Cecilia Valdes, one of the jewels of nineteenth-century Latin American fiction, displays a thematic complexity that is unique among the novels of its time. Cecilia, the alluring mulata, has come to represent the survival strategies of women of color in a racist society. The novel occupies a prominent place in post-colonial studies about social stratification according to skin color in plantation societies. Villaverdes novel shows the process of modernization that resulted from the boom in the sugar industry, and the transformation of Havana and its social dynamics. The spaces through which the narrator leads us are the same spaces where the story of Cecilia and the history of Havana unfold in parallel lines. A close reading of the novel corroborates the often reiterated perception that Cecilia -alluring, hybrid, complex and tempestuous- is Havana, and is Cuba.
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