An Island in the Stream, a collaboration between Cuban and American writers and scholars, is a diverse collection of ecocritical and literary responses to the natural environment in Cuba and to Cuban environmental culture. The chapters explore Cuba's vibrant cultural history with particular attention to literature and the visual and performing arts, which are viewed through such lenses as ecofeminism, postcolonial ecocriticism, multiculturalism, and the nuclear imaginary, among others. American environmentalists have long viewed modern Cuba as a model of progressive environmental thinking. In the 1990s, the Cuban government made sustainability a centerpiece of national policy initiatives. This book explores some of the historical foundations of contemporary sustainability efforts in Cuba, while also describing the current environmental situation in that part of the world. From José Martí to Excilia Saldaña, from Antonio Nuñez Jiménez to Lydia Cabrera, the chapters here aim to provide a starting point for others who wish to learn about Cuban environmental thought. The conjunction of scholarly and creative work is a gesture toward the interdependence of humanities research and artistic expression, both of which seek to encourage environmental and cultural mindfulness and sensitivity.
Introduction / Scott Slovic and David Taylor
- “Dimensions of Nature and Ecofeminism in the narratives of Excilia Saldaña,” / Mariana G. Serra Garcia
- “Renewing Niagara Falls, Burning the Archive in the Cuban Poetic Tradition,” / Gabriel Horowitz
- “Men and Women of the Earth in the Texts of Marti’s Travels,” / Mayra Beatriz Martinez
- “Antonio Nuñz Jiménez, Oswaldo Guayasamín, and the Recovery of Cuba’s Progressive Intellectuals,” / Susan E. Bender
- “Lydia Cabrera and The Narrative of Nature,” / Margarita Mateo Palmer
- “The New World Baroque as Postcolonial Ecology in Alejo Carpentier’s The Lost Steps.” This essay was originally published in Postcolonial Ecologies (Oxford UP 2011), George B. Handley
- “Cuban Theatre and the Dilemma of Nature,” / Karina Pino Gallardo
- “Among the Ruins of Ecological Thought: Parasites, Trash, and Nuclear Imaginings in La Fiesta Vigilada,” / Christina Maria Garcia
Appendix: Literary Responses
- “Of the African in Cuba,” / Heriberto Feraudy Espino
- “The Gardener’s Creed,” / Alison Hawthorne Deming
- “Weight,” / Sylvia Torti
- “The Cuba Poems,” / Robert M. Pyle
- “Restauración,” / Laura Ruiz Montes
- “Lessons from Cuba,” / Blas Falconer
- “El Trompo: In the Sierra Mountains with Guerilla de Teatreros,” / David Taylor
- “Something Wonderful and Surreal: American Ecocritics and Environmental Writers Contemplate Exile in Cuba as Donald Trump Eyes the White House,” / Scott Slovic
David Taylor is assistant professor of environmental humanities in the Sustainability Studies Program, School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Stony Brook University.
Scott Slovic is professor of literature and environment and professor of natural resources and society at the University of Idaho and co-editor of The Routledge Handbook of Ecocriticism and Environmental Communication (2019).
Armando Fernandez Soriano is coordinator for ecological politics for La Fundación Antonio Núñez Jiménez de la Naturaleza y el Hombre in Cuba.
"This hybrid collection of ecocritical and literary responses to the Cuban environment and to Cuban environmental culture offers a stimulating map of the ongoing process of mutual encouragement and support between academic and artistic communities located on the island and abroad. The variety of subjects and experiences – a complex network of literary and artistic traditions and ventures – shows a fruitful desire for connection beyond national borders, an authentic aspiration toward dialogue, which implies a polemic openness for American and Cuban participants alike. This book offers seeds of diverse, alternative environmentalisms in the context of dominant neoliberal fantasies: an invitation to overcome complicities with our respective systems and blind spots about our differences and resemblances. This is a powerful call not only for more innovative scholarly work, but also for expanding our quest for public debate over the meaning of the environment in our political and cultural lives."
– Roberto Forns-Broggi, Metropolitan State University of Denver; author of Knots like Stars: The ABC of Ecological Imagination in our Americas
"This refreshing collection of complementary essays brings to the fore, through translation, the often-neglected voice of Cuban artists and ecocritics, together with that of American hispanists and ecocritics: one more example of the growing strength and breadth of environmental humanities in non-English speaking cultures."
– Carmen Flys-Junquera, Instituto Franklin, Universidad de Alcalá, editor of Ecozon@
"An Island in the Stream gathers a rich array of texts in an anthology of critical essays, short stories, memoirs, travelogues, and poetry for an ecocritical examination of the scholarly and creative work of Cuban writers, artists, performers, and intellectuals. What is especially valuable about the collection is the way in which it functions as a corrective to the perception that Cuban texts have not been particularly concerned with the natural world. On the contrary, the book includes insightful ecocritical analyses of well-known literary figures such as Alejo Carpentier, Jose Martí, and Jose María Heredia, while it also provides some needed exposure to the nature writing of lesser-known authors such as Lydia Cabrera and Antonio José Ponte. And, An Island in the Stream delves farther afield into "Green" Cuban cultural production with the inclusion of selected poetry and discussions of theater, painting, sculpture, even the environmental significance of a hand-carved spinning top. All of these elements come together for a particularly illuminating glimpse of current ecocritical thought from leading scholars in the field along with novel examples from a variety of unique and uniquely ecological Cuban imaginative work."
– Scott M. DeVries, Manchester University