Cuban-American Literature

Authored by: Ricardo L. Ortíz

The Routledge Companion to Latino/a Literature

Print publication date:  August  2012
Online publication date:  October  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415666060
eBook ISBN: 9780203097199
Adobe ISBN: 9781136221613

10.4324/9780203097199.ch39

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Abstract

While the country of Cuba did not emerge into full political sovereignty until the decades following the 1898 settlement of the Spanish-American War, Cuban society had been acquiring a mature national culture since well before the turn of the nineteenth century, and therefore something like a mature process of Cuban/American literary and cultural exchange had been ongoing for a century before Cuba finally became independent. This process of complex and reciprocal exchange means that what we might term “Cuban-American literature” can do more than merely name the literary production of Cuban-descended writers based in the US as they contribute to the American literary and cultural tradition; indeed, for every José Martí (1853–95) or Cristina García who, while born in Cuba, spend most of their active adult writing years in and at least in part writing about the US, there is a Langston Hughes (1902–67) or an Ernest Hemingway (1899–1961) who finds an equivalently compelling set of reasons both to spend considerable time either visiting or even settling on the island and to devote some of their own creative energies to producing a richly diverse American-Cuban literary tradition. Cuba and the United States have therefore loomed large in each other’s collective literary imaginations since at least the early life of the US republic, and the late twentieth-century emergence of a Cuban-exile or Cuban-immigrant literary project can only serve as one particular moment in a much longer, richer history of both collaborative and conflictive, but decidedly mutual, and simultaneous, imaginative literary elaboration.

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