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Is Minorities’ bond to the past a burden or a blessing?

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Suny Geneseo

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  1. Introduction
  2. The glimpse of the episode
  3. Describing the Haitians
  4. The strength of this narrative
  5. Conclusion

African diaspora narratives have one thing in common: their richness. They cover the plural aspects of a culture and underline the complexity of an uprooted people identity. Mirta Yanez's ?Of Natural Causes? is representing of this controversy. The story focuses on a group of Haitian coffee planters living in Cuba. The scene takes place shortly after the Cuban Revolution ended. The reader is being told the story by an unidentified and genderless narrator who, far from being omniscient, shares in retrospect her/his impression and experience while being in contact with the Haitians. This apparently simple tale embraces many themes and undertakes numerous problems such as the difficulty of defining minorities. Also, it emphasizes the strong bond existing between Haitians from the Mayari Mountains and their past. They do not want to remember being victims; they want to remember being rebels, and victorious ones. It is a recurrent pattern for uprooted peoples to preserve their identity through the storytelling of past glorious events. This could explain why mocking the figure of Mackandal appears to be a critique of the people's identity. Therefore, the point of this essay will be to prove that this link between minorities and the past is neither a burden nor a blessing but a blending of both. The character Yulian represents this through his complex behavior.

[...] The bond to the past is catered by the Haitians. Discrediting this bond would equivalent discrediting the people's identity. Cuco, a wealthy Cuban, openly mocks the minorities' hero: ?Fancy that! A black man flying!? (p.250). His racist statement is revealing of his strong hatred for the Haitian people and his disrespect for their culture. He represents what is remaining from the colonial system and obviously seems to regret it: ?Cuco was furious those days because talk about land reform and intervention had begun? (p. [...]


[...] The genderless narrator gives us an idea of how Haitians were seen by Cubans or can, on a larger scale, represent the way minorities are considered by majorities. The narrator seems to have trouble describing the Haitians that appear to be a dual people. The use of so many contradictory terms is puzzling. The oxymoron intimidating tolerance? is used alongside with the contradictive terms ?virulences? or ?passions? on the one hand and ?peaceful? or ?sagacious? on the other. The violence, virulence and passion being referred to are alluding to the Haitians past major rebellion, the Haitian Revolution while their ?peaceful? features refer to their current life. [...]

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