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U.S. Travelers and the Cuban Aporia (1859)


An interpretation and analysis of the convergent travel accounts of three North American visitors to Havana on the eve of the U.S. Civil War.

Briggs, Ronald. “U.S. Travelers and the Cuban Aporia (1859).” Studies in Travel Writing 18.1 (Feb. 2014): 1-16. Print.

This article compares the travel accounts of Joseph Dimock, Richard Henry Dana (1815-1882), and Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910), all of whom made their separate ways from New York to Havana in 1859, on the eve of the U.S. Civil War. Paying special attention to the omnipresence of images of global trade in all three travelers’ descriptions of the island, it argues that they produce a “cosmopolitan sublime” that locates Cuba not as a space with its own characteristics but rather as a point in an international trade network, and thus comprehensible only in relation to the network’s other points. The paradoxical presence and absence of Cuba in the U.S. consciousness thus predates the 1959 Revolution and the struggles of Cold War politics.

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