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More importantly, the ritual is examined in the context of the revolutionary discourse of the Cuban socialist state. In Cuba, the revolutionary state strongly promotes a central value of equality, and favours, in the name of this, practices that are seen to represent the popular culture of the formerly oppressed groups.
In this context, quince is seen as a Spanish colonialist tradition, as opposed to the ritual practices pertaining to the Afro-Cuban religions or to the 'authentically Cuban', mixed Creole traditions, both of which are endorsed by the socialist state as national culture. You can comment on this article on a specific of our blog. Therefore, while anthropological literature on puberty rituals is vast, the analysis of the actual ritual process in the light of this research as such falls beyond the scope of this article.
Ritual practices can provide a point where the large-scale, social and economic forces of the state, intersect with the lives and desires of concrete individuals see e. Kapferer ,, ; Meyer Xix-Xxiii, , , ; Wardlow Rituals can act as a veiled criticism of the activities of those in power by conveying meanings and engaging in practices contrary to the interests of the current authority.
Through a myriad of self-representations — enacted in the form of a variety of Northern Sudanese cultural characters whose behaviour would be considered inappropriate for women — spirit possession allows Sudanese women to convey a critical commentary on their social position in a constrained environment where other means of protest are scarce.
Boddy sees spirit possession as allowing women to express a counter-discourse without having to assume the responsibility of individual authorship for its articulation. This way, rituals may constitute an idiom that permits people to display a form of protest to the current authority that would not otherwise be verbally stated.
However, the case of the Cuban quince ritual is different. Instead of displaying a form of hidden resistance in the context of the powerful socialist state, the quince ritual exhibits very visible symbolism. The stress on lavish opulence in the quince ritual represents something very different from the everyday reality of the majority of Cubans. There is more to Cuban society than the revolutionary state power. The quince ritual, rather than representing a form of counter-dominant criticism in relation to the socialist state, is a practice that ignores the state. In this article, I approach the quince ritual as creating for Cuban women a symbolic space outside of the socialist state sphere, a type of an undefined area in the context of the revolutionary state, which has long aimed for high degrees of state definition in many areas of life see Azicri on religion; Kath on health care; Rosendahl  on work, economy and consumption; and Eckstein xiv, , , for a more general .
As will be shown, the Cuban quince ritual contains various aspects that make it an interesting case in this discussion. She is wearing a wide, red Rococo styled dress complemented by elbow-length white gloves. Fake diamonds dangle from her ears and form a loop around her neck. On her head sits a crown. She smiles radiantly; she is living the moment she has dreamt of for the past 10 years. Often celebrations include a lavish party, expensive professional photo sessions of the girl whilst the whole day is captured on video.
The dance always begins with a waltz. In addition to the party, the photos and their more modern counterpart, video taken by a professional photographer in specially chosen locations and scenes are important elements of the quince ritual. They are often viewed as even more important than the actual quince party see also Rosendahl In some photos she wears nothing at all besides a basket of flowers or other props to cover her breasts and genitals. The photos are circulated widely in the community shown to family, friends and neighbours, hung on the walls of Cuban homes as well as keenly presented to the foreign anthropologist especially by Cuban women.
Spanishness and representing the origin of quince as a Spanish, colonial practice is central to the quince ritual in Cuba. Although Cubans often stress Cuba to be a mixture of two cultures — the Spanish and the African — my informants connected quince only to the European side of this cultural mix.
Quince comes from the representations of the girl that were made in Spain, and also in the courts in other parts of Europe, when the girl turned into a woman. The cider used for toasting in the quince-parties was also seen to be of European origin, representing Champagne. The emphasis on Spanishness in the symbolism of quince is made more explicit in the photos taken during the ritual. Almost all the quince photos I saw included an image portraying the girl as a Spanish woman of the colonial era.
Spanishness was portrayed also as Catholicism in the photos. I saw this Spanish Catholic character for the first time in a quince photo dating from The girl was wearing a wide Spanish comb in her hair, she had a cross hanging from her neck and in her hands she was holding prayer be and a little book, the Catechism. She was photographed kneeling down to pray in front of a crucifix. In later photos, dating from , a church could be seen in the background. This Catholic female character represents a religious, high-class woman of the colonial era, connecting the ritual symbolically both to Cuba's history as a colony of Spain and to the Catholic Church.
In the dance she is often physically raised up, and she is normally seated above the guests on a stage at the fiesta, literally elevating her higher than others on the floor. In weddings it is the couple that defines the celebration, not the individuals. Weddings can also be conducted as a collective ritual in Cuba where many couples get married at the same time, and they tend to be less formal than quince parties. The quince ritual that elevates the girl based solely on her gender and age also differs from the various state-organised lifecycle rituals, which tend to stress collectivity, like course graduation or military ceremonies.
On the whole, quince as a ritual requires a lot of money. In addition to the showy party featuring a professional dance group and a celebrity performer to host the event, the photo and video sessions — with all their special effects — can add up to an overly expensive ceremony for an average Cuban family. Add to this the cost of makeup, hairstyles and a manicure and it runs into a lot of money by average Cuban standards. The importance of appearing wealthy repeats itself in the settings and the symbolism used in the photo and video shoots. This appearance of wealth goes hand in hand with a level of vanity inherent in the symbolism of the quince ritual.
A case in point was Lisandra, who appeared in her quince-video reading an article on herself in Vanidades-magazine depicting her as the next big film star As opposed to the more common rum or Cuban beer, whisky is seen as a status symbol in Cuba and favoured by the new, richer class of locals that have begun to differentiate themselves — especially since the late s — due to the uneven flows of tourism cash and remittances on the island see e. The Champagne-imitating cider — always present at the quince celebration — also adds to this sense of luxury present at the ritual.
The types of foreign luxury products that appear in the quince ritual convey status value brought about by their price and attainability. Cubans are surprisingly willing to spend their hard-earned money on a girls 15th birthday celebration — much more so than for example on weddings.
There are families that lose [sell] the most important domestic equipment of their house to make a party for a day to their daughter for her quince. It is more important to the mother than to the girl. Even if a girl would rather spend the money on new clothes and a night out with her friends — although not very common amongst my informants — her mother tends to insist on a formal fiesta with colonial-type dresses and a large of invitees. Many said that after the celebration of their quince they got more freedom and their parents allowed them to stay out late at night.
A little more responsibility is on her because one already has to start telling her that she has to take care [of herself] and all the things that can happen to her starting from then. You know that everybody starts to see her as a bigger person. Sexual symbolism is emphasised throughout the ritual and can be seen in the outfits, the nude-photographs and the performances that take place during the quince-parties.
Ve al cuerpo de tu hombre y baila! This is further stressed by the fact that traditionally in Cuba the meaning of a quince party is to mark the moment when a girl is officially allowed to have a boyfriend, and in the process, sexual relations. Smith, in the Caribbean full adulthood means participation in sexual interaction and procreation b: My own fieldwork in Cuba supports this view. The purpose of the Cuban quince ritual is not to prepare the girl for marriage, but for sexual life and via this, potentially to reproduction and motherhood.
This often became evident within a year or two of the ritual as quite a few of my young informants tended to have a baby on their arms, not a husband. Motherhood does not require marriage in the Caribbean and the making of a girl into a fully gendered, heterosexual adult woman is more important than her ing a man in marriage. The mother of the girl plays a very special role in this process, the reason for which can be uncovered in the Cuban kinship structure. Quince — as a ritual made by women, and celebrating Cuban girls as potentially reproductive seductresses — is connected to the Cuban kinship structure, and to the matrifocal kinship structure largely prevalent in the Caribbean.
Kinship relations among my Cuban informants were characterised by a strong matrifocal tendency, a feature that is seen to denote Caribbean societies in a more general sense. Clarke 75, ; Smith xi , other authors see it as characterising kinship relations in the region more widely e.
Safa On the basis of my fieldwork, I view Cuban kinship relations to have a strong matrifocal tendency more generally see also ibid. In the classical definition of the Caribbean matrifocality formulated by R. Smith, it is primary that the woman in her role as mother becomes the centre of family relations a: Since family relations are based on the relationship between the mother and the child, fathers often have children in various different households, whereas the women usually have all their children living with them Olwig Men are often seen as marginalised as fathers, but the strength of the consanguine bond makes them loyal as sons, brothers and uncles Smith xi; Smith a: Lifecycle rituals make especially visible the central social divisions of a society see van Gennep , and they may also represent the most important social values of a society see e.
Lifecycle rituals thus connect in important ways with the construction of kinship relations, since in them the social and values relevantly defining social existence are rendered particularly evident. By being transformed into a mature adult the girl is also transformed into a potential mother. She is valued since she can claim to have produced another member capable of expanding the matrifocal kinship structure.
This rewards her fifteen years of effort in the raising of the girl and makes her at some stage in the future, a potential grandmother or great grandmother, the respected head of a matrifocal kin group. The quince photos play an important role in the way in which I interpret the quince ritual as reproducing the matrifocal kinship structure in Cuba. This is further stressed by the fact that these types of ceremonial photos are never taken of boys.
The photos also circulate widely in time; historically from one generation to another. The central position of the quince photos in the celebration of the ritual, as well as their centrality to the type of ethnographic material I was able to obtain on the quince celebration from my informants, connects to another feature of Cuban quince celebrations: quince is not so much a matter of talking as of seeing and experiencing.
Rather, they would fetch their quince photo album, and show me their photos. Quince is something that Cuban women do. However, when examined in the context of the socialist state discourse, quince comes across as something that Cuban women do despite what the state professes — that is, in practicing quince they seem to be ignoring how such ritual opulence is viewed in the official socialist discourse. Defining Cuban state discourse in regards to the quince ritual is far from easy.
When examining Cuban social science research, quince as a topic is largely absent. Even though Cubans have conducted extensive research on ritual practices in their own country, the quince ritual represents an exception. Anthropological research in Cuba has concentrated largely on the study of the African-rooted religions on the island or on the folklore-type research of popular celebrations.
It seems that Cuban state researchers have not studied quince because it does not meet the criteria of being a folk celebration of the masses. He describes the ritual as such:. Only a leftover of the decades, even of centuries, in which the bad taste which is wrongly called elegance played an important role, importing certain foreign fashions. And this bug of the tackiest zone of the past continues to bite us. Let us not be dragged by the fashions and the models of happiness forced by the merchants with images sewn in order to reap their winnings.
Who has plenty outside, has little inside and wants to dissimulate the little she has. Who feels her beauty, the interior beauty, does not look outside for borrowed beauty. The question as to what degree this extract from el Diablo Ilustrado can be seen to represent state discourse on the quince ritual in Cuba is a complex one. At the same time, not everything published in Cuba follows the official state policy, even though publishing of directly counter-revolutionary material is not possible Prieto In this case, when the writing takes place under a pseudonym, it is even more difficult to position the author in relation to the official state discourse.
The extract from el Diablo Ilustrado suggests that in terms of Cuban state discourse, quince appears as a purely commercial tradition of the colonial elite, a leftover of the foreign bourgeois societies Spain and United States that governed Cuba in the past. As such, the ritual fits somewhat uncomfortably into the new socialist society that was to be created by the revolution. An aspect that el Diablo Ilustrado criticises in quince parties, is that they feed vanity and exhibitionism. Vanity is not a quality that is well regarded by the Cuban revolution.
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