Play and Popular Culture in Cuban America

296 pages

19 halftones

July, 2017

ISBN: 9781479846146



Add to Cart Available: 6/23/2017

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Albert Sergio Laguna is Assistant Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity, Race, & Migration at Yale University.

All books by Albert Sergio Laguna

Winner, 2018 Peter C. Rollins Book Prize, presented by the Northeast Popular/American Culture Association 
Winner, 2018 Robert K. Martin Book Prize, presented by the Canadian American Studies Association
A re-examination of the Cuban diaspora through the lens of popular culture.  

In an era of warming relations between the US and Cuba, this book updates the conversation about Cuban America by showing how this community has changed over the past 25 years. No longer a conservative Republican voting bloc, the majority of Cubans today want more engagement with the island instead of less. Laguna investigates the generational shifts and tensions in a Cuban America where the majority is now made up of immigrants who arrived since the 1990s and those born in the US.   

To probe these changes, Laguna examines the aesthetic and social logics of a wide range of popular culture forms originating in Miami and Cuba from the 1970s through the 2010s. They include the stand-up comedy of performers like Alvarez Guedes and Robertico, a festival called Cuba Nostalgia, Miami morning radio shows, a form of media distribution on the island known as el paquete, and the viral social media content of Los Pichy Boys. This study illustrates the centrality of play in a community that has been described historically as angry, reactionary, and melancholic. Diversión contends that our understanding of the Cuban diaspora is lacking not in seriousness, but in play. 

By unpacking this archive, Laguna explores our complex, often fraught attachments to popular culture and the way it can challenge and reproduce typical cultural ideologies—especially in relation to politics and race.  In the wake of the largest migration wave to the US in Cuban history, Diversión and its focus on play is crucial reading for those who seek to understand not only the Cuban American diaspora, but cultural and economic life on the island.  


  • "A highly original and vital contribution to the cultural and scholarly activity of the contemporary Cuban diaspora in the U.S.,  Laguna’s urgent study takes up what is always deferred: Cuban America in the here-and-now, the wondrous difficulty of Miami, and an ongoing sense of Cuban migration that refuses to stay put.  This book is a critical pause button on expedient narratives about Cuba’s transition.  It insists on the complicated comedy, the cynical edges, and the aerating necessity of laughter by the actual people that live and move between the island and elsewhere."

    —Alexandra T. Vazquez, author of Listening in Detail: Performances of Cuban Music

  • Albert Laguna’s book walks into an MLA cash bar, and the bartender says, “Your argument’s a joke.”  In this field-defining work, Laguna shows that laughter, joshing, and punch lines (in short, our indefatigable jodedera) constitute Cuban culture in its movements around the U.S. and even on return trips to the island. Stand-up, radio shows, festivals, and social media cut across the classic Cuban exile in the art and performance of post-1990s Cuban migrants. Laguna dazzles us with such an inventory to deliver a singular notion: Even in dislocation, creativity can’t help but crack you up.

    —Antonio López, author of Unbecoming Blackness: The Diaspora Cultures of Afro-Cuban America