Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Maida Watson

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee chair

Second Advisor's Name

Jorge Duany

Second Advisor's Committee Title

committee member

Third Advisor's Name

Santiago Juan-Navarro

Third Advisor's Committee Title

committee member

Fourth Advisor's Name

María Asunción Gómez

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

committe member


afrocuban theater, afrocuban religion, cuban studies, literature, performance, ritual

Date of Defense



Contemporary Cuban theater has proved to be a fertile platform for the representation, promotion, and dissemination of traditional popular culture, especially that vein derived from the African heritage. From the ritual legacy of Afro-Cuban religious beliefs—santería, palo monte, sociedad secreta abakuá, voodoo, espiritismo cruzado—and the rich mythology on which they are inspired, a cultural production has emerged that uniquely affects Cuban performing arts. It is in this respect that, after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959, several theater groups and creators throughout the Island have imbued, as an aesthetic motto, dramatic writing and staging with such magico-religious practices. In this dissertation I closely examine the introduction and predominance of magico-religious expressions in contemporary Cuban theater. Mainly, my research revolves around two core objectives: to delineate the theoretical and aesthetic foundations that characterize this theatrical phenomenon and to explore the representation of blackness within the sociopolitical context of postrevolutionary Cuba.

My dissertation builds and expands upon the studies of the theater of the black diaspora, evaluating how Afro-Cuban ritual theater is legitimized in multiple dramatic contexts, including the dramatization of African mythology in children’s theater, the use of trance and mediumship as alternative methods for stage performing, and even homologous plays produced by exiled Cuban dramatists in the United States. Based on the analysis of a select corpus of plays and performances, I argue that Afro-Cuban ritual theater becomes a solid and effective platform from which to espouse aesthetic and social initiatives. Furthermore, to redefine or enrich the definition of what is Afro-Cuban ritual theater, I contend that magico-religious expressions must consciously affect either the process of dramatic writing and staging, and/or the performer’s psychophysical training.



Previously Published In

Portions of the Introduction were previously published in

“Vestigios de la ritualidad y representación mágico-religiosa de la cultura afrocubana durante la colonia en el teatro bufo”. Latin American Theater Review, vol. 53, no.1, 2019, pp. 23-38.



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