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Cuban Studies


El milagro de anaquillé (1927), a ballet project with libretto by Alejo Carpentier and music by Amadeo Roldán, originated at the intersection of avant-garde art, afrocubanismo, and ethnography. Inspired by the aesthetic experimentation of Les Ballets Russes and Les Ballets Suédois in Europe, Carpentier and Roldán adopted ballet as a vehicle for introducing avant-garde trends in Cuba. Their work referenced two revolutionary ballets: Rite of Spring and, more importantly, Parade. Seeking to restage an Abakuá ritual, their project illustrated the artistic output of afrocubanismo as well as the movement’s ethnographic approach to the study of black culture. The libretto, which depicted a conflict between a US filmmaker and a group of Abakuá celebrants, critiqued the colonialist caricatures of the racial other’s dancing body in cinema and ballet. In doing so, it contributed to the concurrent repudiation of colonialist films in Latin American intellectual circles. Amid pivotal changes in cultural anthropology, the libretto also alluded to the ideological entanglement of anthropology and coloniality. It obliquely represented the lopsided interactions—mediated by class, race, and education—between ethnographers and subjects. In formulating such political messages, Milagro made adept use of caricature, irony, metatheatricality, nonrealist representation, and other techniques from the avant-garde tool kit for critical interrogation of reality.



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