Rum, tobacco, dance, and music : the Cuban mulata in twentieth-century cinema of the Americas

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2021-05-03

Authors

Penate, Cary

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Abstract

In this dissertation I examine the mulata (a mixed-race woman of black, white, and sometimes indigenous heritage) and other Latina figures who perform Afro-Cuban music in films of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. Particularly, I address films from Cuba, the US, and Mexico that depict Cuban characters or incorporate Cuban musical styles. My research investigates the ways that the mulata is represented through the music, narratives, and imagery in cinematic productions leading to definitions of cubanidad throughout the Americas. I also consider the influence of the comic theater, zarzuela, and opera on film, as they shed light on the emergence of the mulata’s persona. Critical examinations of the staged mulata character type are valuable in that they document ongoing post-colonial struggles with racial inequality and ideological bias. By extension, the varied national contexts and investigations across the media and genre that I pursue underscore the marginal status of women (and in some cases their attempts to challenge the social order) in dramatic representations throughout history. Such representations suggest how national governments and multinational media have exploited the mulata and Afrodescendant music and dance for economic or political gain.

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