Event

Cary Peñate: “Black Ritual as Spectacle: Afro-Cuban Religion in the Popular Imaginary”
a Hemispheric Institute on the Americas 'Book Talk Series' Lecture

Cary Peñate
Risling Room 3201, Hart Hall

Despite the ongoing persecution of black religions in prerevolutionary Cuba, Afro-Cuban sacred practices infiltrated into the island’s popular music. Rumba, cha cha chá, mambo, son, and danzón served as conduits for the integration of ritualistic elements into secular society, leading to a greater tolerance for Afro-Cuban religion and its mass-media dissemination. Musicians belonging to black secret societies (e.g., Abakuá) made constant reference to their beliefs through popular song. Many Cuban films of the 1950s present extensive reproductions of Afro-Cuban ritual, albeit in a sexualized/exoticized form that appealed to voyeuristic tastes. The film “Mulata” (1954) and “Yambaó” (1957) include detailed reenactments of “Santeria” (an Afro-Cuban syncretic religion). Though the filmmakers seemingly reenact the rituals in an authentic fashion, many elements uncommon to the ceremonies are evident.

Cary Peñate is a film musicologist who specializes in depictions of Afro-Cuban dance music in cinema from Latin America and the United States, particularly on intersections between popular culture, politics, and commerce. She is currently an ACLS Emerging Voices postdoctoral fellow at UC Davis. Her research investigates representations of the Cuban mulata (a mixed-race woman of black, white, and indigenous heritage) in international cinematic productions from the mid-twentieth century.

Hart Hall, Davis, CA

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