El Cobre, Cuba: Images, Voices, Histories – UC Santa Cruz

El Cobre is a deceptively ordinary mining town in the mountains of Cuba's Oriente region. During the 19th c. it was one of the major producers of copper ore in the world. El Cobre is also the seat of a once popular public cult to the image of the Virgin of Charity (and her more closeted Afro-Cuban avatar Ochún). A basilica in the town is the home of the somewhat controversial Marian image that many still consider the (Christian) patron saint of Cuba. Even more remarkable is the town's decidely controversial past as a black pueblo, the only one in the island's history. During the 17th and 18th c. creole "royal slaves" and free people of color claimed collective rights to land, mining, local citizenship as a pueblo and ultimately freedom.

The images in this section constitute documents that function as entry points into El Cobre's converging histories. They also speak to the present and point to current local, national, transnational and global issues that are played out in El Cobre and related sites today. Although images are said to speak louder than words, they do not always do so clearly on their own. Images in this section are contextualized with an accompanying text that should not constitute the last word about them.

Displayed images include prints and photographs shot "in the present" and "in the past" that also suggest complex issues regarding the representation of temporality. Some images capture people, places and events while others are pictures of images such as paintings, murals, statues, monuments, cards and personal ex-votos. A few links to short videos--or moving images with sound-- of bodily movement, dance and performance are provided in some pages too. Images from the more remote past, however, are harder to come by. Maps fill in this vacuum. Yet the latter constitute an altogether different sort of images that represent the world in very particular ways. Recourse has also been made to a borderline type of image that is usually solely considered as text and yet can double as either.


Selections from M.E. Díaz,The Virgin, the King and the Royal Slaves of El Cobre



Click on a thumbnail below to view images
shrine image   memorial at El Cobre





MINING [under construction]


PORTRAITS [under construction]







* What do you look for in (and through) the images displayed in these sections? How reliable are they as documents? What do images do?

* What can images document that texts cannot (and vice versa)? How fundamental is the difference between them? Can images be considered "texts"? And texts regarded as images? What can images of texts (rather than transcriptions) reveal?

* What was the purpose and use of these images when they were produced? And now? Who were they intended for? Has their use, audience and significance changed?

* Is time and place represented in these static images? How? Which images represent the "past" and which ones the "present"? Or how is "present" and "past" represented in each of them and in the act of looking at them?

* Why are older images harder to come by? What kind of factors determine the availability of images? And of texts?