The idea of Cubanness that Ortiz (1940) expresses through both the metaphor of the ajiaco and the concept of transculturation ‘resists the anthropological proposal of the hegemonic national subject, regardless of the fact that the latter is seen as the result of the most intense cultural crossbreeding’ (Rojas 2008, p. 46). Ajiaco is a Cuban traditional stew, seasoned with ají (a Caribbean mild chili pepper), that combines meats and vegetables of diverse origin. Fernando Ortiz used this term as a metaphor for Cuban society in the lecture ‘Los factores humanos de la cubanidad’ [The human factors of Cubanness] and described Cuba as ‘una cazuela abierta’ [an open casserole] that is always on the hob (Ortiz 1949, p. 4). In this text, Ortiz also highlights the difference between two categories that do not exclude each other: whereas cubanidad or Cubanness is the complex and open quality of being a Cuban, cubanía, or Cubanity, is an attitude, a form of consciousness, a choice.
In the same vein, Robin Moore has described the evolution of Fernando Ortiz’s attitudes toward Afro-Cuban cultural practices. Moore brings in the less-known facet of Fernando Ortiz as a witness for the prosecution of Afro-Cuban religious leaders by the Cuban government, 7 and states that his ‘interest in Africanisms stemmed initially from a desire to better understand and remedy the social ills of the nation perpetuated by blacks’ (1997, p. 34), which can also be perceived through his condemn of santería in his first work, Hampa afrocubana, los negros brujos (1906). The latest intellectual phase of Fernando Ortiz, characterized by the defense of AfroCuban studies and the fight against racism, is best known. In 1936, the Catalan-Cuban anthropologist founded the Sociedad de Estudios Afrocubanos, the first institution devoted to the study of Afro-Cuban culture. Some of its members were the musicians Alejandro García Caturla, Amadeo Roldán and Gonzalo Roig, the poets Nicolás Guillén and Regino Pedroso, the actress Eusebia Cosme, and the political activists and members of the Centre Català of Havana, Juan Marinello and Emilio Roig de Leuchsenring. Even though some of the members of the organization were black intellectuals, the studies published in the quarterly journal Estudios Afrocubanos (1937–1940; 1945–1946) were generally conducted from an external perspective and did not openly reflect the marginalization of Afro-descendants.
After spending part of his youth in Havana, Fernando Ortiz had traveled to Spain, where he graduated as a lawyer in the Universitat de Barcelona in 1900 and obtained the degree of Doctor in Law a year later, in Madrid. His first work, Principi i Prostes (1895), written in the Menorcan dialect of the Catalan language, as well as his monograph on Menorcan festivities, Para la agonografía Española: estudio monográfico de las fiestas menorquinas [ For Spanish agonography: A case study of Menorcan festivities] (1908), are evidence of a precocious interest in different elements of popular culture and the acknowledgment of its sociological relevance, as well as an attentiveness to the relationship between the Catalan Countries and Spain. Throughout his career, Ortiz would pay a similar attention to other European, African and Asian cultures that had added flavor to the Cuban ajiaco.8 This concern for the exogenous as an intrinsic element of Cubanness would shape his approach to the idea of a Cuban national subject. The idea of ‘transculturation’, developed in Contrapunteo cubano del tabaco y el azúcar [ Cuban Counterpoint of Tobacco and Sugar] (1940), to describe the always-ongoing process of loss and gain expressed in the constant cultural transformations of the Cuban context, encloses the blurred imprecision of any definition of Cuban national identity.
In the lecture ‘Los factores humanos de la cubanidad’ [The human factors of Cubanness], Ortiz continues developing his idea of transculturation through the metaphor of the ajiaco, the Cuban melting pot. Rafael Rojas has insisted ‘in the light of the errors this text has originated, that Ortiz does not find the complexity of Cubanness in the stock, but in its cooking’, that is, in the process (2008, p. 55). In this lecture, Ortiz also acknowledges the impossibility of defining cubanidad, Cubanness, as something more than a sense of belonging to Cuba:
Porque aun entre nosotros los nativos de Cuba, entre nosotros los indígenas cubanos, así los de antaño como los de hogaño, hay tal variedad de maneras, caracteres, temperamentos y figuras que toda individuación de la cubanidad y de su tipismo es tarea harto insegura. (Ortiz 1949, p. 2)
[Because even among us natives of Cuba, among us indigenous Cubans, from both past and present, there is such a diversity of manners, characters, temperaments and looks that any individuation of Cubanity and its localism is a highly uncertain task.]
Fernando Ortiz’s ideas emerged from both his intellectual and political activities. In a study about his political ideas, Carmen Almodóvar (2005) states that Ortiz began to actively participate in politics in 1915. Two years later, he would be elected to the House of Representatives for the Partido Liberal. Almodóvar highlights Ortiz’s critique of the decadence of the Cuban Republic during the 1920s and his exile in 1930, during the dictatorship of Gerardo Machado.9 In November of that same year, Ortiz made a speech in the City Hall of New York in which he denounced the suppression of public liberties in Cuba as well as the responsibility of the government of the United States for the problems of the island. After the end of Machado’s dictatorship, in 1933, Ortiz returned to Cuba, where he resumed his work. His cultural, social and political activism of those years led to the creation of the Institución Hispanoamericana de Cultura, the Sociedad de Estudios Afrocubanos and the anti-fascist Alianza Cubana por un Mundo Libre, in 1941. Some of his publications of this period are Las cuatro culturas indias de Cuba [The Four Indian Cultures of Cuba] (1943), El engaño de las razas [The Trickery of Races] (1946) and Martí y las razas [Martí and the Races] (1953). This latter is the one that most clearly shows Ortiz’s evolution toward an antiracist perspective.
Nevertheless, the contradictions present in Ortiz’s essays and public speeches alike not only derive from his parallel roles as an intellectual and a politician; the counterpoint between Ortiz’s intellectual and political activities mirrors the complexity of the changing realities he addressed. In his work, the interplay between the idea of unstable processual transcultural identities and the construction of a national identity does not imply either an undermining of cultural and ethnic difference or a reduction of processes of formation of identities to the limited categories ‘creolization’, ‘ mestizaje’ and ‘hybridity’. Unlike ‘transculturation’, these categories do not comprehend the unpredictability and the processual character of the formation and transformation of identities in the Caribbean. As acknowledged by Rafael Rojas, ‘stagings of the combinatory argument, started perhaps by the great Uruguayan theoretician Ángel Rama [(2007)], which identifies transculturation with cross-breeding, hybridity, or the contact zone, must be examined from the subtle hermeneutics of Ortiz’s texts’ (Rojas 2008, p. 46). Fernando Coronil has stated that Contrapunteo cubano del tabaco y el azúcar (1940) was published in a time of ‘international and domestic upheaval which frames the concerns of the text and helps explain its allegorical character’ (1995, p. xi). For Coronil, Ortiz’s book did not fit in with the polarized debate of the Cold War about good and evil forces that characterized the years that followed its publication. Contrapunteo was unconventional in both form and content. ‘Rather than straightforwardly offering an argument, it worked tangentially through poetic allusion, brief theoretical comments, and a detailed historical interpretation’ (Coronil 1995, p. xii).
In this light, Ortiz’s metaphor of the Cuban Trinity, the marriage of tobacco and sugar, and the birth of alcohol, conceived of as the Unholy Ghost, should not be read too solemnly. The humorously presented alcohol—as a ‘ mestizo’, simplified as a hybrid son of this couple—does not represent the genesis of a new harmonious society, but the materialization of its contradictions. Furthermore, the hybrid or ‘ mestizo’ quality of the spirituous beverage is questionable; it is neither the sum nor the mixture of the qualities of tobacco and sugar; it does have inherited attributes from both, but it is something else:
Acaso canten un día los vates del pueblo de Cuba cómo el alcohol heredó del azúcar las virtudes y del tabaco las malicias; cómo de azúcar, que es masa, tiene las energías y del tabaco, que es selecto, la inspiración; cómo el alcohol, hijo de tales padres, es fuego, fuerza, espíritu, embriaguez, pensamiento y acción. Y con el alcohol en las mentes, terminará el contrapunteo. (Ortiz 1978, p. 88)
[Perhaps one day the bards of the Cuban people will sing how Alcohol inherited his virtues from Sugar and his mischievousness from Tobacco; how he got his energy from Sugar, which is mass, and his inspiration from the choicest Tobacco; how Alcohol, the son of such parents, is fire, strength, spirit, drunkenness, thought and action. And with Alcohol in the minds, the counterpoint will end.]
However, for Ortiz, the true history of Cuba was not this ‘ cuento de hadas’ [fairy tale], but a story of complex transculturations: ‘La verdadera historia de Cuba es la historia de sus intrincadísimas transculturaciones’ [The true history of Cuba is the history of its extremely intricate transculturations] (1978, p. 93). Understanding the counterpoints of Ortiz’s essay implies taking on board these contradictions as textual metaphors of the reality they address. In the same vein, an insightful reading of Contrapunteo, entails taking account of the (dis)order of the text that, as pointed out by Antonio Benítez Rojo, expresses the ‘chaotic and materially unrepresentable archive’ from which it emerges (1996, p. 155). My rereading of Ortiz’s ideas is equally aligned with Benítez Rojos’s reading of Contrapunteo in relation to the Caribbean context, and with Fernando Coronil’s (1995) and Rafael Rojas’s (2008) acknowledgment of the unconventionality of the text and the complexity of its hermeneutics. In this light, my recovery and reinterpretation of the concept of transculturation is not an invitation to ignore its contradictions, but to embrace them as characteristics that could enable researchers, educators and writers to use the term to interrogate processes of constructions of identities. The concept of transculturation can be combined with more complex intersectional perspectives on identities today for illustrating the contradictions inherent to increasingly present nationalist and populist politic campaigns.
Rafael Rojas has pointed out that ‘an appropriate way out of the tension between nationalism and transculturation would be the dialectic of a transcultural nationalism’, as outlined by Ortiz through his ‘permeable narrative of the island’s national identity’ (2008, p. 54). However, the deep contradictions between nationalist views and perspectives that acknowledge the fluidity and complexity of identities are evident. It is important to clarify that the realities and texts analyzed in this book prove that Ortiz could only outline this transcultural nationalism, which works at a theoretical level, but that was not reflected either in Cuban institutional culture or in the intangible independent Catalonia imagined by the Catalanists of Havana. These flexible narratives about nation and national identity were imperative between the 1920s and 1940s to secure the hegemony of the ruling class in the young Cuban Republic, where the consen-sus between the classes and ethnic groups that had fought together for independence throughout the nineteenth century was endangered by sys-temic racism and the new framework of construction of a republic in neocolonial circumstances. 10 This permeability made possible the ‘molecular’ incorporation of members and cultural elements of diverse social and ethnic groups to the national narrative, under the supervision and leadership of the ruling group. 11
The analyses provided in this chapter show the importance of versatile metaphors and categories to address the complex, nonbinary realities of both Cuban nationalism and the Catalan nationalism of the Americas, as well as of the formation of identities in the Caribbean. Ortiz’s approach to identities and narratives of the nation turns the apparent obstacle that the idea of transcultural (or rhizomatic)12 identities might represent for the hegemony of a group into an opportunity to introduce the possibility of constant revision and reformulation within a narrative of Cubanness that remains unclosed.
For more information on La Nova Catalunya’s opinion about Ortiz’s Menorcan accent, please see La Nova Catalunya (1929, February, p. 13).
Coincidently, some of these figures would be recovered by Josep Conangla (1925), in a public lecture transcribed in La Nova Catalunya, in which he offers biographical notes on the Catalan ‘paladins’ who worked in favor of Cuban institutions.
See the essay ‘La decadencia cubana’ [The Cuban decadence] by Fernando Ortiz (1973), first published in 1924.
According to Ferran Soldevila (1963, p. 60), the many heroic deeds included in the legend of Guifré el Pilós have contributed to the consolidation of the myth that institutes him as both foundational figure of the Catalan national dynasty and of the Catalan nationality, as victor and restorer, who with the blood of his wounds marked the four red bars on the Catalan emblem.
This party took its names after José Martí’s Partido Revolucionario Cubano.
It is timely to recall that the rise of retrograde forces during the 1930s in Cuba must have determined the disappearance of La Nova Catalunya in 1932, and its silence until 1942, when it was reactivated by a group of refugees of the Spanish Civil War in collaboration with other members of the Centre Català who had arrived in Cuba during the previous decades.
Moore (p. 34) attributes this information to Ortiz personal communication with Aline Helg.
This statement can be corroborated through Ortiz’s complete bibliogra-phy, available in the Diccionario de la Literatura Cubana [Dictionary of Cuban Literature] of the Instituto de Literatura y Lingüística de la Academia de Ciencias de Cuba (1984).
See the essay ‘La decadencia cubana’ by Fernando Ortiz (1973), first published in 1924.
It is timely to recall that the neocolonial situation of Cuba had started during the United States’ armed intervention in 1898 and the subsequent military occupation, and had been consolidated through the Constitution of 1901 and the Permanent Treaty of 1903, known as the Platt Amendment, which limited national sovereignty by ceding Cuban territory to the United States.
Antonio Gramsci (1980, p. 192) discussed the concept of hegemony in close relationship with an idea of democratic society in which economic and social development made possible the molecular passage of members of subaltern groups to the ruling group.
As discussed in Chap. 1 of this book, both the concepts of transculturation and rhizome address the fluidity of identities. Extrapolated by Deleuze and Guattari (1988) from botany, the rhizome describes identities and assemblages that expand themselves constantly and unpredictably: ‘unlike trees or their roots, the rhizome connects any point to any other point, and its traits are not necessarily linked to traits of the same nature’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1988, p. 21).
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Abstract The main outcome of this process of reactivation and analysis of unexplored texts of a Catalan diaspora in Havana is that it uncovers and provides insight into the transcultural and processual character of identities in the Cuban context and their contrapuntal relationship with both Catalan and Cuban nationalist discourses. The persistent presence of the topics of nationalism and diverse forms of mobility in the political agenda today makes it relevant to look at local realities from a post-national, anti-imperialist and anti-neoliberal perspective that, without disregarding the multifaceted character and origin of nationalisms, questions the idea of fixed identities.
Keywords Post-national perspectives • Nationalism • Identities • Transculturation
The political activity and writings of the intellectual community of the Centre Català of Havana, concentrated mainly around the journal La Nova Catalunya (1908–1932; 1942–1959), reveal the ties and tensions between the idea of transcultural identities and narratives of nationhood in Cuba during the first half of the twentieth century. The main outcome of this process of reactivation and analysis of unexplored texts of a Catalan diaspora in Havana is that it uncovers and provides insight into the transcultural and processual character of identities in the Cuban context and their contrapuntal relationship with both Catalan and Cuban nationalist discourses.
The first part of this book reconstructed and discussed the cultural history of Catalanism in Cuba in relation to the documentary sources studied, showing the imperative need to reevaluate the causes and consequences of the Catalan migrations to the island from the early twentieth century. The relationship of continuity revealed by the collaboration between the ‘old’ and ‘new’ generations—with the latter mainly composed of refugees from the Spanish Civil War—in the reprisal of the political Catalanist journal La Nova Catalunya, made it necessary to contextualize the exile of 1939 in relation to previous exiles and migrations. In the same vein, the heterogeneity of Republican positions assumed within the Centre Català points to the need for new paradigms to grasp the complexity of the relationships between Republican exiles. This book shows that, in line with the perspective defended by Mari Paz Balibrea (2007), a new intersectional paradigm for the study of the Spanish Republican exile must consider the differences of socioeconomic status, political affiliation, gender, geographic origin, language and national identity that shaped the diverse experiences of the refugees.
The cultural history of the Catalanists from Havana led by Josep Conangla illustrates the importance of considering previous exiles from Spain also in new transatlantic historiographic endeavors. The intellectuals of the nucleus of Havana do not fit the description of the economic migrant of the early twentieth century. Their political activity highlights the need to reevaluate the way in which their mobility has been understood. The study of their specificity will help understand not only the diversity of the migrants from the Peninsula and the heterogeneity of Catalanism, but also the complex processes of both construction and transculturation of identities taking place in the Caribbean during the first half of the twentieth century. Furthermore, the alternative radical Catalanist options developed by Conangla within an Americanist framework, and subjected to constant reformulation, should be studied as part of the myriad of cultural elements that have enriched the unstable realities of the Caribbean.
Although the pages of La Nova Catalunya emphasized and hyphen-ated Catalan-Cuban identity, an idealized self-made middle-class male Catalan-Cuban, a rereading of the writings and lives of Josep Conangla, Regino Boti and Fernando Ortiz, reveals more complex processes of transculturation. The construction of the ideal Self by the Catalanist community of Havana has been analyzed in relation to the wider processes of reformulation of the idea of Cubanness taking place during the first half of the twentieth century, and in which Catalan-Cubans had an important role. The study of the protagonist role of intellectuals like Ortiz, Conangla and Boti, as members of the Catalan community who were simultaneously embedded in key Cuban institutions and social projects, in particular the artistic and ideological movement of Afrocubanismo, enabled understanding of how Cuban nationalism adapted in order to tame the contradictions inherent to a multicultural society subjected to processes of transculturation during the first half of the twentieth century. The different forms of stereotyping analyzed in this book, show the importance of bearing in mind the unequal disposition of power within societies and communities while analyzing stereotypes and their production. Both the construction of the ideal Self by the Catalanist community and the participation of some of its members in the movement of Afrocubanismo reveal the multiple positionings assumed by the Catalanists of Havana in debates about identity, spanning different territorialities within Europe, the Americas, Catalonia and Cuba. It is also important to emphasize that the cultural production of the figures studied in this book do not reflect the diversity of positions assumed within the heterogenous Catalan community of Cuba, in which apoliticism coexisted with diverse forms of nonnationalist republicanism, and anarchist, communist, socialist, monarchic and imperialist ideologies.
Similarly, Josep Conangla’s intellectual journey—from his first years in Cuba as a soldier of the Spanish government, passing through his return to the island in 1905, and his uninterrupted Catalanist activism until his death in Havana in 1965, at the age of 90—shows a personal process of transculturation that is paradigmatic of the (dis)continuity of both the Catalanist community of Havana and Cuban society. When Fernando Ortiz described Cuba as an ajiaco, and its social reality as the process of mixing diverse elements and obtaining always something new and unpredictable, he was acknowledging the impossibility of addressing the (dis) continuity of identities in the Caribbean through closed categories that focus only on results. Ortiz admitted the impossibility of defining a fixed Cuban national identity. Nevertheless, the need to face the imperialism of the United States and stabilize the contradictions of the young Republic pushed intellectuals and politicians, included Ortiz, to redefine the Nation. Likewise, Conangla’s need to oppose Spanish imperialism and his life experience in Cuba were contrapuntal forces that forced him to conceive more complex ways of being a Catalan, susceptible of being integrated into diverse cultural systems. The study of Regino Boti’s collaboration with La Nova Catalunya illustrates how Catalan nationalism in Cuba was shaped in close association with the construction and contestation of local national discourses and identities. The youth and instability of the Cuban Republic, its feeble sovereignty, the multicultural exogenous character of its inhabitants, and the evident discrimination of the Afro-descendants pushed intellectuals and politicians to reevaluate hegemonic discourses.
The contradictions between the idea of transcultural identities and nationalist discourses are evident in both the political activity of the Catalanists of Havana and the construction of Cuban nationalism. Fernando Ortiz’s attempts to tame these contradictions through the idea of a transcultural nationalism were only partially successful. The assimilation of the claims of the Afro-descendants and the incorporation of AfroCuban elements into national discourse through Afrocubanismo by middle-class white intellectuals are evidence of the limitations of this approach. In the same vein, the emphasis on creating a stereotype of the self-made middle-class Catalan-Cuban through the pages of La Nova Catalunya highlights the limitations of the nationalist discourse of the Catalanists of Havana, whose narratives included simplified identities.
Ideological readings of Ortiz that reduce the process of transculturation to one result, mestizaje, expose the centrality of defined identities within nationalist discourses. Understanding the intelligent hermeneutics of Ortiz’s texts through the example of the Catalanists of Havana implies taking on board these contradictions as textual metaphors of the reality they address. This book recommends reading Ortiz and the documentary traces of the activism of the Catalans of Havana with careful attention to the (dis)order of the texts that, in the words of Antonio Benítez Rojo (1998, p. 175), express the ‘chaotic and materially unrepresentable archive’ from which they emerge. We are not in the presence here of a Catalan-Cuban hybrid community, but of a heterogeneous group of migrants who change and evolve through time. They are neither what they want to be nor what they say they are, but more than what their nationalistic focus allows them to fully understand. My book reactivates through crossed and contrapuntal readings the sophisticated theoretical framework that emerged from their praxis, and that is both reflected and hidden in their texts and performances.
The main obstacles to undertake my research arose from the lack of previous studies sensitive to the multivalence and complexity of a form of Catalanism deeply rooted in the Americas and in dialogue with the reformulation of Americanist nationalisms during the twentieth century. Nevertheless, one of the main contributions of my book derives also from this obstacle, which pushed me to create a theoretical framework, in the light of existing theory in other areas of research, for the crossed and contrapuntal readings of the texts and the sociological context. This book demonstrates the need to both understand and question a national focus that is antithetical to the transcultural realities of the Caribbean, and that, even so, emerges from its originating rootlessness. In structure and approach, it is located within the tradition of studies of the recombination and transformation of exogenous cultural elements in the Caribbean, inaugurated by Fernando Ortiz and assumed here as an attitude whose end is not only to find results, but to understand processes and performances. Future research must continue to follow the vectors that leave Catalonia, Cuba, and other territories of the circum-Atlantic world, in multiple directions, and to address the contrapuntal relationships between spaces, temporalities, nationalisms and identities, from perspectives that, without neglecting the traumatic dimensions of the different forms of migration, focus on the generative potential of being adrift.
By uncovering and examining the processual and transcultural character of identities in the Cuban context of the first half of the twentieth century and their contrapuntal relationship with ideas of nationhood within both the Catalanist community of Havana and Cuban society, my book aims to join wider debates about the relationship between the formation of identities and national discourses in an increasingly intercultural global context. The persistent presence of the topics of nationalism and diverse forms of mobility in the political agenda today makes it relevant to look at local realities from a post-national, anti-imperialist, anti-racist and anti-neoliberal perspective that, without disregarding the multifaceted character and origin of nationalisms, questions the idea of fixed identities and acknowledges the importance of embracing contrapuntal harmonies and building more diverse and inclusive communities.
Blok Cathalonia, 52, 73, 74
Boti, Regino, 10, 14, 65–77, 100–102
Afrocubanismo, 36n18, 50, 60n8,
Boy, Santiago, 27
70–72, 101, 102
Agell, Joan, 20, 27, 37n21, 59n2
Agustí Bartra, 34
Ajiaco, 89–91, 101
Catalan Constitution of Havana, 11,
22, 50, 51, 59, 74
47, 51, 52
Catalanism, 9, 11–13, 16n5, 20–25, 30,
Ametlla, Claudi, 27, 36n20
33, 36n8, 43–59, 76, 100, 103
Arquer, Jordi, 34
Centre Català of Havana, 2, 9, 10,
Arroyo, Josep, 30, 32, 33, 39n30
13–14, 16n6, 21, 22, 24, 29, 35,
36n14, 36n19, 43, 47, 52, 54,
74, 85, 86, 90, 99
Circum-Atlantic, 2, 11–13,
Benavent, Josep, 27
15n1, 47, 103
Benazet, Anton, 27, 37n21
Citizenship, 6, 21, 35n4, 44, 46–50
Bernades, Vicenç, 30, 33, 34, 38n28
Clavé, Pere, 33
Bertran, Lluís, 27, 37n21
Club Separatista Núm. 1, 21
Bertrana, Prudenci, 27, 28, 37n20
Coll, Enric, 26
1 Note: Page numbers followed by ‘n’ refer to notes.
© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature 105
Switzerland AG 2021
Y. Jerez Columbié, Essays on Transculturation and Catalan-Cuban Intellectual History, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-73040-6
Conangla, Josep, 10, 12, 14, 16n7,
Güell, Joan, 26
21–30, 32, 33, 35n4, 35n6,
Guiteras, Carlota, 27, 37n21
35n7, 37n23, 43–59, 86, 88,
94n2, 100, 101
Cornellà, Joanet de, 27
Counterpoint, 2–15, 48, 50, 81–94
Homs, Eladi, 27, 37n21
Creolization, 7, 8, 92
Hybridity, 7, 8, 92
Cuban revolution, 24, 34
Identification, 50, 52
Estapé, Ricard, 26
Estat Català, 22, 36n10,
38n28, 52, 53
Estelada, 22, 26, 36n12, 51, 74
Jocs Florals, 28, 34
Estelrich, Joan, 27, 37n21
Josep Puig Pujades, 38n27
Fàbrega, Lluís, 27, 37n22
Labraña, Josep Maria, 34
Federació d’Entitats Nacionalistes de
Llardent, Ferran, 33
les Amèriques, 52
López-Franch, Josep, 33, 59n2
Federació Internacional de Clubs
Separatistes Catalans, 50
Ferrater, Josep, 34
Ferrer, Miquel, 30, 38–39n28
Macià, Francesc, 22, 23, 28, 29, 34,
Ferrer, Olindo, 27
36n10, 38n25, 38n27, 40n34,
Folch i Torres, Josep Maria, 28, 38n24
49, 50, 52–54
Frente Democrático Español, 24
Maragall, Joan, 28, 37n23, 54–58,
61n14, 61n15, 61n20
Marigó, Joan, 33
Martí, José, 23, 44, 52–54, 56,
Gassol, Ventura, 28
60n10, 60n11, 61n17, 67
Gilabert, Tomàs, 32
Mestizaje, 7, 8, 92, 102
Gresa, Gabriel, 30, 38n28, 87
Mimó, Claudi, 21, 25, 28, 35n5,
Guantanamo, 10, 20, 27, 28,
Muntal i Blanch, Joaquim, 30,
Gubern, Carles, 30, 38n28
Muntal i Gramunt, Joaquim, 26,
Ressorgiment, 12, 13, 35, 37n22
Murillo, Josep, 25, 28, 30, 33,
Rovira, Antoni, 27, 37n20
Salce, Manel, 27
Sánchez, Emili, 33, 34
Serra, Andreu, 32
Ortiz, Fernando, 3–12, 15, 15n2,
Societat de Beneficència de Naturals
15n4, 24, 26, 28, 46, 50, 52, 59,
de Catalunya, 20, 21, 87
66, 72, 77n1, 81–94, 100–103
Soliva, Enric, 32
Spanish Civil War, 24, 30, 32, 37n21,
39n29, 39n32, 86, 95n6, 100
Palau, Pere, 27
Pan-Hispanism, 51, 52
Tarascó, Albert, 26, 36n18
Partido Revolucionario Cubano, 23,
Transculturation, 2–15, 20, 23, 25,
53, 60n10, 60n11, 86
26, 35, 44, 49, 54, 58, 59, 66,
Partit Separatista Revolucionari de
71, 89–94, 100–102
Catalunya, 23, 53, 61n12
Partit Socialista Unificat de Catalunya
(PSUC), 32, 38n28, 39n32
Per Catalunya, 32
Valls, Jaume, 26, 36n18, 37n21, 72
Pineda, Josep, 30, 36n11, 39n29, 52
Ventós, Montserrat, 15n3, 33,
Poblet i Guarro, Josep Maria, 34
Prat i Puig, Francesc, 30, 39n28
Ventura, Joan, 20, 27, 33, 37n21
Prats de Molló, 34, 40n34
Vilafranca, Albertet de, 27
Chapter 1: Introduction: The€Counterpoints of€Transculturation 1.1 Interrogating Transculturation
1.2 A Book of€Counterpoints
Chapter 2: The Catalan-Cuban Intellectuals of€La Nova Catalunya 2.1 The Nucleus of€Catalanism in€the€Americas
2.2 The First Decades of€La Nova Catalunya (1908–1932)
2.3 The Confluence of€Old and€New Catalan-Cubans in€the€Revival of€La Nova Catalunya (1942–1959)
Chapter 3: Josep Conangla’s Americanist Catalanism 3.1 An Americanist Catalanism
3.2 Els altres sentits, A€Caribbean Version
Chapter 4: Regino Boti’s Poetics and€the€Construction of€Identities in€Guantanamo 4.1 Guantanamero Poetics
4.2 Guantanamero Politics
Chapter 5: A Rereading of€Fernando Ortiz’s Counterpoints 5.1 Ortiz, the€Catalan-Cuban Intellectual
5.2 Transculturation and€Nationalism, Ties and€Tensions
Chapter 6: Conclusion: In€Praise of€Contrapuntal Harmonies