Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Global and Sociocultural Studies

First Advisor's Name

Jean Muteba Rahier

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Guillermo Grenier

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Co-Chair

Third Advisor's Name

Andrea Queeley

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Benjamin Smith

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Fifth Advisor's Name

Marilys Nepomechie

Fifth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member


white supremacy, Cuban diaspora, race, racialization, heritage, memory, urban planning, memorialization, commemoration, Afro-Cuban, Latinx, placemaking, Little Havana, Miami, heritage districts

Date of Defense



This dissertation unearths memory- and place-making practices, processes and “racializing regimes of representation” in Little Havana’s heritage district, now a major tourism destination in Miami, Florida. It draws on extensive ethnographic fieldwork, interviews, and consultations of various archives that span decades back to the 1960s and trace the origins of the district in plans for a “Latin Quarter.”

My analyses borrow from and combine various bodies of scholarly work to examine and deconstruct the use of always multi-vocal “commemorative bodies” for the production of racial narratives that are embedded in--and give shape to--acts of memorialization and commemoration.

By examining the intimate relationship existing between the development of the district from the 1960s on, and the repeated narrative of Cuban success, this ethnohistorical study reveals how Cuban emigre civic elites and militant anti-Castro groups have been using the district (including its Cuban Memorial Park) to assert white dominance and build Anglo-Cuban solidarity while reifying “Cuban culture” as a colorblind entity that accommodates everyone.

I argue that the commemoration of “exceptional” blacks like General Antonio Maceo and Celia Cruz, alongside policing and surveillance tactics that publicly humiliate and exclude criminalized black people from the 1980 Mariel boatlift, also protect the Cuban success narrative by diverting attention away from the documented history of Cuban emigre terrorism in South Florida and beyond.

This dissertation also uncovers the numerous ways Cuban and non-Cuban Afrodescendants have been intervening in the district with their own memory- and place-making practices, subverting dominant narratives that denigrate and marginalize blackness. It relocates South Florida practices within some of the webs of transnational and transcultural connections that make the greater Miami what it is.






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