The contemporary politics of Cuban rumba
(Institute of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology, University of Warsaw)
Paper short abstract:
The paper discusses the situation of the rumba in contemporary Cuba, examining its ambivalent and shifting position from symbol of Cubanness to marginalized practice, in relationship to the national discourse around race and the touristic modes of visualization and representation.
Paper long abstract:
The rumba, a music and dance complex that emerged in the 19th century in the provinces of Havana and Matanzas, was declared in 2012 Cultural Heritage of the Cuban Nation, which marked an important step towards having the genre included in the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The acknowledgment is of significance as it adds a new layer to the ambivalence that dominates the discourse around the rumba, defined and promoted as a national symbol and, at the same time, still identified with a marginalized segment of the population. Throughout the years, the rumba underwent a formalization process that generated a shift from a spontaneous, improvised form, mostly associated with the black and racially mixed communities, to a form adapted for specific performance requirements, supported and institutionalized by the revolutionary government as proof of the elimination of class and racial inequalities. However, racial prejudice is still widespread on the island and while many of the performers and participants in rumba events admit to the importance of the genre in the construction of the idea of Cubanidad (Cubanness), they make it distinctly clear that the discursive valorization of the rumba as a national symbol is not supported in practice. Through the analysis of performance space, contexts and local identities, the paper looks at the racialization of the rumba in relation to both the national discourse around race and the touristic modes of visualization and representations that rely heavily on images of "authentic" dance and music.
Collaborative intimacies in music and dance: anthropologies in/of sound and movement