Creating Ethnography: Zora Neale Hurston and Lydia Cabrera.
In comparing the collections of folktales by Zora Neale Hurston and Lydia Cabrera published throughout 1935 and 1936, one has to negotiate the professional, cultural, and personal forces that make creative forms possible, maybe even inevitable. Both women worked from multiple planes of identification: it is a challenge to pinpoint their professional roles as "native" and feminist ethnographers within the scholarly ethnographic tradition in which they were both trained and, in Hurston's case, professionally sidelined. In Mules and Men and Cuentos negros, respectively, Hurston and Cabrera display creative ethnographic strategies as part of their response to the scholarly tradition, thereby rising to multilayered professional and personal challenges.
James Clifford has unveiled the mystique of the ethnographer by carefully explaining the artistry and invention involved in ethnographic writing. Beyond the perhaps unconscious but still intentional recreation of a culture by the ethnographer, Clifford points out further that "interpreters constantly construct themselves through the others they study" (10). An ethnography that recreates a culture, while at the same time inscribing the self, requires from the investigator both physical distance and intense proximity. Recreating a culture can be a conscious attempt by the ethnographer to bring again to life in writing that culture which he or she has experienced firsthand. A recreation of a culture differs considerably from a sometimes sterile, analytical description of a people or group. Compare, for example, Hurston's Mules and Men (1936), as a cultural recreation, with Marcel Mauss's The Gift (1925) as an analytical and descriptive study. The dichotomy of distance and proximity may entail physical travel to a specific geographic site and/or an intellectual or emotional "journey" through memory, in order to establish the psychological distance prerequisite for achieving perspective and, oddly enough, what we call insight. Crucial here is the paradoxical and yet fundamental role that physical and emotional distances play in facilitating insight and recognition, while simultaneously promoting a scholar's self-construction.
Combinations of memory "travel" and on-site ethnographic information collection by the Cuban writer, artist, and ethnographer Lydia Cabrera and the US American writer and ethnographer Zora Neale Hurston yielded published collections of Afro-Cuban and African American folktales within six months of one another in 1935 and 1936. (1) These women, although from completely divergent backgrounds, had uncannily similar moments of recognition and insight concerning a minority culture that was not entirely their own, at approximately the same time, but in two separate locations. While plotting out the journeys that paved the way for their creative and innovative work in Afro-Cuban and African American ethnography, this study will address their bifocal vision as insider-outsiders within the minority cultures they represent in folktales and within the "foreign" cultures to which they traveled. Cabrera's and Hurston's roles as "native ethnographers" will also be considered. In creating alternatives to traditional ethnographies, such as Franz Boas's Bella Bella Tales (1932), their collections can be understood as early examples of experimental and feminist ethnography.
Origins and Journeys
Lydia Cabrera, born in Cuba in 1900, was the eighth and youngest child of a prominent white Havana family. For a woman of her time and culture, she received an excellent education both from private tutors and by attending the San Alejandro Art Academy in Havana without her parents' knowledge. Studying on her own, Cabrera was able to pass the rigorous Cuban baccalaureat exams (Simo 7). During her childhood and adolescence, there were numerous family trips to Europe and New York, where Cabrera enjoyed more freedom of movement than patriarchal Havana afforded her. At the age of 14, she published her first pieces in Cuba y America, her father's prestigious political and literary magazine (Simo 6). (2) When she was 20, Cabrera threatened to take her own life with a gun held to her head if her father would not agree to let her study at the Sorbonne. Raimundo Cabrera agreed to his daughter's study abroad with a compromise: the entire family would move to Paris for five years so that Lydia could pursue her studies. Such was the life of a wealthy Cuban family in the 1920s. Raimundo Cabrera died in 1923 on Lydia's twenty-third birthday, before the plan could be carried out.
Cabrera faced this setback with characteristic determination. She organized a successful art exhibit of Cuban decorative and fine arts in the Convent of Santa Clara (Havana) and established a furniture business with two partners in order to save enough money to finance her own education. Finally, four years after her father's death, Cabrera sold her share of the business and sailed for Europe. She was accompanied by her mother, and the Cuban painter Amelia Pelaez (1896-1968), for whom she had obtained a government scholarship (Simo 8). (3)
Meanwhile, Zora Neale Hurston embarked upon a rugged and convoluted journey that ultimately led to the publication of African American tales in Mules and Men in the fall of 1935. (4) Hurston, who fictionalized her date of birth, was actually born not in 1901 or 1903 as she often claimed, but in January 1891 in Notasulga, Alabama. (5) Sometime between 1893 and 1895 her family moved to Eatonville, Florida. Hurston's father "was a carpenter by trade but a minister by calling," and the linguistic craftsmanship he exhibited in his sermons undoubtedly served in some respects as a model for the power of language and voice that Hurston later displayed in her own literary and ethnographic works. (6)
The death of her mother in 1904 was a pivotal occurrence in Hurston's life. Lucy Potts Hurston's passing marks the beginning of Hurston's wanderings that she herself claims were both geographic and spiritual. (7) Hurston was 13 years old at the time of her mother's death. During the period following, she charted a year of high school in Jacksonville, Florida, sojourned with relatives, had a series of domestic jobs and an 18-month position as an actress's maid. (8) Everywhere she went she was plagued by the desire to return to the classroom; she was doing numerous uninteresting things, as she states in Dust Tracks on a Road, and it was tearing her to pieces (91). She fared poorly at many of the jobs she took because, as she put it: "I was interested in the front of the house, not the back. No matter how I resolved, I'd get tangled up with their reading matter and lose my job" (86).
After these lonely travels through the work world, Hurston made her way to Baltimore, where she attended Morgan Academy, completing her high school requirements in 1918, at the age of 27. Following high school Hurston attended Howard University and was granted an associate degree in 1920. Hurston's craving for education had propelled her from her native Florida northward, while Cabrera's inquiring mind led her to study in Paris. After receiving an associate degree from Howard, Hurston eventually completed her undergraduate studies at Barnard College, where she earned a BA in anthropology in 1927. For the next five years there was a flurry of literary activity, during which Hurston published two stories in Opportunity Magazine. (9) Her reference to herself at this particular time as Barnard's "sacred black cow" more than hints at her awareness of her cultural and ethnic difference from what must have seemed like a herd of affluent white undergraduates. (10) What isolated her as unique within the university community was her cultural identity, not her lack of academic preparation. She states: "I had the same feeling at Barnard that I did at Howard, only more so. I felt that I was highly privileged and determined to make the most of it. I did not resolve to be a grind, however, to show the white folks that I had brains. I took it for granted that they knew that" (Dust Tracks 123).
In the self-imposed exile of Barnard College, the anthropologist Franz Boas gave Hurston firm direction when he deliberately led her into the formal study of her very own culture, sending her to Eatonville, Florida, to collect folktales. Boas himself was interested in African survivals in African American culture and well aware of the scarcity of reliable collections of African American folktales by Black ethnographers. (11) In 1927, after graduating from Barnard, Boas arranged a fellowship for Hurston through Carter C. Woodson, founder (1915) and director of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (Hemenway, Zora 122). Under the auspices of the fellowship, Hurston was to travel to Florida and New Orleans to begin her research on African American folk tales and to scout out hoodoo practice. (12) "The girl from Eatonville who had once believed that a neighbor's stroke came from the hoodoo spell of a local conjure man had indeed traveled a long journey in order to return to her origins" (Hemenway, Zora 84, italics added).
In 1927 Cabrera moved to Paris in order to paint and attend classes at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. She also studied the arts of India and Japan at the Ecole du Louvre, graduating in 1930 (Hiriart, Lydia Cabrera 37). It was during her studies of other ethnic and national cultures in France that Cabrera ultimately became interested in AfroCuban culture:
Te repito, fue en Paris, donde empezo a interesarme Africa ... a traves de mis estudios sobre el Oriente. ... Pongamos por caso las leyendas, todas las religiones en el fondo se parecen. De nina habia oido muchos cuentos de los negros de casa, el de 'el espiritu del arbol,' por ejemplo. Todo esto lo redescubri en el folklore japonds [??]cuantas leyendas parecidas! algunos casi iguales a los cuentos que escuche en mi infancia. Comenzo entonces mi interes por lo negrocubano. (73, 72) (13) [I'll tell you again, it was in Paris where my interest in Africa began ... through my studies of the Orient.... Let's take legends, for example; all religions resemble one another at heart. Since I was a little girl I had heard many stories from the house negroes, the one about the "tree spirit" for example. I rediscovered all of these stories in Japanese folklore. How many similar legends! Some almost exactly the same as the stories I had heard in my childhood. It was at that time that my interests for things Afro-Cuban began.]
Cabrera's studies in Paris provided her with both perspectives on and distance from Afro-Cuban culture. Formally investigating folklore gave her new insights into its deeply human value and universal meaning. Through her brother-in-law, the Cuban ethnographer Fernando Ortiz (1881-1969), Cabrera was familiar with traditional ethnographic studies. (14) In a 1929 article published in Archivos del Folklore Cubano, Ortiz called upon his readers to write down folktales they could gather from familiar Blacks in an effort to preserve and document Cuban folklore. He even promised that all submissions would be published in a special edition of Archivos del Folklore Cubano. Drawing heavily upon her own upbringing by "house negroes," Cabrera even described Cuentos negros as "a re-encounter with the world of fantasy of [her] early childhood" (Simo 4). Cabrera developed a scientific perspective on Afro-Cuban folktales, the majority of which she had known since her childhood. She did so by drawing on her personal history, by gathering local stories, by collecting art objects, and by cataloguing Africanisms into Cuban Spanish. While pursuing formal education in Paris, she made short visits to Havana's Black enclave (called Pogolotti) in 1928 and 1930. She translated these insights into a creative retelling of the Afro-Cuban tales, published in the collection that came to be known as Contes negres de Cuba.
Much like Cabrera, Hurston became intrigued by her own culture while studying in a culturally alien setting, armed with the theoretical framework of a scientific discipline:
From the earliest rocking of my cradle, I had known about the capers Brer Rabbit is apt to cut and what the Squinch Owl says from the house top. But it was fitting me like a tight chemise. I couldn't see it for wearing it. It was only when I was off in college, away from my native surroundings, that I could see myself like somebody else and stand off and look at my garment. Then I had to have the spyglass of Anthropology to look through at that. (Hurston, Mules and Men 1, italics added)
Hurston scholars return repeatedly to the metaphor of the spyglass, strategically juxtaposed as it is, as an image of her way of reconciling the subjective and the objective nature of her folkloric collection. I do not agree with Susan Basalla's claim in her 1997 dissertation that scholars take Hurston's metaphor of the spyglass literally as an accurate personal assessment of her position as a researcher (Basalla 61). Hurston cleverly and consciously chooses an instrument that "invokes distancing and distortion even as it implies close inspection" (Basalla 62). It is the utter complexity of the spyglass metaphor that makes Hurston's choice so fitting. Her biographer Robert Hemenway focuses on the inherently unscientific nature of folklore that Hurston herself described as "the art people create before they found out there was such a thing as art; [folklore] comes from a folk's 'first wondering contact with natural law ...'" (Zora 159). According to Hemenway, Hurston faced the difficulty of "translating" eminently natural or unscientific matter into a systematic form. On the one hand, Hurston stated that she needed her Barnard education to help her to see people as they really were. Yet, on the other hand, she explained to Sally McDougal of the New York World Telegram: "But I found that it did not do to be too detached as I stepped aside to study them. I had to go back, dress as they did, talk as they did, live their life, so that I could get into my stories the world I knew as a child" (qtd. in Zora 215).
The apparent subordination of her scholarly self to the narrative persona whom she created in Mules and Men (Hemenway, Zora 172) is an obvious indication of the decision she made to promote the "natural" over the scientific. Hurston's metaphor of the spyglass also announces her recognition of the clandestine nature of her investigations. In Polk County, Florida, she posed as a bootlegger in order to explain her shiny Chevrolet and "was taken in" by the Black community (Hemenway, Zora 60-61). As others have noted, the "telescopic" instrument of anthropology offered her a relatively "objective" method for collecting and examining culturally and personally intimate material. Hurston's unique position as both insider and outsider, bringing both objective tools and subjective sensitivities to her collection of folktales, has been discussed by a succession of scholars. (15) For Graciela Hernandez the spyglass
imbues the narrative with authority and credibility. Claiming anthropological method as a useful tool with which to evaluate her culture also serves to instill Hurston with a certain amount of power. She will not simply be listening to and recording folkloric accounts in a haphazard manner. Instead, she implies that these accounts will be systematically obtained and translated within a theoretical framework. By invoking the theory and methodology of an academic discipline, Hurston legitimizes her final written product. (160)
However, as Hernandez concludes, Hurston does not exploit the authoritative potential that she possesses, but rather portrays the demise of authority in her text by ultimately destabilizing her own interpretive authority (161). An excellent example of Hurston's honesty and respect for tellers and tales is the first story in the collection, one woven into the introduction: "The Tale of the Soul-stealing Jew" (3-4). Basalla offers a precise interpretation of the tale, concluding that, "By using herself as an informant, she assures us, and herself, that she will not misuse or misrepresent the people who speak in her collection" (127-29). Continuing her research between 1928 and 1931, Hurston made forays to Alabama and various locations in Florida, and her travels to New Orleans, Nassau, and the Bahamas enabled her to complete her collections for what would ultimately become Mules and Men. (16)
Cabrera also reflects upon the demands of maneuvering through the Black enclaves of Havana, necessary to gain and maintain the trust of her lifelong informants:
Ganarse la confianza de estos viejos, fuentes vivas inapreciables a punto de agotarse sin que nadie entre nosotros se de prisa en aprovecharlos para el estudio de nuestro folklore, no es siempre tarea facil. Ponen a prueba la paciencia del investigador, le toman un tiempo considerable. Se tarda en comprender sus eufemismos, sus supersticiones de lenguaje, pues hay cosas que no deben decirse jamas por lo claro y es preciso aprender a entenderlos, esto es, aprender a pensar como ellos. Hay que someterse a sus caprichos y resabios, a sus estados de animo, adaptarse a sus horas, deshoras y demoras desesperantes, hacer meritos, emplear las astucia en ciertas ocasiones y esperar sin prisa. (qtd. in Soto 41) [To gain the confidence of these old people, invaluable living sources about to fade away without whom none of us could rush to take advantage of the study of our folklore, was not always an easy task. They challenge the patience of the investigator; they take a considerable amount of time. If one is slow in understanding their euphemisms, their superstitions about language, since there are things that should never be stated clearly, and it is necessary to learn how to understand them, that is to learn how to think as they do. One must submit to their caprices and bad habits, to their moods, adapt to their hours, to their tardiness, and infuriating procrastinating, build up one's credibility, employ cunning at certain times and wait patiently.]
Both writers faced considerable challenges when conducting fieldwork, although those hurdles differed in nature. On the one hand, Basalla quotes a letter Hurston wrote to her mentor Ruth Benedict that describes the difficulty of addressing those informants who are exceptionally critical of her motivation in collecting their folktales (63-65). Cabrera, on the other hand, does not mention this type of resistance in particular, but continually faced a mountain of secrecy surrounding Afro-Cuban religious practice.
In traveling north to the (white) intellectual environment of Barnard College, Hurston consciously stepped out of the native culture of her childhood. Cabrera made a cultural transition in studying in Paris as a Cuban. The cultural influence of Cabrera's upbringing by Black nannies, compounded by the magnitude of influence that Afro-Cuban culture had (and still has) on white Cubans in general, is simply incalculable. Thus, as Cabrera herself explains: "African presence does not only manifest itself in the color of one's skin" (la presencia Africana no se manifiesta exclusivamente en la coloracion de la piel) (qtd. in Hiriart 36).
For her part, Hurston has to "rebecome Black" herself, because her ethnic veneer had rubbed off at college in the North. In the introduction to Mules and Men Hurston refers to this loss when she says that her fellow citizens of Eatonville would have noticed that she "had been up North there and had rubbed the hair off of [her] head against some college wall" (2). (17)
In addition to her professional activities, Cabrera also had decisive personal encounters while abroad. Shortly after her arrival in Paris in 1927, she chanced upon the Venezuelan novelist Teresa de la Parra, whom she had previously met in Havana in 1924: "They became inseparable companions" (Simo 9). De la Parra was known throughout Latin America for her satirical novel Iphigenia, which exposed many facets of the lives and issues of upper-class women in Venezuelan society. (18) From 1927 until 1936 Cabrera and de la Parra traveled extensively throughout Europe. During short visits to Havana in 1928 and 1930, Cabrera spent much of her time in the poor, predominantly Black neighborhood of Pogolotti, forming relationships with the Afro-Cuban community and collecting material. Some of the inhabitants of Pogolotti "were to become her lifelong informants" (Simo 9).
In Paris in 1932, Cabrera received word that her mother had died in Havana. In the same year de la Parra was diagnosed with tuberculosis. The next two years for Cabrera and de la Parra were spent at a sanatorium in Leysin, Switzerland. Alone during a short visit to Paris in the spring of 1934, Cabrera wrote the 22 tales that comprise Cuentos negros de Cuba in the order of their published appearance; they were written, she claimed, "to entertain Teresa" (Simo 9). (19) While this undertaking might seem unusual today, de la Parra herself was known to "possess ... a talent for writing pieces on demand for notable occasions" in her native Venezuela (Lindstrom ix).
Until quite recently, the complete nature of Cabrera's relationship with de la Parra has been consistently and carefully avoided, or ignored, in scholarly inquiries into their lives and works. However, a deeper understanding of their relationship is essential, as it relates intimately to both Cabrera's cultural identity and ultimately the role of memory in her devotion to Afro-Cuban culture. Sylvia Molloy is the first scholar to write openly about their lesbian relationship. Molloy conveys in a quote from de la Parra's novel Iphigenia a type of "reading" of the two women's "friendship": de la Parra discloses: "The only thing I consider well written ... is what isn't written, what I traced without words, so that the benevolent reader would read it in a low voice" (qtd. in Molloy 237).
Molloy discovers in this passage those things that are "traced without words" or "what has been intentionally obliterated by others" (Molloy 237)--including missing letters and passages, and pages of diary entries torn out or rendered forever illegible by Cabrera's family members and/or friends. (20) Molloy argues further that de la Parra's lesbianism allowed her these advantages:
... to see clearly, and critically, into a Latin American modernity whose regimentation of sexualities and sensualities radically exclud[ed] her. In this light, Teresa de la Parra's exile--as that of Lydia Cabrera, of Gabriela Mistral, not to mention their North American counterparts--should be read as a political gesture, signifying much more than a circumstantial decision to live abroad. Geographic displacement offered what Venezuela for Parra, Cuba for Cabrera, and Chile for Mistral could not (cannot even now) give, that is, both a place to be (sexually) different and a place to write. Or, perhaps, to put it more accurately, geographic displacement provided a place to write (however obliquely) one's difference. (248)
Geographic displacement, Molloy contends, is also a natural outgrowth of the recognition of the personal experience of marginalization, which in the case of Cabrera is linked to her sexual difference. As Molloy sees it, Cabrera's personal experience of margins led to her interest in Afro-Cuban culture and folklore, yet another marginalized, voiceless group (251).
Upon closer examination, Cabrera's personal experience of margins as a lesbian was just one of an array of factors that led to her interest in and identification with Afro-Cuban culture. Perhaps first and foremost is her intimate relationship with Blacks from her childhood, given that Cabrera conducted only minimal research on two short visits from Paris to Cuba in 1928 and 1930 to prepare to write Cuentos negros. When Hiriart asks in a 1978 interview about her "old people" [sus viejos], that is, Blacks who helped with her research, Cabrera begins with fairly detailed accounts of four of the family house servants (Tula, Adela, Omi Tomi, and Calazan) (87-89). Cabrera's childhood forms an unquestionable link to Cuentos negros.
By absorbing Afro-Cuban oral culture both throughout her childhood and through adult research, Cabrera was later able to publish a dictionary of lucumi (Yoruba), as Blacks used it on the island. The influence and works of her brother-in-law, Fernando Ortiz, a father of Afro-Cuban studies, also played a significant role in her interest in Afro-Cuba. In comparing Cabrera's work to that of Ortiz, Manuel Ballesteros notes that Cabrera provides a gendered sensibility missing in Ortiz's studies: "he was missing a refined feminine intuition.... Lydia Cabrera has filled to the point of satiation this alleged vacuum in Afro-Cuban studies with such total and complete devotion to the knowledge of the hidden, delicate and nostalgic soul of the Black--it is only she who has discovered it." (21) Ballesteros's comparison should not be merely understood as a depreciative assessment of a woman's approach to scholarly and artistic production. Instead, he emphasizes Cabrera's unique and profound contribution. The unique spirit and form of Cuentos negros is echoed repeatedly by such scholars as R. S. Boggs, who praises the collection as one that "defies classification" (qtd. in Ballesteros 15).
Because of the invisibility of Cabrera's minority status, the perfect silence that surrounded her lesbianism, and the utmost care and "shrewd intelligence" (Hiriart 22) that Cabrera invested in protecting her sexual privacy, it is impossible to say with certainty the extent to which her lesbianism defined her interest in and identification with Afro-Cuban culture as a minority culture. We cannot document those things that are invisible.
Whereas Cabrera's lesbianism aligned her with the Cuban Black person as minority consciousness, Hurston, on the other hand, used her heterosexual allure in her tale-collecting mission. There are two blatant instances in Mules and Men. When she travels to Polk County to the Everglades Cypress Lumber Company camp, she is accepted "in the inner circle" (65) only after joining in the men's "woofing" (i.e., flirting) and singing. Later she goes out dancing with another woman instead of with an individual man "because it would mean that [she would] be considered his property more or less and the other men would keep away from [her], and being let alone is no way to collect folk-lore" (143). Conversely, Cabrera's affluence, rather than her subterfuge lesbianism, would have insulated her from being approached by Black male informants. Helena Benitez, former wife of the Cuban painter Wifredo Lam, and devoted friend to Cabrera, describes Cabrera's informants' deference to the ethnographer: they were "very reverent and obsequious, although Lydia had known them for a long time" [sehr ehrfurchtig und devot, obwohl Lydia sie schon lange kannte]. (22)
Cabrera's personal communication in the form of entertainment to her ailing lover with Cuentos negros became public when she quite casually showed the stories to a French friend, the writer Francis de Miomandre, who in turn gave the stories to Paul Morand, director of Gallimard Press (Hiriart 38). Morand himself was instrumental in introducing Black culture into Parisian literature with Magic Noire in 1928. Black culture was hot in Paris--from Josephine Baker and others. African masks decorated as many homes as did cubist art. But Black culture was also shrouded in the "exotic," which could lead inadvertently to racist attitudes. Morand's own stories highlighted the Congo, Haiti, and the Black US South. It follows, then, that Morand was anxious to publish Cabrera's stories; they were translated by Miomandre into French and first appeared as the collection Contes negres de Cuba in 1936. (23) Cuentos negros did not appear in Spanish until 1940, published by La Veronica, Havana. (24) It wasn't until 2004 that the collection finally appeared in English in an excellent translation by Alberto Hernandez-Chiroldes and Lauren Yoder published by the University of Nebraska Press.
Unlike Cabrera, however, who wrote down 22 Afro-Cuban tales to amuse her partner ailing in a Swiss sanatorium, Hurston's monumental collection contains 70 tales, an appendix of Negro Songs with Music, a section on Formulae of Hoodoo Doctors, an appendix of conjure paraphernalia and root doctors' prescriptions. The breadth of Hurston's collection aptly reflects the miles she traveled and the time she spent in hunting down and remembering the contents of Mules and Men. In fact, the actual process of collecting and writing took five years: 1927-1932 (Hemenway, Zora 159). Finding a publisher for Mules and Men was also no easy task; there were many revisions, and Hurston finally invented a narrative framework to provide her "folk tales with background so that they are in atmosphere and not just stuck out into cold space. I want the reader to see why Negroes tell such glorious tales" (qtd. in Hemenway 163). (25) Only after the successful publication of her first novel, Jonah's Gourd Vine, by Lippencott (1934), did Bertram Lippencott agree to publish Mules and Men. It appeared in October 1935, just five months before the French translation of Cabrera's Cuentos negros in March 1936. (26) Although Cabrera does not fashion a creative frame for her collection as Hurston did, Cabrera's compatriot Alejo Carpentier sees in Cuentos negros "the flowing sinuous fiber of a great legend created by Lydia Cabrera that she superimposed upon the folkloric elements that served as her inspiration" [el hilo sinuoso e ininterrumpido de una gran leyenda creada por Lydia Cabrera, que se sobrepone a los elementos folkloricos que sivieron de inspiracion.] (Hiriart, Vida hecha arte 38). In this sense Cabrera created something new out of the "raw" folklore she remembered and collected.
Both Cabrera and Hurston had to distance themselves physically and geographically from their cultural homes before they could recognize the value of the respective folklore surrounding them, and exploit its potential value for educated and interested readers. As Hazel Carby argues, "The desire of the Harlem intellectuals [of whom Hurston was one] to establish and re-present African American cultural authenticity to a predominantly white audience was a mark of change from, and confrontation with, what were seen by them to be externally imposed cultural representations of black people produced within, and supported by, a racialized social order" (74). Hurston's maneuvering of insider/ outsider positions is bound by discourses of race, gender, and education, with varying degrees of impact and influence. Carby sees in Hurston's formal training as an anthropologist the possibility that the Harlemite could have returned to rural Florida, not in the guise of a bootlegger, but as a listener and reporter: "In her fictional return, Hurston represents the tensions inherent in her position as an intellectual--in particular as a writer--in antagonistic relation to her construction of the folk community. [Thus, Carby] think[s] Hurston is as concerned with the production of a sense of self as she is with the representation of a folk consciousness through its cultural forms" (81). Carby's view corroborates Clifford's statement, cited above, that "interpreters constantly construct themselves through the others they study" (10). But self-construction is only part of anthropological research. In occasionally sharing with the reader the challenges of collecting authentic materials, Hurston, arguably, invited her readers into what Carby terms an "antagonistic relationship," one that included the honest plotting out of the research process, along a road at once smooth and bumpy.
Although perfect silence has surrounded Cabrera's lesbianism in scholarly studies, her sexual orientation informed her creativity, and in part her lifelong identity with Afro-Cuban minority culture. Still, her lesbian identity was a trump card that she never risked playing. Indeed, Cabrera's insider position among the educated Cuban white elite is part masquerade; even where she appears to be an initiate, she is quite frankly an outsider, and where as a white woman, she seems clearly positioned outside of the Black community, she apparently identifies with the marginalized experience and culture of the Cuban Black folk. As Michael Fischer states in "Ethnicity and the Post-Modern Arts of Memory," "the ethnographer, and the cross-cultural scholar in general often begin with a personal emphatic 'dual tracking,' seeking in the other clarification for processes in the self.... For many the search in another tradition ... can serve as a way of exploring one's own past" (199-200).
Recent work on the concept of what Kirin Narayan calls the "native ethnographer" has shown how slippery this terrain can be. Historically, a native anthropologist might be a representative native who had been perfunctorily trained in anthropological modes of data collection so that the society could be revealed "from within" (Narayan 672). Alternately, an especially intelligent native might receive a Western education and degree in anthropology, enabling him or her to "reveal a particular society to the profession with an insider's eye" (Narayan 672). Basalla suggests that Boas had the freedom to send Hurston anywhere he liked when she received the Carter C. Woodson grant after graduating from Barnard College. His choice to send her "home" to Eatonville might reflect "a larger philosophy about using 'native ethnographers' to obtain the best possible translations of a folktale" (149-50). But in fact, many so-called native anthropologists have "multiple planes of identification" (Narayan 676), each plane featuring a given context-specific facet of their identity.
Cabrera is perhaps best, if not only, understood as an ethnographer working from multiple planes of identification. She brings an insider's perspective to the study of Afro-Cuban culture by virtue of her upbringing by Black household servants and her sensitivity to them. At the same time, she devoted long years of scientific investigation, during which she repeatedly returned to Black communities, "literally transforming herself into a Black [person] in order to achieve a more perfect understanding" ("convirtirse" materiahnente en negra para llegar a un conocimiento mas perfecto), as Ballesteros claims in his 1978 "Testimonio" to Cabrera (11). Compounded by her unspoken lesbianism, what can be considered "native" in Cabrera's case is truly a complicated and multilayered matter. Cabrera is "native" by virtue of her years of acculturation, study, and sensitivity.
To a degree, what Hurston and Cabrera undertook with their first collections of folktales was a kind of feminist experimental ethnography. As defined by Kamala Visweswaran, the goals of the experimental ethnographer include creating and nurturing a sincere, caring, positive relationship with the informant subject (29). To ensure successful folklore-collecting expeditions to Florida, Hurston masqueraded as a bootlegger to explain away her shiny car and store-bought dress. She collaborated enthusiastically in the activities and antics of the communities she entered; her impulse was "not to isolate [her]self, but to lose the self in the art and wisdom of the group" (Hemenway, Zora 166). Furthermore, Hurston illustrates Visweswaran's contention that "the potential of a feminist ethnography ... locates the self in the experience of oppression in order to liberate it" (29). Whereas Hurston quite demonstrably enters into her collection of narratives, many of which both portray and corroborate the experience of oppression, Cabrera, in contrast, staged her own invisibility by not giving herself a personally marked voice in her tales.
An additional characteristic of the experimental ethnography employed by Hurston and Cabrera is their respective uses of multivoiced narrative, allowing the others to become "subjects" by speaking for themselves in their own voices and languages. Where there is no "object," normally found in canonical ethnographic studies, a profound questioning of ethnography occurs. (27) Hurston stages a multivalent narrative on several levels. By inscribing herself into Mules and Men as both participant in and observer of the rural Black culture under investigation, she breaks the reign that the authoritative voice of the ethnographer traditionally held over his or her subjects. In fact, there is very little explicit analytical content in Mules and Men (Boxwell 608). Instead, the commentary focuses primarily on Hurston's efforts to establish her legitimacy in Polk County, Florida (Boxwell 611). Boxwell goes so far as to claim that Mules and Men is Hurston's own" 're-interpretation' of ethnography" (608).
Not only does Hurston allow rural Black Floridians to tell their own folktales, but she presents their tales in Black vernacular speech. Hurston's collection even includes the occasional African word, such as in "[w]e better hurry on to work befo' de buckra get in behind us" (74, italics added). According to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (1976), "buckra" is chiefly southeastern US slang denoting a white man; it is often used disparagingly by Blacks. (28) The Dictionary further suggests that the word might derive from the Efik word mba-kara, denoting "master." (Interestingly, in recent editions of The American Heritage there is no entry designated "buckra.') In another setting in Mules and Men Hurston includes a specific reference to "that most raucous, popular and most African of games, 'Chirck, mah Chick, mah Craney crow'" (54 and 138). None of the songs included in the tales themselves, nor those appended under the heading "Negro Songs with Music" (251-72), contains African words. Cabrera, as I demonstrate below, uses far more African textual material than Hurston.
To contextualize the paucity of African linguistic survival in Mules and Men, I examined other writers of the era whose focus was African American folk life and lore. B. A. Botkin's Lay My Burden Down: A Folk History of Slavery, for example, is a selection of the results from the Slave Narrative Collection of the Federal Writers Project. Botkin himself came to the project in 1938, when the work of collecting had been nearly completed. His job was to prepare the collection for deposit in the Library of Congress. As he states in the preface, the "original attempts at dialect-writing, successful and unsuccessful, were abandoned, except for a few characteristic and expressive variations" (vii). Although the ex-slaves speak for themselves in this collection (through FWP amanuenses, of course), this "Folk History of Slavery" doesn't yield a single African word or name.
In addition, I reviewed Folklore from Nova Scotia, the collection that Arthur Huff Fauset gathered for his master's degree at Penn State as a parallel ethnographic collection to Mules and Men. First, Fauset found that "the native Nova Scotia Negro knows little or nothing about the original folk-tales which are common property among Negroes of the south.... [T]hese Negroes once did possess the lore which is common to African peoples and their descendants; but as with so many of the original cultural possessions, pressure of western culture has resulted in its extinction" (viii). Unsurprisingly, only one informant, born in the US, offers Fauset a "Negro" poem called "Juba," giving as her source Negro Folk Rhymes: wise and otherwise, by Thomas W. Tally (Fauset 123). Juba is a group dance practiced on plantations in the US South during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The origin of the word is obscure (Morris 123).
Folk collections contemporary to Mules and Men similarly do not contain African words; thus, they confirm the uniqueness of the hybrid creative/ ethnographic form that Hurston invented for the publication of her collection. The absence of African languages, deities, and belief systems in Mules and Men is a "deficiency" for which Hurston amply compensates by implementing Black American vernacular speech throughout her collection.
Again, Hurston recognizes the authority of the Black folk of Polk County over their own lore and culture. Their voices ring authentically as they author their own renditions of ethnic stories. Hurston's voice only weaves together the stories for her collection. Basalla claims that the narrative frame makes Hurston's book stand out among collections of her day (126). Thus, on multiple levels, especially linguistic, narrative, and source-related, Hurston's African American tales both break and concurrently establish a new direction in the ethnographic tradition.
Notably, Cabrera's collection is distinguished by the overt presence of African culture and language in the tales: half of Cabrera's story titles contain African names, for example. (29) Eighteen of the 22 stories contain popular or religious Afro-Cuban songs. These songs in turn include 20 stanzas in Yoruba and 10 stanzas that mix Yoruba with Spanish. When both languages appear in a song or incantation, the Yoruba and Spanish occur in alternating lines, thus allowing the Spanish to function as an approximation of the idea expressed in Yoruba (Hiriart 61).
In content, Cuentos negros abounds with Afro-Cuban culture. Most of the stories are set in a distant time and place, suggesting a purely poetic reality; some are fables, many with pairings like turtle-deer or tortoise-stag. Others feature competitions between humans and animals. Magic objects--including cooking pots and walking sticks--function as protagonists. Other tales explain the origins of situations and such constellations as the jealous husband and his alluring wife or the gods seeking vengeance; some depict Afro-Cuban deities and their Christian equivalents.
Besides Cuentos negros's wealth of proverbs that blend Afro-Cuban and Spanish traditions, there are also descriptions of the natural environment of the Cuban Black folk, their foods, clothing styles, dances, and everyday living conditions. Fascinating depictions of the power struggles of men with women, some in magical contexts, merit thorough critical analysis. Cabrera's reader finds herself in a highly enchanted realm, aesthetically drawn, compared to the real-life settings of turpentine camps, lumber mills, and toe parties that one enters in Hurston's lyrical world.
Moreover, the wealth of African names used in Cabrera's tales for both humans and gods document a consciously preserved African presence on the island. The first story, for example, "Bregatino Bregatin," introduces an authentic African mythic setting, the kingdom of Cocozumba (Cuentos negros 12-14). (30) In the kingdom of Cocozumba there is perfect ease in communication between humans and animals; the king marries his daughter off to a worm. The main story line detours into a hierarchy of African deities and with parenthetical "translations" of their Roman Catholic equivalents ["Ogun y Ochosi (San Pedro y San Norberto)"] (19). Indeed, references to Catholic saints and their holy days recur throughout the collection.
Cabrera's tales illustrate the linguistic hybridization that Bakhtin theorizes in "Discourse in the Novel" (35859). Hybridization, as it occurs in Cuentos negros, mixes two or more "social languages within the limits of a single utterance, an encounter, within the arena of an utterance, between two different linguistic consciousnesses, separated from one another by an epoch, by social differentiation or by some other factor" (358). Hiriart cites religious proverbs, where first and foremost, out of necessity, the Blacks were repeatedly obligated to introduce (Cuban) Catholicism into their animistic world and perfectly harmonize its polytheism with Catholic saints (45). Individual translations enrich "Los compadres" (67-90), in which equations of African and Christian gods are plotted together, the Christian gods and saints explaining their Yoruba counterparts. Black vernacular Cuban Spanish, as spoken by some of the characters, is juxtaposed against the standard Spanish used by the narrator. Afro-Cuban and Christian cultural values are represented in this story as equally valid--a radical move by Cabrera, who does not analytically evaluate Afro-Cuban culture but "simply" portrays it in her tale. Within the context of the novel, such hybridization functions as an artistic device; when Cabrera uses it, it reflects a social reality as well.
Femi Ojo-Ade praises Cabrera's years of ethnographic study, her intimate relationships with Black informants, and her thorough knowledge of the languages of the people. (31) In sum, Cabrera's stories "reflect the psyche of the Afro-Cuban, an anti-intellectual animist vision, an identification with nature, and a strong belief in the will of the gods" (Ojo-Ade 54-55). Cabrera's hybrid representations of Afro-Cuban language and culture are sensitive, authentic, and unique examples from the era.
In attempting to explain the rich, heavy presence of things African in Cabrera's tales, one must focus on the Catholic Church and its persistent neglect of the Cuban slave community throughout the centuries, a result of the Church's own financial interest in slave labor for the maintenance of its plantations and mills. The missionaries did not establish schools for enslaved children, which would probably have forced the children's sacrifice of their African languages and customs. The equating of African deities with Catholic saints that Cabrera inscribes in some of the stories reflects a post-emancipation amalgam of religious cultures. Furthermore, due to the labor demands of sugar plantations in the early nineteenth century, the island's slave population began to flourish, increasing from 84,556 slaves in 1792 to 370,550 a few decades later (Fernandez and Shofner 295), thereby constantly replenishing Afro-Cuban culture with authentic cultural materials from the homelands. This trend lingered in Cuba until 1886, when slavery was abolished--enduring longer there than in any other country except Brazil, where it was finally abolished by the so-called Golden Law in 1888.
It is much more difficult to explain the paucity of African linguistic and religious survivals in Mules and Men, as slave cultures differed considerably within specific geographic regions of the US. John Blassingame cites African linguistic survivals even into the beginning of the twentieth century in isolated areas of the US, but there is no such evidence in Mules and Men (Blassingame 25-28). The two last slave ships to arrive in the US docked in 1858 and 1859; the last ship, the Clotide, carried 116 slaves (Blassingame 27). (32) Thus the end of the slave trade in the early decades of the nineteenth century virtually ended the African-English patois in the US (Blassingame 30). Nonetheless, the African form most resistant to European influence in the US is and was the folk: thus it is in the folk tales themselves that we find the collective memory of African culture in Mules and Men.
The creative impulse permeates Cabrera's and Hurston's lives and cultural productions, even though these extraordinary women worked within the strict confines of twin patriarchal ethnographic systems. Creative impulse drove them to travel both physically and intellectually in search of authentic experience and knowledge. Journeys to foreign realms spurred retrospective memory travel back to their childhoods, where they retrieved rich stories that were in turn verified in field studies, digested, and finally embellished for pleasurable and informative reading. These travels were inherently threatening, perhaps even dangerous, because there were no adoptable models upon which to base their artistic yet authentic recreations of Afro-Cuban and African American cultures. Their journeys formed re-search in the truest sense of the endeavor.
Bakhtin, Mikhail M. "Discourse in the Novel." The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. Ed. Michael Holquist. Austin: U of Texas P, 1990. 259-422.
Ballesteros, Manuel. "Testimonio." Sanchez, et al 10-11.
Basalla, Susan. "Family Resemblances: Zora Neale Hurston's Anthroplogical Heritage." Ph.D. diss., Princeton University, 1997.
Bell, Diane. "Introduction 1: The Context." Gendered Fields: Women, Men and Ethnography. Eds. Diane Bell, Pat Caplan, and Wazir Karim. New York: Routledge, 1993. 1-18.
Blassingame, John. The Slave Community: Plantation Life in the Antebellum South. New York: Oxford UP, 1979.
Boas, Franz. Bella Bella Tales. New York: American Folklore Society, 1932.
Botkin, B. A. Lay My Burden Down: A Folk History of Slavery. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1945.
Boxwell, D. A. "'Sis Cat' as Ethnographer: Self-Presentation and Self-Inscription in Zora Neale Hurston's Mules and Men." African American Review 26 (1992): 605-17.
Cabrera, Lydia. Afro-Cuban Tales: Cuentos Negros de Cuba. Trans. Alberto Hernandez-Chiroldes and Lauren Yoder. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 2004.
--. Anago: vocabulario lucumi. La Habana: Ediciones C. R. Col. del Chichereku, 1957.
--. Arere Mareken. Cuento negro. Illus. by Alexandra Exter. Mexico: Artes de Mexico, 1999.
--. Cuentos negros. 1936. Madrid: Ramos, 1972.
--. El Monte. 1954. Miami: Coleccion del Chicherektu, 1971.
--. "The Hill of Mambiala." Rhythm and Revolt: Tales of the Antilles. Ed. Marcela Breton. New York: Plume, 1995. 13-22.
--. ed. "The Mire of Almendares" and "Tatabisako." Women's Fiction from Latin America. Trans. Evelyn Picon Garfield. Detroit: Wayne State UP, 1988.19-27.
--. "The Prize of Freedom." Beyond the Border: A New Age in Latin American Women's Fiction. Eds. Nora Erro-Peralta and Caridad Silva-Nunez. Pittsburgh: Cleis, 1991. 35-36.
Cacchione, Richard C. "Lydia Cabrera: The Evolution of Legacy." En torno a Lydia Cabrera. Eds. Isabel Castellanos and Josefina Inclan. Miami: Ediciones Universal, 1987. 325-32.
Carby, Hazel. "The Politics of Fiction, Anthropology, and the Folk: Zora Neale Hurston." New Essays on Their Eyes Were Watching God. Ed. Michael Awkward. New York: Cambridge UP, 1990. 71-93.
Carpentier, Alejo. Ecue-Yamba-O. Obras completas de Alejo Carpentier. Vol. 1. Mexico City: Siglo Veintiuno Editores, 1986.
Clifford, James. "Introductions to Partial Truths." Clifford and Marcus 1-26.
--, and George E. Marcus, eds. Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography. Berkeley: U of California P, 1986.
de la Parra, Teresa. Iphigenia. 1924. Trans. Bertie Acker. Austin: U of Texas P, 1993.
Deck, Alice. "Autoethnography: Zora Neale Hurston, Noni Jabavu, and Cross-Disciplinary Discourse." Black American Literature Forum 24.2 (1990): 237-56.
DeCosta-Willis, Miriam. "Folklore and the Creative Artist: Lydia Cabrera and Zora Neale Hurston." CLA 27.1 (1983): 81-90.
Diaz, Ramon Vazquez. "Amelia Pelaez." Tarsilia, Frida, Amelia. Tarsil do Amaaral, Frida Kahlo, Amelia Pelaez. Barcelona: Fundacion la Caixa, 1997. 64-87.
Domina, Lynn. "'Protection in My Mouf': Self, Voice, and Community in Zora Neale Hurston's Dust Tracks on a Road and Mules and Men." African American Review 32 (1997): 197-209.
Fauset, Arthur Huff. Folklore from Nova Scotia. New York: American Folklore Society, 1931.
Fernandez, Jose B., and Jerrell H. Shofner. "Kidnapping of Freemen from the United States for the Cuban Slave Trade." Sanchez, et al 295-308.
Fischer, Michael. "Ethnicity and the Post-Modern Arts of Memory." Clifford and Marcus 194-233.
Franco, Jean. Introduction to Spanish-American Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1969.
Gonzalez-Perez, Aramando. "Raza y eros en la poesia afrocubano de Nicolas Guillen." Sanchez, et al 149-64.
Hemenway, Robert. "Introduction." Dust Tracks on a Road: An Autobiography. By Zora Neale Hurston. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1984. ix-xxxix.
--. Zora Neale Hurston: A Literary Biography. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1977.
Hernandez, Graciela. "Multiple Subjectivities and Strategic Positioning: Zora Neale Hurston's Experimental Ethnographies." Women Writing Culture. Eds. Ruth Behar and Deborah A. Gordon. Berkeley: U of California P, 1995. 148-65.
Hiriart, Rosario. Cartas a Lydia Cabrera: (Correspondencia inedita de Gabriela Mistral y Teresa de la Parra). Madrid: Ediciones Torremozas, 1988.
--. Lydia Cabrera: Vida hecha arte. New York: Eliseo Torres & Sons, 1978.
Hurston, Zora Neale. Dust Tracks on a Road. 1942. New York: HarperPerennial, 1991.
--. Dust Tracks on a Road: An Autobiography. 1942. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1984.
--. Mules and Men. 1935. New York: HarperPerennial, 1990.
Jacobs, Karen. "From 'Spy-glass' to 'Horizon': Tracking the Anthropological Gaze in Zora Neale Hurston." Novel: A Forum on Fiction 30.3 (1997): 329-60.
Jaggar, Alison M. "Feminist Ethics: Some Issues for the Nineties." Journal of Social Philosophy 20.1-2 (1989): 91-105.
Jones, Willis Knapp, ed. Spanish-American Literature in Translation: Selections of Poetry, Fiction, and Drama since 1888. New York: Frederick Ungar P, 1963.
Lindstrom, Naomi. "Foreword." Iphigenia (The diary of a young lady who wrote because she was bored). By Teresa de la Parra. Austin: U of Texas P, 1993. ix-xiii.
Mauss, Marcel. The Gift: The Form and Reason for Exchange in Archaic Societies. 1925. New York: Norton, 1990.
Mikell, Gwendolyn. "When Horses Talk: Reflections on Zora Neale Hurston's Haitian Anthropology." Phylon 43.3 (1982): 218-30.
Molloy, Sylvia. "Disappearing Acts: Reading Lesbian in Teresa de la Parra." [??]Entiendes? Queer Readings, Hispanic Writings. Eds. Emilie L. Bergmann and Paul Julian Smith. Durham: Duke UP, 1995. 230-56.
Morris, William. American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1976.
Narayan, Kirin. "How Native Is a 'Native' Anthropologist?" American Anthropologist 95 (1993): 671-86.
Ojo-Ade, Femi. "De origin africano, soy cubano: African Elements in the Literature of Cuba." African Literature Today 9 (1978): 47-57.
Ortiz, Fernando. "Cuentos Afrocubanos." Archivos del Folklore Cubano 4.2 (1929): 97-112.
--. Hampa afro-cubana: Los negros esclavos: Estudio sociologico y de derecho publico. La Habana: Revista Bimestre Cubana, 1916.
--. Los instrumentos de la musica afrocubana. 5 Vols. La Habana: Ministerio de Educacion and Editoriales Cardenas y Cia, 1952-1955.
Peterkin, Julia Mood. Green Thursday. 1924. Athens: U of Georgia P, 1998.
--. Roll, Jordan, Roll. 1933. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill P, 1976.
Sanchez, Reinaldo, et al, eds. Homenaje a Lydia Cabrera. Miami: Ediciones Universal, 1978.
Simo, Aria Maria. Lydia Cabrera: An Intimate Portrait. New York: Intar Latin American Gallery, 1988.
Soto, Sara. Magia e historia en los "Cuentos negros," "Por que, " y "Ayapa" de Lydia Cabrera. New York: Intar Latin American Gallery, 1984.
Tally, Thomas W. Negro Folk Rhymes: wise and otherwise. New York: Macmillan, 1922.
Visweswaran, Kamala. "Defining Feminist Ethnography." Inscriptions 3.4 (1988): 7-44.
Wall, Cheryl A. Women of the Harlem Renaissance. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1995.
Williams, Claudette. Charcoal & Cinnamon: The Politics of Color in Spanish Caribbean Literature. Gainesville: U of Florida P, 2000.
(1.) Willis's 1983 study of Hurston and Cabrera has been recently joined by Karen Ruth Kornweibel's insightful "The Fecundity of Folkloric Space: Revising Hierarchies in Zora Neale Hurston's Mules and Men and Lydia Cabrera's Cuentos negros de Cuba." Comparative American Studies 2(4): 403-20.
(2.) Raimundo Cabrera was at the forefront of those fighting for Cuban independence at the end of the last century. "In 1897, in New York, he founded Cuba y America, as an important weapon of the pen for independence...." After independence (20 May 1902), the journal became an illustrated magazine. Cf. Cacchione, "Lydia Cabrera."
(3.) Much like Cabrera, Pelaez, once she arrived in Paria, worked in a double context, "No pudiendo o no queriendo colocarse en el papel de una pintora de la Escuela de Paris ... sigue siendo una pinotra cubana que no puede dejar de remitirse a su experiencia vital, a su pais de origen, alas tradiciones y a la cultura de que se nutrio desde la infancia.... Sus intuiciones se vuelen certidumbre en Francia, en donde puede entender a cabalidad lo que se gestaba en Cuba" (Diaz 67-68).
["Not being able to and not wanting to place herself in the position of an artist of the French school ... she continued to be a Cuban painter, she could not stop succumbing to the vital experience of her native country, of the traditions and of the culture that had nurtured her since her infancy.... Her intuitions undoubtedly unfolded in France, a place where she came to understand the mystery that had gestated in Cuba."] (translation mine).
(4.) Cf. Hemenway, Zora 281.
(5.) Cf. Wall 143.
(6.) Ibid., 142-43.
(7.) Cf. Hurston, Dust Tracks 65. Parenthetical citations refer to the 1991 edition unless otherwise stipulated.
(8.) Cf. Wall 145.
(9.) Cf. Hurston, Dust Tracks 121-22.
(10.) "A curious metaphor, especially when we know that Zora occasionally became Barnard's sacrificial animal. Her private letters show that she was ordered not to attend the Barnard Prom held at the Ritz Hotel; her benefactor, the college's founder, Mrs. Annie Nathan Meyer, found the idea unseemly. We also know that Hurston's classmates mocked her French pronunciation and laughed at her recitations" (Hemenway, "Introduction" xiii).
(11.) Cf. Hemenway, Zora 86-88. Hemenway briefly outlines the attempts of white ethnographers to collect and anthologize Black folklore like Joel Chandler Harris (Uncle Remus stories), Elsie Clews Parsons (songs and stories from the costal Carolinas), and Newbell Niles Puckett (Folk Beliefs of the Southern Negro). Each of these attempts was in some way made inauthentic through a form of embellishment (Harris), bribery (Parsons) or masquerade (Puckett) on the part of the collector. Hemenway also mentions Guy Johnson and Howard Odum, who collaborated on The Negro and His Songs (1925) and Negro Workaday Songs (1926). Unfortunately, these men later commercialized Black community life and culture in a type of minstrel show for profit.
(12.) Cf. Hurston, Dust Tracks (1984) 124. During her studies at Barnard, Hurston had completed some fieldwork for Boas in Harlem (1926), but her trip south marks her first independent investigation of her own cultural roots.
(13.) Elsewhere Cabrera states: "En Paris comenzo a sentir una gran inquietud per acercarse a Io negro; en uno de los viajes en que fui a casa, de vacaciones, y estuve en La Havana unos dos meses, hice mis primeros contactos de investigacion sobre los negros. En el barrio de Pogolotti, per medio de Omi Tomi, fue ella quien me ayudo a penetrar en su mundo" (Cuentos negros 37).
["In Paris I began to feel a great restlessness to get close to Black culture; one of the times I was at home on vacation and was in Havana for a few weeks, I made my first investigative contacts with the Blacks. In the neighborhood Pogolotti through Omi Tomi, it was she who helped me penetrate into her world."]
Kornweibel seems to overlook the fieldwork Cabrera conducted in 1928 and 1930 while visiting Cuba, locating Cabrera's knowledge of Afro-Cuban tales exclusively in her childhood. Cf. Kornweibel 408.
(14.) Ortiz devoted himself to the study of Afro-Cuban culture in such works as Hampa afro-cubana (1916) and Los instrumentos de la musica afrocubana (1952-1955).
(15.) See, e.g., Mikell, Deck, Boxwell, Jacobs, Domina, and Kornweibel.
(16.) In December 1927 Hurston met Mrs. Rufus Osgood Mason, a New York patron of African American arts, who over the next five years supported her ethnographic field studies with a total of $15,000.
(17.) Basalla details Hurston's numerous references to the adjustments she made in Florida in order to manage the transition (135-38).
(18.) Acker recently published an English translation of this work as Iphigenia (The diary of a young lady who wrote because she was bored). See de la Parra.
(19.) In Hiriart's edition of the letters that de la Parra sent to Cabrera over the course of their relationship, the first mention of one of Cabrera's stories appears in March 1931 (134). She writes about Cabrera's stories in April 1932 (141), February 1933 (163), March 1933 (173), 1 Mar. 1933 (174), and 29 Apr. 1933 (186). Since the stories are mentioned over a two-year period, perhaps Cabrera sent de la Parra individual stories or clusters of stories rather than the entire collection at once. Another indication that the 22 stories were written over a period of time is that the illustration of the story "Arere Mareken" (from Cuentos negros), by the Russian painter Alexandra Exter, was prepared for an illuminated manuscript exhibition at the Galerie Myrbor in Paris in 1933. See Cabrera, Arere Mareken.
(20.) In her introduction to Cartas a Lydia Cabrera, Hiriart explains that pages and paragraphs were missing or eliminated from the manuscript of de la Parra's letters given to her by Cabrera. Hiriart explains: "... comparto el criterio que alguna vez me expuso Lydia de que la correspondencia familiar es privada, personal ..." ["... I share the criterion that was sometimes stated to me by Lydia that personal correspondence is private, personal...."] (33). In other words, the author has every right to edit material that is "too personal" to disclose, whereas an author's family members do not have this right.
(21.) Ballesteros writes: "... faltaba la fina intuicion feminina.... Lydia Cabrera ha llenado hasta la saciedad este presunto vacio de las ciencia afro-cubanista con una tan total e integra entrega al conocimiento de ese alma escondida, delicada y nostalgica del negro, que solo ella ha descubierto" (11).
(22.) Personal E-mail correspondence to the author, 8 Aug. 2002.
(23.) There was a serious interest in Latin American culture in France at this time. Gallimard simultaneously published Miguel Angel Asturias's Legendes du Guatemala in French translation. Cf. Hiriart (39.) Cabrera recalls: "Los Cuentos negros se publicaron en Francia por casualidad: Un dia hablando con Miomandre sobre una calabaza negra que yo habia comprado en el 'Marche aux puces'--me gustaba mucho et arte negro, es decir, me atraian las artes exoticas--estabamos conversando como decia, acerca de la calabaza y otra pieza que tambien habia comprado, un guiro. De aqui pasamos a hablar de los negros, de su cultura, etcetera ... (Francis era muy entusiasta de todo eso), le conte que tenia una serie de cuentos que los escribia para entretener a Teresa, de quien el era tambien muy amigo, y me pidio que se los ensenase. Le gustaron, y por su cuenta se los Ilevo a Paul Morand, que los quiso para la coleccion que dirigia en Gallimard. [??]Y los compro! Yo que jamas habia pensado en publicar nada, me quede con la boca abierta. Miomandre era un gran traductor. Me pagaron creo, unos diez mil francos, queen aquel entonces, era dinero" (Hiriart 75).
["Cuentos negros was published in France by chance: One day I was talking to Miomandre about a black gourd I had bought in the 'Marche aux puces'--I love black art, that is to say I'm attracted to exotic art--we were talking, as I said, about the calbaza and another piece that I'd also bought, a Cuban musical instrument. We went on to talk about the blacks, their culture, et cetera. (Francis was very enthusiastic about all of this), I told him that I had a series of stories I'd written to entertain Teresa, he was also a good friend of hers, and he begged me to let him see the stories. He liked them and on his own gave them to Paul Morand, who wanted them for the collection he directed by Gallimard. And he bought them! I never thought about publishing anything; he left me standing with my mouth open. Miomandre was a fine translator. He paid me, I believe about ten thousand francs, what at that time was a lot of money."]
(24.) Cf. Intar Latin American Gallery, 16. Cabrera's brother-in-law, the Cuban anthropologist Fernando Ortiz, claims the Spanish edition was postponed for so long because of "la excelente acogida de la critica extranjera" [the excellent reception by foreign critics] (Introduction, Cuentos negros 7). Cabrera herself relates the appearance of the Spanish edition as follows: "Fue en La Habana, en la Veronica, en 1940, con lujo de erratas. En la imprenta de Manolito Altolaguirre que fue a Cuba cuando la guerra civil espanol. Despues de esa edicion del cuarenta que quedo tan mal, ya no me ocupe mas del libro hasta muchos argos despues. Los edite en Madrid en 1972" (Hiriart 76).
["It was in Havana by Veronica Publishers in 1940, full of mistakes. It was the printer Manolito Altolaguirre who had gone to Cuba during the Spanish civil war. After this edition from 1940, that turned out so terribly, I didn't bother with the book until many years later. They published it in Madrid in 1972."]
(25.) Basalla contends that it is the narrative frame that distinguishes Mules and Men from other folkloric collections of the day (126).
(26.) In a conversation with Hiriart, Cabrera states: "Creo que fue en el mes de marzo de 1936" [I believe it was in March 1936.] (75).
(27.) Bell emphasizes the gendered nature of ethnographic fieldwork: "[ethnographers] do fieldwork by establishing relationships, and by learning to see, think and be in another culture, and we do this as persons of a particular background, ethnic identity and class...." (1-2). Jaggar explains that women's preference for autobiography, biography, and dialogue "are a manifestation of their search for a mode of presentation that represents their experience as affective and their knowledge as grounded in specific relations" (6-7).
(28.) Ironically, white novelist Julia Peterkin's creative representations of Gullah culture provide a striking contrast in her consistent use of Gullah dialect in the dialogues in her short story collection Green Thursday. The only residual Africanism that I found used repeatedly throughout Mules and Men as both a noun and adjective was buckra. In her fictive description of life in the South, titled Roll, Jordan, Roll, Peterkin laments the Gullah people linguistic losses:
They boast that they are "Gullahs," although they cannot explain what the word "Gullah" means. White people who theorize about it agree that it indicates that part of Africa from which these black people originally came, but sociologists have failed to discover the word's derivation.... [W]hether the "Gullahs" came from Angola, or Galla, their native speech is entirely lost through disuse. The English vocabulary adopted in its place is pitifully small but is used with amazing economy and skill. (23)
(29.) "Bregatino, Bregatin," "Cheggue," "Eya," "Walo-Wila," "La loma de Mambiala," "Apopito Miama," "Tatabisaco," "Arere Mareken," "Suandende," "Sokuando," "Noguna." The African titles have been preserved in the new translation of the collection.
(30.) "Taita Hicotea y Taita Tigre" (41-66) also begins at a time when the earth was young and green and the god Obe-Ogo created man out of his own feces (41). "Los compadres" (67-90) also begins with a comparison of African deities and their Catholic equivalents.
(31.) Cf. Cabrera's dictionary of Yoruba (Lucumi): Anago: vocabulario lucumi.
(32.) In October 1927 Hurston contributed to the Journal of Negro History an article on Cudjo Lewis, the only survivor of the Clotide's last trip in 1859. Undoubtedly, Hurston actually interviewed Lewis, but the content of the article has been attacked for her excessive plagiarism of Emma Langdon Roche's Historic Sketches of the Old South. Cf. Hemenway, Zora 96-99.
Lynda Hoffman-Jeep is an independent scholar who has published on Kafka, Kaho, and other international comparative topics. She teaches German and American Women's History at Ursuline Academy in Cincinnati, Ohio. This study is dedicated to Lea Ritter-Santini, who lives the Fremdenschein.