Upcoming Talk: For ‘Branding Latin America’ Conference, Cambridge University, 8-9 April, 2015

I am in the throes of getting ready to present two papers in April. First up, my current research on early Twentieth-Century postcard representations of Cuba. Here is a small gallery of just eleven of the several hundred photomechanically produced images with which I am working. Below that is the abstract for my paper.

"Typical Cuban Rumba." C. 1940s.

Picture 14 of 14

‘A Cuban Courtship’: Postcards and Colonial Nostalgia in the Early Twentieth Century

Cuba’s independence from Spain in 1899 ignited new movements in the depiction of Cuban culture through postcard production. Although the Cuban government and press appeared to advocate independence, this paper investigates conflicting movements that arose within popular sentiment. To be clear, in spite of rhetoric encouraging national sovereignty, a tide of Colonial nostalgia emerged among many tourism-based and creative industries. In most instances, postcard images were photographed by Cubans but mechanically printed in the United States and sold in Cuban tourist venues to both national and international audiences. These postcards regularly sought to characterise the nation and its people by transforming once-semi-anthropological materials that presented race, costume and social class into leisure-based paraphernalia. Arguably, this creative adaptation of such cultural studies involved rather extreme creative license and embellishment. In particular, postcards from the decades following Cuban independence illustrate extensive colouring of images as well as photomontage practices. This paper examines some of the more pernicious trends in the postcard representation of Cuba as these images offered inexpensive, mass-produced stereotypes of Cuban people to audiences both within Cuba and abroad. In striking contrast to the typologies printed about Cuba, many of these same postcard publishers otherwise printed images illustrating modern industrial development in European and American cities. However, in collusion, photographers and publishers continued to print images celebrating Cuba’s Colonial past and enforced stereotypes that persist even today.

Conference website: Branding Latin America

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