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The Maroon as Metaphor for Resistance in Latin American Film

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Third World Film

Professor: Andrew Millington

Student: James Cheek

Date Due: May 3, 2004

FINAL PAPER: The Maroon as Metaphor for Resistance in Latin American Film

Cultural surrender is more than a matter of rejecting one's father and mother culture. It means that one accepts a new definition as a person. The culturally dependent person is a mere spectator, a receptacle for the creativities of others. To demand freedom from slavery only to use that freedom to commit one's self to a voluntary cultural servitude is to lose the chance to be human.

- Dr. Asa G. Hilliard III from The Maroon Within Us

I. The Maroon as metaphor for resistance in Third World

The struggle of the maroon is indeed a model for all forms of resistance to oppression. We see throughout Latin America, the Caribbean and the Third World, examples of the maroon legacy. The Tupac Amaru guerilla freedom fighters camped out deep in the mountainous Amazonian forests of Peru are examples of this maroon spirit that permeates revolution. There is little doubt that Fidel Castro and his confidant Ernesto "Che" Guevarra were not steeped in the oral history of the maroon armed struggle in Cuba, Jamaica and elsewhere. As they puffed on their hand rolled Criollos, hidden deep in the Sierra Madre mountains, plotting guerilla tactics against Batista's regime, there is certainty that their resistance was more akin to the likes of Cudjoe and Ganga Zumba than Lenin or Engels. Even the African Mao Mao as far away as Kenya and the Viet Cong of Indochina were reminiscent of the maroon in ethos, thought and action.

II. Origins of Maroons in Caribbean and Latin America

According to some accounts, the presence of African and mixed African and Indian maroon societies predates Columbus by hundreds if not thousands of years. Leading among scholars in this area is Dr. Ivan Van Sertima , who asserts with compelling evidence that Africans traveled to the Americas in successive voyages searching for resources and trade. Going as far back as the Nubian dynastic period of Ancient Egypt in the years 800-700 B.C. these voyages continued from Western Africa until as late as the fifteenth century. There were several African accounts of black voyagers who journeyed across the Atlantic and never returned. When Columbus mistakenly landed in the isles of the Caribbean he was met by natives who told him he and his white colleagues were not the first strangers to appear. The Natives informed Columbus that his voyage had been preceded on occasions by boats filled with black men carrying gold tipped spears called "guanin". Columbus later found that "guanin" was close to a West African word for gold. These stories, taken from Columbus' own log entries, confirm that Africans who ventured across the Atlantic did successfully reach land in the Americas. This and other evidence throughout the Caribbean, South, Central and North America indicate that there indeed was an African presence in America that long predated Columbus and therefore slavery in the Americas. Thus it could be argued easily that some of the mixed African and Native "maroon" societies encountered by early explorers to America were not the result of early failed attempts to enslave Africans in America, but instead were the result of a long historical cooperative economic alliance between native peoples of the two continents. Further scholarship is needed to further support this area of study.

Nevertheless, our discussion will concentrate on the more understood history of Maroons, which begins with slavery. According to Smithsonian scholar, Richard Price , the first African maroon in America arrived within a decade after Columbus. The English term Maroon is derived from the Spanish word Cimarrуn, which by the end of the 1530's meant "fierce", "wild" and "unbroken". The history of the Maroon in America is synonymous with the history of resistance and rebellion against inhumanity and tyranny. Scholars Bilby and N'Diaye state the following:

In many ways the maroon experience is emblematic of broader processes that helped shape the Western Hemisphere. Not only were maroons in the forefront of resistance to slavery, they were among the first pioneers to explore and adapt to the more remote, unsettled spaces in both American continents and the Caribbean. Maroons were among the first Americans in the wake of 1492 to resist colonial domination, striving for independence, forging new cultures and identities, and developing solidarity out of diversity--processes which only later took place, on a much larger scale, in emerging nation-states. In the French colony of Saint-Domingue, maroons helped to launch the Haitian Revolution, which gave birth to one of the first independent republics in the Americas in 1804.

Other than Hispaniola, the most famous maroon societies formed in Jamaica, Barbados and other islands of the Caribbean, Brazil, Suriname and other colonies of Latin America and in the US in the areas of Florida and Georgia.

Maroons refused to accept any cultural identity other than that of their own choosing. Theirs was an indefatigable force for self assertion and affirmation. When those wishing to suppress their desire for cultural independence opted to terrorize Maroons with the inhumanity of slavery or even death, their peaceful assertion of independence transformed into an unmitigated compulsion for warfare in defense of tyranny. If Americans, who are so prone to spout platitudes about "love of freedom," were truly liberated from the racial biases that do in fact enslave them then the rally cry of the maroon would be dripping on the lips of every patriot. Instead, the Maroon, in the minds of governments and people ruling the peoples of the American continents would rather ignore their existence and as much have neglected worthy scholarship revealing their presence and legacy.

Nevertheless, it is the maroon as a revolutionary concept and the use of the maroon in Third World film that is uppermost in this discussion.

III. Treatment of Maroons in two films: "Lucia" and "El Otro Francisco"

Humberto Solбs' film "Lucia" (1968), which discusses the condition of Cuba during three distinct periods



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