Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Latin American, Iberian and Latino Cultures


Silvia Dapia

Committee Members

Carlos Riobo

Oswaldo Zavala

Subject Categories

Caribbean Languages and Societies | Latin American Languages and Societies


Cuba, Childhood, Medical Humanities, Colonial Studies


“Born in Cuba: Imaginaries of the Child and the Nation,” examines the representation of children in Cuban literature, visual arts, and medical discourse. Childhood has been a centerpiece in the construction of Cuban identity since the literary and pictorial interpretations of local everyday life in the 18th century through to the rallies in Havana and Miami for the custody of Elián González in the early 2000s. However, no previous research has explored why minors became the focus of the country’s colonial and post-independence social projects. In Colonial Cuba, the local community of scientists and lettered men drew on children to devise a self-image vis-à-vis women, Afro-descendants, and hegemonic peninsular and American masculinities. These depictions of either utopian or marginal childhoods overshadow the experiences of real children and serve to segregate vulnerable minors. The ubiquitous Cuban child beggar was both unpleasant presence and a conspicuous erasure in picturesque urban landscapes and academicist portraits from the nineteenth century. Conversely, José Martí’s poetry in Ismaelillo reframes the imagery of mystic Hispanic writings to convert his lost son into a new secular god. Since the independence wars, both medical and literary representations of children have shaped the identity of the newborn nation. Consequently, education and healthcare became leading areas in the Cuban Revolution after 1959. This research expands on current debates concerning the role of Afro-Cuban people and women in the nation and sheds new light on the connection between medicine and culture in Cuba by reflecting on the experience of vulnerable children who were persecuted, confined, and harmed because their existence polluted the constructed image of national offspring.

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