Caribbean–Mediterranean counterpoint

Charles Stewart


This afterword comments on the articles collected in this special issue dedicated to the counterpoint between the Mediterranean where Fernando Ortiz grew up, and the Caribbean where he lived most of his life. Under the influence of Lombroso, Ortiz began his career with now highly objectionable views of ritual practices of African origin in Cuba. By the early 1920s he had moved to the opposite position and begun to valorize retentions from Africa. He developed the idea of the ajiaco, a simmering stew, as a model for Cuban national formation through the mingling and absorption of diverse ethnic groups. He described this process as one of transculturation, the precise opposite of the xenophobia and cultural fundamentalism found in many European societies. That Mediterranean and Caribbean societies have affected one another for over five centuries encourages heuristic exploration of their intertwined pasts and presents. Ortiz’s ideas are a guide to this open-ended enterprise.

Full Text:


DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/714236