Cecilia Valdés

I do have to start with Cecilia, I think; this makes sense because of the “ojo conocedor” issue and because that is where I have worked the most.

Notes from Karen on this:

– Sommer focuses on foundational family romances and takes a “post vanguardista”(mestizaje as reconciliation) view of 19th century. The vanguard as “reajuste cultural” (Osorio) makes mestizaje conciliatory, and this is complicated by the inclusion of incest in 19th century novel plots (so we can refer to a national family).

– Me: but this national family isn’t at all harmonious – it’s a zone of struggle to say the least.

– European 19th century novels have incest but not mestizaje. With mestizaje added, 19th century LA novels give a local and regional interpretation of [platonic love] that puts the construction of race and gender en tela de juicio. The conflict between consanguinity and racial stratification unites incest and mestizaje in the context of the bourgeois family and its function as a normalizing institution of the state.

– CV is the only case in these novels in which incest actually has a baby. In this novel we can see conflicting ideas about mestizaje on the part of the author and of the audience. The intersection between the decadence of the plantation and urban modernization forms Cuban identity. Since incest moves to town, hierarchies have to be constantly reformulated to keep white hegemony.

– In the city, all social groups want to be integrated to the system, and are negotiating for it. Meanwhile mestizaje is between white men and women of color, and the results mean one has to make arbitary racial classifications to maintain the hierarchy.

– Fiction and history do not always coincide in their interpretations of reality. The emphasis in CV on incest and mestizaje underline the concern with the conservation of white patriarchy. Multiracial coalitions are needed to gain independence, but most of the mulata/afrocuban population remains marginalized.

– Cuba became biggest sugar island after haitian independence and imporation of slaves increased. Some abolitionists hoped abolition would de-africanize the colony.

– The novel shows why repeated generations of incest create trouble. This incest is an illness that destablizes white hegemony. [That goes against recuperation of novel and heroine as precursors of mestizaje.]

– Secret of Cecilia’s paternity must be kept so that families can be kept separate and whiteness conserved.

– Ojo conocedor is on Valdes 73 and is referenced here on 92.

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