"Rhythm, race, and the national secret: the Cuban danzon"

Jill Lane
Assistant Professor of Comparative Studies
The Ohio State University

The paper considers the emergence of the popular danzón in Cuba in the early 1880s, and consider its role as an embodied "structure of feeling" (in Raymond Williamís terms) for developing notions of Cubanness and patriotism. The discourse surrounding the danzón encapsulates a generative contradiction between "national rhythm" and what Barbara Browning has called "infectious rhythm." Operating in dialectical counterpoint, these competing interpretations of the danzón presented a contradictory Cuban social body, invested with competing gender and racial coordinates. I analyze the moral backlash against the danzón as a discourse about the racial contamination of the newly public "Cuban" social body; at the same time, as illustrated by dance-plays like Morales Alverez's Proceso del Oso (1882), the dance presents a specially erotic, and specially nationalist, form of choreographic racial impersonation itself.