The human factors of cubanidad

Fernando Ortiz, João Felipe Gonçalves, Gregory Duff Morton


Originally delivered as a lecture at the University of Havana in 1939 and first published in 1940, this text is a classic of Latin American anthropology and a key statement on racial and cultural mixture in the Americas. Following the tradition of the Latin American essays of national interpretation, Fernando Ortiz discusses the social and cultural bases of Cuban nationhood. He distinguishes cubanidad—Cuba's unique culture—from cubanía—the consciousness and attachment to that culture—and argues that the latter first emerged among Black and poor Cubans. As for cubanidad, he defines it as both the process and the ever-changing results of the mixture of uprooted cultural elements coming from different world areas, especially Europe and Africa. He interprets Cuban culture as a permanent flow, located in "the complex process of its very formation, disintegrative and integrative." Ortiz describes cubanidad through the metaphor of the ajiaco, a stew that never stops cooking because the multifarious ingredients that compose it are constantly renewed, mixing with each other and dissolving into a broth. The text discusses the cultural contributions of the different groups that moved to Cuba and interprets Cuban history as based on violent processes of migration, exploitation, and conflict.

Full Text:


DOI: https://doi.org/10.14318/hau4.3.031a