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‘La Comida Mambisa’: food, farming, and Cuban identity, 1839-1999

Author(s): Shannon Lee Dawdy

Journal: New West Indian Guide
ISSN 1382-2373

Volume: 76;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 47;
Date: 2002;
Original page

Keywords: Cuba | food | food preparation | social history | subsistence farming | national identity

Describes how Cuba developed a countrywide system of food meaning and production in the mid-19th c. that became a national, and eventually "nationalist", cuisine during Cuba's revolutionary moments. Author explains how the centrality of food within Cuban national identity was strongly related with the valency associated with the subsistence farming on small family farms ("sitios"), producing these native foods and Caribbean ingredients, e.g. cassava, guava, and sweet potatoes. The self-sufficiency of these small farmers was in emerging nationalist discourses opposed to the large-scale, export-oriented, colonial plantations and to slavery. Many small family farmers, of which many were ex-slaves, participated in the armed struggles in part to defend their right of independent, subsistence agriculture. Author outlines how since the early, mid-19th-c. Creole nationalism, Creole food and the small farms remained associated with authentic Cuban folk culture and with national identity, and related to independence struggles, and self-sufficiency, including during and after the 1959 Revolution.
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