Afro-Cuban poet Nancy Morejón belongs to the second generation of writers who emerged after the 1959 Cuban Revolution. Her poetry, which was mainly apolitical in the 1960s, began to address social and political issues more formally in the 1970s and early 1980s, as the Cuban Revolution and its official ideology made their imprint on her representation of the Cuban experience. Criticism of local reality, which is the hallmark of much Caribbean and Latin American literature, is noticeably absent in Morejón's work. This is a reflection of the officially promoted view of the Revolution as the solution for social ills. Race and gender are also treated in a manner that is consistent with the Revolution's concept of a united Cuban nation and in particular with the socialist view of the ideal society as one in which distinctions of race, class, and gender disappear. While Morejón's treatment of racial issues in general may be described as indirect, a distinct race consciousness is nevertheless evident in poems that memorialize black family members or are dedicated to other individuals of African descent. Morejón also weaves African motifs subtly into her poetic discourse, through symbolic use of figures in the pantheon of African deities and the incorporation of Afro-Cuban folk beliefs.
Among her best-known poems are those that are feminist in orientation, featuring real-life black women in diverse private and public roles. These include her mother, aunt, and grandmother and symbolic female subjects such as the Afro-Cuban protagonist of "Mujer negra" (Black Woman) and the black slave woman of "Amo a mi amo" (I love my master). Although feminism, like black consciousness, does not control her poetic voice, Morejón's feminist sensitivity is expressed in oblique ways, for example, in her creation of female figures as agents and makers of history and not as victims.
Every area of experience—from family life to historical moments in national life, as well as international events—is the subject matter of her poetry. The patriotism evident in her celebration of love for Havana in her early poetry widens into a nationalism expressed in direct and indirect ways in her later works. She finds poetic inspiration as easily in the historical achievements of the Revolution as in popular Cuban dance music. Events in contemporary Caribbean history, such as the 1983 invasion of Grenada by the United States and slavery as lived experience, also form part of Morejón's thematic repertoire. Like many postcolonial writers, her poetry is impelled by the desire to subvert or rewrite the dominant versions of history. Morejón's singular accomplishment is her creation of a body of poetry through which she speaks for the Cuban Revolution without falling into naked propagandizing. Her desire to speak with a communal voice has not caused a silencing of her personal voice. A lyrical current flows through much of her work, linking successive collections in which ideologically charged poems often appear side by side with poems that evoke sentimental moments from her personal life or reflect her deep engagement with others.
See also Women Writers of the Caribbean
Afro-Hispanic Review 16, no. 1 (1996). Entire issue.
DeCosta-Willis, Miriam, ed. Singular Like a Bird: The Art of Nancy Morejón. Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1999.
claudette williams (2005)