This accessible book offers a vivid geographic portrait of Cuba, exploring the island’s streetscapes, sugar cane fields, beaches, and rural settlements; its billboards, government buildings, and national landmarks. The authors illuminate how natural and built landscapes have shaped Cuban identity (cubanidad), and vice versa. They provide a unique perspective on Cuba’s distinct historical periods and political economies, from the colonial period through republicanism and today’s socialist era. Compelling topics include the legacies of slavery and the sugar industry, the past and future of urban development, and the impact of “islandness” on sociocultural processes.
Table of Contents
1. On Cuban Landscapes
2. Humboldt’s Landscape: Connecting Then and Now
7. Conclusions: Whither Cuban Landscapes?
Armando H. Portela is a physical geographer who worked for 23 years in the Institute of Geography of the Cuban Academy of Sciences. He coauthored the section “Geomorphology (Relief)” in the Nuevo Atlas Nacional de Cuba (Institute of Geography of the Academy of Sciences of Cuba, 1989) and produced a number of geomorphologic maps of the island. He currently works at the Miami Herald and freelances for the newsletter CubaNews, where he regularly publishes on geographical issues of the island.
"This book is a welcome addition to the literature on Cuba and a joy to read. Weaving together historical and contemporary themes, it provides a deeply contextualized impression of Cuban landscapes over time. The authors are serious scholars of Cuba who have written a book that can be read and appreciated by people across the political spectrum. This is essential reading for anyone embarking on a trip to Cuba, especially one that goes beyond Havana."--Thomas Klak, Director, Latin American Studies Program, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio"Full of interesting data for researchers and visitors, this book offers multiple views of Cuba, knitting together stitches of such diverse disciplines as geography, landscape architecture, urban planning, sociology, and fine arts. I especially recommend it to readers who want to be well informed on the many nuances of Cuba and cubanidad--something the book captures on page after page. Written by renowned researchers who have long studied the country, the book demonstrates that Cuban landscapes are far more complex than the idyllic impressions displayed in tourist magazines."--Victor Marin, UNESCO Chair, National Center for Conservation, Restoration and Museology, Havana, Cuba"Scarpaci and Portela give us a fascinating and revealing picture of the many 'Cuban landscapes' that make up the reality of Cuba past and present. Their canvas is ambitiously broad in its historical sweep and its range of sources and materials, but it nonetheless excels in the detail--from Humboldt's nineteenth-century observations to Cuba's love/hate relationship with sugar and the images and landscapes that Cuba projects to tourists. The result is visually expressive and conceptually masterful."--Antoni Kapcia, Director, Centre for Research on Cuba, University of Nottingham, UK"Cuban Landscapes is overflowing with original and very useful landscapes of its own--musical, historical, urban, rural, agricultural, industrial, cartographic, touristic, artistic, economic, and theoretical. This innovative, eclectic volume manages to synthesize a wide variety of analytic approaches to Cuba's unique physical, historical, and cultural geography, making the book simultaneously intellectually engaging and visually stimulating."--Ted Henken, Departments of Sociology and Black and Hispanic Studies, Baruch College, City University of New York"This is a book that will make you think--about how the landscapes of Cuba were made, what they represent today, and how they have changed. The authors skillfully recount the histories of deforestation, sugar plantations, railroad expansion, urban development, tourism, and political ideology, all reflected through the prisms of landscape elements. The vibrant text and the numerous thoughtfully selected images allow many Cubas to come alive. This is a volume to open the eyes of undergraduates and would-be travelers, or to be debated in graduate seminars. Cuban Landscapes challenges us to derive meaning from what is visible on this complex Caribbean island."--David J. Robinson, Department of Geography, Syracuse University