This introductory chapter outlines the critical role black and white Cuban musicians played in shaping Cuban ethnic and broader Hispano/a and Latino/a identity in the 1940s and 1950s. During this period, nearly 90,000 black and white Cubans migrated to New York and Florida, two of the most concentrated areas of Cuban settlement. Among the migrants were numerous musicians and entertainers whose stories and perspectives reveal both shared understandings and significant differences in their migration experiences, their participation in the professional entertainment industries, and their construction of white, brown, and black racial identities. The chapter briefly discusses their experiences and uses them as a window into a broader experience of Cuban ethnic identity. It examines how this identity took shape in a “Jim Crow city”—against the backdrop of politics characterized by a constant cycle of reform and revolution, as well as increasingly dominant ideologies and racialized practices of Pan-Americanism.
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