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María de los Ángeles (Nena) Torres of LALS receives a three-year NEH grant to work on the Cuba/Angola project

Congrats to #UICLAS Maria de los Angeles Torres, Ph.D., distinguished professor of Latin American and Latino Studies and colleague Katrin Hansing, for receiving a three-year NEH grant to work on the Cuba/Angola project!

Democratizing the Past: Cubans Remember the Angolan Civil War

Katrin Hansing, PhD, City University New York, Associate Professor of Anthropology  & Maria de los Angeles Torres, PhD, University of Illinois Chicago, Distinguished University and Professor of Latin American and Latino Studies

Project overview

“All wars are fought twice, the first time on the battlefield, the second time in memory.”  - VViet Thanh Nguyen

From 1975 to 1991, over 450,000 Cubans participated in a civil war in Angola that became one of the many arenas of the Cold War. The state-constructed narrative tells a story of heroism and sacrifice to pay back the debt of slavery and help end apartheid in South Africa. But how do the Cuban participants in the war, many of whom today live in the United States, remember their experiences and make sense of the violence and corruption they witnessed? Our manuscript will explore these memories. It will be based on archival research and 75 oral history interviews, including ten in-depth case studies. Given the dominance of the Cuban government’s racialized and heroic narratives about the war, these grassroots testimonies gathered in Cuba and in the diaspora will offer a more nuanced and complex understanding of the war experiences, how they are remembered, and how these may stand in contrast to official narrations of the war. This will allow us to explore concepts of ‘collective memory’ and ‘obligated memories,’ as well as the formation of communities bound by ‘alternate, shared memories.’ The result of our project will be a manuscript to be completed by 2026, a symposium and an exhibit of photographs, personal artifacts, and paintings influenced by the war.