Hearing Voices, Seeing Tongues: Speech as Gestural Economy in Havana (1899–1924)
Juan Miguel Dihigo Mestre (1866–1952) established the Experimental Phonetics Laboratory at the University of Havana in the early 1900s. It was a state-of-the-art workspace for the study of how Cubans pronounced Spanish that also, according to Dihigo, served a therapeutic aim of correcting the “vices” of characteristic of Cuban Spanish pronunciation. Through a review of ideas regarding the speech of Black Cubans throughout the nineteenth century, including works by lexicographers and criminologists, the chapter analyzes the racial politics of speech in the Cuban context and the roles of Spanish and Hispanism in buttressing a wider ideology of white supremacy on the Island. It argues furthermore for the audiovisuality of the voice, as well as for how the specific linguistic and historical conditions of Cuba necessarily entail a consideration of voice as a racialized concept. The discussion analyzes interventions by Peñalver, Pichardo, Bachiller y Morales, Trujillo y Monagas, Antonio Gordon y de Acosta, Fernando Ortiz.