Blacks, the white elite, and the politics of nation building: Inter and intraracial relationships in "Cecilia Valdes" and "O Mulato"
This project is an examination of the novels O Mulato (Aluisio Azevedo, 1889) and Cecilia Valdes (Cirilo Villaverde, 1882) and their call for social reform and a re-examination of the place of blacks in the emerging republics of Brazil and Cuba. Both novels question and criticize social constructs of race while pressing for an improved treatment of both free and enslaved blacks This project provides an intellectual history of eighteenth and nineteenth century rac(ial)ist theories that exerted a pronounced influence on Azevedo and Villaverde. Specifically, this section examines physiognomy, phrenology, and craniometry in addition to sociological and anthropological approaches to racial hybridism, the evolutionary theories of Darwin and Spencer, and the geographical determinism of Buckle. Finally, the chapter provides a close reading of Comte's positivism and its reception by the intelligentsia in Cuba and Brazil Azevedo's O Mulato purports to discredit racial discrimination by white society and the destructive influence of the Catholic clergy in Brazil's northern province of Maranhao during the 1870s by deploying the metaphor of an unsuccessful, interracial relationship involving a wealthy and educated mulatto and his white, aristocratic cousin. Although Azevedo endeavored to illustrate the problematic nature of racial discrimination and the social compartmentalization of blacks in Brazil---both relics of Portuguese colonialism---he nevertheless succumbed to the racialist ideologies of the nineteenth century and imbued his protagonist with stereotypical characteristics. Although blacks were rising socially via education and the military, Azevedo nevertheless envisioned a future, positivistic republic necessarily led by a white elite In Cecilia Valdes, Villaverde deploys an unsuccessful, interracial relationship involving a poor but beautiful, nearly-white mulatta and her aristocratic, half-brother as agents of the policy of whitening. As in O Mulato, the metaphor of an unsuccessful, interracial relationship reveals the difficulty in crossing racial and social castes and thus uniting different socio-economic sectors of the imagined community. Only one intraracial romance involving whites proves to be successful in the novel. This relationship serves as a metaphor indicating that only enlightened whites are capable of leading Cuba out of colonialism and into independence