New Visiting Scholar at CRI

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The Cuban Research Institute is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Justo Planas Cabreja as a Visiting Scholar during the academic year 2021–22. Dr. Planas Cabreja will revise his doctoral dissertation, entitled "Born in Cuba: Imaginaries of the Child and the Motherland," for publication as a book.

This book project examines the representation of Cuban children in literature, medical discourse, and the visual arts. Childhood has been a centerpiece in the construction of Cuban identity since the literary and pictorial interpretations of local everyday life in the eighteenth century through the state-subsidized healthcare programs of the Cuban Revolution. However, no previous research has explored why minors became the focus of the country’s social projects. Since the independence wars, both medical and literary representations of children have shaped the identity of the newborn nation. During the so-called Cuban Republic of Generals and Doctors, both medical and cultural representations of children shaped policies of the newborn democracy. Consequently, education and healthcare became leading areas in the Cuban Revolution after 1959.

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 an unpleasant presence and a conspicuous erasure in picturesque urban landscapes and academicist portraits from the nineteenth century. Planas Cabreja's 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. From the earliest accounts of the New World to today, varied individuals have been looked upon as children; however, Latin American and Latinx childhoods remain barely explored. As such, “Born in Cuba” centralizes the child in the cultural and scientific construction of difference. This research brings contemporary frameworks, including the medical humanities and affect theory, to discussions of the cultural representation of minors.

Justo Planas Cabreja earned his Ph.D. in Latin American, Iberian, and Latino Studies at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He also holds a master's degree in Latin American Studies from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, another master's degree in English from the University of Havana, and a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Havana. He is the author of the book El cine latinoamericano del desencanto (2018). He is a past recipient of the Goizueta Graduate Pre-Prospectus Fellowship from the Cuban Heritage Collection of the University of Miami.