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Miami's Forgotten CubansAlan A. Aja

"Alan A. Aja is associate professor and acting chair in the Department of Puerto Rican and Latino Studies at Brooklyn College (CUNY). He has published in a range of scholarly and public outlets with focus on inter-group wealth disparities, socioeconomic stratification, and public policy. His recent publications include the book Miami's Forgotten Cubans: Race, Racialization and the Local Afro-Cuban Experience (Palgrave-McMillan, 2016) and co-authored pieces in the Boston Review, the Nation, Dissent, the American Prospect, Latino Rebels and other outlets. Before academia, Aja was as a labor organizer in Texas, conducted environmental research in Cuba, worked as a human rights organizer in Argentina and in a refugee hostel in London. Currently, he is assisting on a documentary/news piece by filmmaker Rudy Valdez on the effects of mandatory minimum sentencing policies on families. He has provided live and/or taped commentary for various media outlets, including CNN en Español, MSNBC™s the Grio, TV3 (Cataluyna, Spain), CUNY Television, Brooklyn News 12 and (the former) Air America. Aja's parents were born in Cuba. He considers Miami, Florida and Louisville, Kentucky as his co-hometowns. He currently lives in Brooklyn with his family, all Brooklyn Nets fans."

Miami’s Forgotten Cubans by Alan A. Aja
Race, Racialization, and the Miami Afro-Cuban Experience, Palgrave MacMillan, 2016

This book explores the reception experiences of post-1958 Afro-Cubans in South Florida in relation to their similarly situated “white” Cuban compatriots. Utilizing interviews, ethnographic observations, and applying Census data analyses, Aja begins not with the more socially diverse 1980 Mariel boatlift, but earlier, documenting that a small number of middle-class Afro-Cuban exiles defied predominant settlement patterns in the 1960 and 70s, attempting to immerse themselves in the newly formed but ultimately racially exclusive “ethnic enclave.” Confronting a local Miami Cuban “white wall” and anti-black Southern racism subsumed within an intra-group “success” myth that equally holds Cubans and other Latin Americans hail from “racial democracies,” black Cubans immigrants and their children, including subsequent waves of arrival and return-migrants, found themselves negotiating the boundaries of being both “black” and “Latino” in the United States.

The book garnered this mention in a review of the film "Moonlight":

"Returning to Juan’s comment about the invisibility of black Cubans in Miami, there is evidence that the Cuban-American population in Miami is disproportionately whiter than Cuban-American populations in other metropolitan areas of the U.S, as cited by Alan A. Aja in his book Miami’s Forgotten Cubans. In other words, black and even mixed-race Cubans tend to settle in other U.S. cities, perhaps in part because they anticipate facing racism from their white compatriots in Miami." -- How Oscar Favorite ‘Moonlight’ Subtly Illuminates the Erasure of Miami’s Black Cubans  1/6/2017 Remezcla

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Table of contents
(7 chapters)

Introduction: If Elián Were Black?        Pages 1-26

“It’s Like Cubans Could Only Be White,” Divided Arrival: Origins of a Racially Bifurcated Migration        Pages 27-60

Beyond El Ajiaco: Eviction from el Exilio (1959–1979) and Miami’s (White) Cuban Wall       Pages 61-106

“You Ain’t Black, You’re Cuban!”: Mariels, Stigmatization, and the Politics of De-Racialization (1980–1989)       Pages 107-142

“They Would Have Tossed Him Back into the Sea,” Balseros, Elián, and Race Matters in the Miami Latinx Millennium (1990-present)       Pages 143-173

From la Cuba de Ayer to el Miami De Ayer: The Cuban “Ethnic Myth” in Contemporary Context      Pages 175-208

Between “Laws and Practice,” Blacks, Latinxs, Afro-Cubans/Latinxs, and Public Policy      Pages 209-229


Alan AjaEl Bloqueo Redux: Trump's Cuba Policies Strike a Familiar Chord  6/22/2017 Rolling Stone: by Alan Aja - "Trump's new Cuba policy directives may not be, in the political aggregate, as draconian as he boasted, but they remain irresponsible, immoral measures, with disproportionate effect on our island relatives and working-class Cuban-Americans alike. Elected Cuban-American officials, Republican or Democrat, who support this move should pay in the election booth, while Cubans, resident and U.S.-side, marginalized to privileged, should continue organizing across race, gender and class lines to end el bloqueo's repressive contours once and for all."

How Immigrants Became Criminals  3/17/2017 Boston Review: "According to ICE, “criminal removals” comprised 92 percent of all deportations from the nation’s interior last year, compared with only 3 percent in 1980. Yet immigrants are not committing more crime than in the past. Rather the definition of “criminal” has broadened significantly since the 1990s, when the federal government began criminally prosecuting immigration infractions that were previously enforced as civil matters, while also deporting an unprecedented number of immigrants with minor criminal records."

White-Supremacist David Duke’s New Senate Campaign Fits a Pattern  7/23/2016 The Nation: "The enthusiastic Trump supporter and former Grand Wizard of the KKK makes common cause with an international rising right."

Complex Histories of the Marginalized: Q&A with Alan Aja, Puerto Rican and Latino Studies Department  11/24/2015 The Exelsior: "Alan Aja is a professor in Brooklyn College’s Department of Puerto Rican and Latino Studies. He received a B.A. in Sociology and Communication n 1997, an M.A. in Sustainable International Development in 2000 and a Ph.D. in Public and Urban Policy in 2008. His courses and research focus on political reasons for intragroup and intergroup disparities."

Juan Flores (1943-2014): A Remembrance of a Great Scholar  12/17/2014 Racism Review: "I (read: we) needed to dig deeper into Cuban anthropologist Fernando Ortiz’s view of Cubanidad, which Juan had us critique in the seminar, as an expression of “color-blind” nationalism that seemed to involve everyone but Afro-Cubans. We needed to understand how the “Latin@ propensity to uphold mestizaje (racial and cultural mixture),” as he and fellow collaborator and life partner Miriam Jiménez Román wrote in the Afro-Latin@ Reader, was indeed an “exceptionalist and wishful panacea,” deeply embedded in the contours of anti-blackness."

Links/Enlaces top

Black Miami

The Racial Politics of Division: Interethnic Struggles for Legitimacy in Multicultural Miami, Monika Goslin


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