Charcoal and Cinnamon: The Politics of Color in Spanish Caribbean Literature.Claudette M. Williams. Charcoal and Cinnamon: The Politics of Color not of the white race; - commonly meaning, esp. in the United States, of negro blood, pure or mixed.
See also: Color in Spanish Caribbean The Spanish Caribbean is the Spanish speaking countries in the Caribbean, namely Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. Literature. Gainesville: UP of Florida, 2000. 186 pp. $49.95.
Charcoal and Cinnamon proposes an auspicious project: "to explore what it means to be black or mulatto MULATTO. A person born of one white and one black parent. 7 Mass. R. 88; 2 Bailey, 558. and female in the Caribbean. It brings together the work of Caribbean writers, both male and female, and looks at the way in which they have used language to represent... women of African ethnic origin." Such scholarly research can be very useful in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, where studies sometime underestimate the African heritage, and even the very Caribbean nature of Cuba, the Dominican Republic Dominican Republic (dəmĭn`ĭkən), republic (2005 est. pop. 8,950,000), 18,700 sq mi (48,442 sq km), West Indies, on the eastern two thirds of the island of Hispaniola. The capital and largest city is Santo Domingo. , and Puerto Rico Puerto Rico (pwār`tō rē`kō), island (2005 est. pop. 3,917,000), 3,508 sq mi (9,086 sq km), West Indies, c.1,000 mi (1,610 km) SE of Miami, Fla. .
This book, however, has serious shortcomings A shortcoming is a character flaw.
Shortcomings may also be:
Abbr. PR or P.R.
A self-governing island commonwealth of the United States in the Caribbean Sea east of Hispaniola. literature as part of a continental body of literature and culture. Although Spanish Caribbean literature copied European trends until the nineteenth century, it nevertheless enriched world literature with such notable contributions as the distinctively American romanticism of Jose Maria Heredia (among others). The Modernismo movement was born in Latin America Latin America, the Spanish-speaking, Portuguese-speaking, and French-speaking countries (except Canada) of North America, South America, Central America, and the West Indies. and afterwards influenced Spanish continental literature. Jose Marti was one of its precursors.
The author also fails to recognize one of the main differences between the Spanish-speaking Caribbean and the English-speaking Caribbean. In the former, as in most territories elsewhere in Latin America, the wars of independence were catalysts for the formation of national identities. Moreover, even though most Caribbean territories had a similar background of plantation economy This article or section may deal primarily with the U.S. and may not present a worldwide view. and thus slavery, absentee British planters had no interest in cultural development, whereas in the Spanish territories academic institutions and a network of literary periodicals accounted for the early formation of a Creole population whose views and interests were, necessarily, different from those of their metropolitan counterparts. In fact, many white Creole landowners had economic interests that promoted an early drive for the abolition of slavery. Notably, Carlos Manuel de Cespedes freed his slaves so that they could fight for Cuban Independence, and from the very beginning ex-slaves fought alongside their former masters in the independence army. In the Ten Years War Ten Years War, 1868–78, struggle for Cuban independence from Spain. Discontent was caused in Cuba by excessive taxation, trade restrictions, and virtual exclusion of native Cubans from governmental posts. , it was a mulatto man of very humble origin who commanded the army in the tactically decisive "Invasion de Oriente a Occidente," General Antonio Maceo. Together with Jose Marti and the Dominican Maximo Gomez, he is considered one of the national heroes of Cuban Independence and one of the international heroes of the Americas.
While it is undeniable that there was--and still is--racism in the Spanish Caribbean, social and historical factors contributed to the formation of a nationality of mixed origins. The prevailing ideology of that society was necessarily different from that of other Caribbean territories that gained their national independence years later. To equate the social and cultural phenomena of both is as misleading as to equate the literature of any of those islands with Haitian literature, born in the first black-governed country of the Western hemisphere.
Another problem with the ambitious agenda of Charcoal and Cinnamon is the lack of explanation or sources for important polemical assertions. Using the paradigms of race, color, class, and gender, the author tries to prove her view with literary examples from the three Spanish-speaking countries in the Caribbean. Most of the examples are poems, all of them in English translations. Since in poetry the connotative meaning even of isolated words is important, depriving the reader of the Spanish originals is another factor that hinders this book. In most cases Williams herself provides translations--at times faulty translations, due to a lack of knowledge of the Spanish context, which results in a biased or erroneous interpretation. Deficient knowledge of Spanish Caribbean culture also leads the author to misinterpretation. For example, Williams refers to the "grotesquely exaggerated images" in a poem about the rumba dance. But rumba is a pantomime about the sexual act; it is deliberately, not grotesquely, exagger ated as the man attempts to vacunar the woman and she "defends" herself from the vacunao; rumba and guaguanco are explicit references to sexual intercourse sexual intercourse
or coitus or copulation
Act in which the male reproductive organ enters the female reproductive tract (see reproductive system). . William tries to use a feminist discourse about sexuality and culture in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, but the subject is so complex, with so many nuances that are culturally specific, that such analysis certainly cannot be done with the self-righteous outlook that pervades Charcoal and Cinnamon, leading to such judgments as "bestial bes·tial
2. Marked by brutality or depravity.
3. Lacking in intelligence or reason; subhuman. images," "wanton lust," or "refuting the negrista's vision of non[-]reproductive eroticism Eroticism
novel of Alexandrian manners by Pierre Louys. [Fr. Lit.: Benét, 783]
Ovid’s treatise on lovemaking. [Rom. Lit. ."
Another problem is the author's inadequate familiarity with the syncretic syn·cre·tism
1. Reconciliation or fusion of differing systems of belief, as in philosophy or religion, especially when success is partial or the result is heterogeneous.
2. religions of African origin in the Spanish Caribbean region. She seems to confuse voodoo with Santeria. The two come from completely different African origins. When analyzing the poem "Carida" the author writes of "Yeyema, the Yoruba goddess of rivers and springs," whereas the goddess of rivers and springs is Oshun. Williams may have wanted to refer to Yemaya, the Yoruba goddess of oceans and seas. One also wishes that the author had found her own original sources for analysis instead of relying very heavily on selections made by previous critics.
Despite its shortcomings. Charcoal and Cinnamon is an interesting approach to such Caribbean issues as the social and psychological insecurity of the mulatto and the ambivalence of the white Caribbean toward racial mixture. On this topic Williams provide valuable examples taken from the literature of the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, revealing the complex attitudes and feelings toward race pervading Caribbean cultures and societies.