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Imagining Cuba: Emigration, Tourism, and Imperialist Nostalgia in the Work of Spanish Women Writers and Photographers (1992-2015)


The year 1992 marked a turning point for Spain. The Barcelona Olympics, the Seville World Exposition, and the Quincentennial of Columbus’ first voyage to the Americas kickstarted a renaissance for the Iberian country, as it entered into a globalized economy. Though the 1992 celebrations were criticized by many for their problematic glorification of Spain’s colonial history, this particular year also gave birth to a newfound interest in Cuba, one of Spain’s most precious colonies, lost in 1898. Literary texts, films, documentaries, photographs, and art focused on the Caribbean island began circulating in Spain in an unprecedented manner, as artists and the public alike showed a growing enthusiasm towards Cuba, its history, and its culture.

By analyzing novels, theater, a tourist guidebook, a film, and two photographic series, this interdisciplinary and transatlantic dissertation studies the image of Cuba promoted through the work of Spanish women writers (Carme Riera, Magrarita Aritzeta, Mar�a Teresa �lvarez, �ngel Aymar i Ragolta, Isabel Segura) and photographers (Cristina Garc�a Rodero, and Isabel Mu�oz) between 1992 and 2015. I maintain that though conceived with good intentions, the literary and cultural productions discussed herein offer a simplistic, stereotypical, and at times fetishizing image of Cuba. Most works fail at openly criticizing Spain’s dark colonial history and choose, instead, to grant Spanish women a voice, an agency, and a subjectivity, wishing to rescue them from historical oblivion. While significant, this “gendered choice” is nevertheless paradoxical, for it obscures the role that Western women, alongside men, played in the colonization process and in the oppression of others.

The westernized images of Cuba offered by the writers and photographers in this project, as well as the omission of Spain’s colonial actions, support what scholars call imperialist nostalgia—the longing for a past whose brutality has been concealed and forgotten. The works that I study are the offspring of this particular form of nostalgia, which finds its truest expression in the problematic clich�s and images used, during the last thirty years, in Spanish literature and photographs focused on Cuba, as well as in Spain’s new forms of economic colonialism on the island.

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