‘Yo crucé el Atlantico sola’ : Cuban migrant women negotiating gendered autonomy in Spain
Elise Hjalmarson, researcher for the EU funded BETLIV project will be presenting a lecture for the annual congress of the Latin American Studies Association in Vancouver, Canada, May 26-29, 2021
How do Cuban women in Spain appraise their own and others’ migration projects, negotiate competing values, and weigh disparate possible pasts and futures? Insomuch as it takes seriously the transformative dimensions of migration projects for self and future, this paper also explores the relationship between migration and self-fashioning. Whereas women-led migration projects are frequently conceptualized as the product of household negotiations, undertaken by dutiful daughters or self-sacrificing mothers fulfilling family obligations, this study suggests that, for some Cuban women, migration entails the pursuit of autonomy, independence, and freedom—whether economic, social, sexual, or otherwise. For a bisexual woman, migration offers the opportunity to distance oneself from traditional value systems as well as the watchful gaze of one’s family. Meanwhile, for an aspiring singer, migration provides the hope of performing on a ‘world’ stage. The consequences of such decisions are ambivalent and will also be explored. All reflections are informed by the author’s ongoing fieldwork among Cuban migrant women in Spain for her doctoral dissertation project.