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Alfred Métraux was part of a prolific moment in which French sociology and ethnology were enlarging their scientific scope and advancing toward new fields. Following the colonial expansion of France, Métraux participated in establishing ethnographic methods for codifying social life, material culture, and artistic forms. Through his own transatlantic voyages and personal exchanges, Métraux left personal documents in different parts of the world. Consequently, many are the archives that hold parts of his personal collections, letters, and published or unpublished materials. In addition, because of Métraux’s own cosmopolitanism, studies on the ethnologist’s life and works can be found in different languages. Métraux meticulously collected artifacts and documents from different cultures, and these items are now part of collections in museums in Argentina, France, and the United States. The multiplicity of themes Métraux dedicated himself to during his life reveal logics and developments of his work, as well as the importance of fieldwork to his making as an anthropologist, or a “man of the field,” as he used to describe himself. His intense and long-term relationship with Haitian Vodou was central in his career as it arose from his early interest in vanishing civilizations, religious systems, and material culture, and defined his personal agenda for future research.

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Fernando Ortiz is recognized today as one of the most influential Latin American authors of the 20th century. Amazingly prolific, his publications written between the 1890s and the mid-1950s engage with a vast array of subjects and disciplines. Perhaps Ortiz’s most significant accomplishments were the creation of the field of Afro-Cuban studies and major early contributions to the emergent field of Afro-diasporic studies. Almost everyone else associated with similar research began their investigations decades after Ortiz and in dialogue with his work. Ortiz was one of the first to seriously examine slave and post-abolition black cultures in Cuba. His studies became central to new and more positive discourses surrounding African-derived expression in the mid-20th century that embraced it as national expression for the first time in Latin America. This essay considers Ortiz’s academic career and legacy as regards Afro-Cuban musical study beginning in the early 20th century (when his views were quite dated, even racist) and gradual, progressive changes in his attitudes. Ortiz’s work on music and dance have been underrepresented in existing academic literature, despite the fact that most of his late publications focus on such topics and are considered among his most valuable works. His writings on black heritage provide insight into the struggles within New World societies to overcome the racial/evolutionist ideologies that justified colonial subjugation. His scholarship resonates with broader debates throughout the Americas over the meanings of racial pluralism and the legacy of slavery. And his changing views over the years outline the trajectory of modern Western thought as regards Africa and race, specifically the contributions of Afro-diasporic peoples, histories, and cultures to New World societies.

Article

On August 29, 1916, the USS Memphis wrecked on the coast of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. A series of enormous waves drove the heavy armored cruiser ashore, killing forty-five sailors. The fact that the death toll was not much higher is owed to the heroic efforts of Dominicans to rescue the survivors of the shipwreck. This was despite the fact that the US Marine Corps had invaded their country three months before, initiating an occupation with unwonted violence. The US Marine occupation of the Dominican Republic would last for eight years, compiling a record of brutality inflicted on the civilian population that Senate hearings documented in excruciating detail. In the aftermath of the traumatic occupation, the shipwreck of the USS Memphis itself, rusting away in plain sight along the seaside boulevard in the Dominican capital city, became symbolic of US imperialism. The dictator Rafael Trujillo, a Marine protégé who seized power in 1930, pointed to the wreck as a relic of the days before US domination, contrasting it with the happy days after national sovereignty had been attained under his own strong rule. In order to implement the Good Neighbor Policy, an effort to expunge the negative legacy of the era of intervention and occupation known as “Gunboat Diplomacy,” President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the removal of the wreck of the Memphis after taking office in 1933. The wreck’s removal finally took place in 1937.

Article

Ellen D. Tillman

Woodrow Wilson entered the presidency in 1913, when the United States was already deeply involved in Caribbean interests and European nations were moving almost irrevocably toward war. Wilson’s 1912 election shifted domestic and international policy, though not always in the ways that people expected. Mired in his own ideas about constitutionalism and the progressive course of history toward some ultimate end goal, Wilson inherited an empire that complicated US strategic goals. Caribbean countries and territories, meanwhile, were undergoing massive changes in internal markets and shifts toward the global economy. As industrialization and rapid improvements in communications technology picked up pace, foreign investment reoriented Caribbean economies; the 1914 opening of the Panama Canal deepened US strategic interest in the region. During the years of World War I, from August 1914, Wilson’s administration proclaimed neutrality but increasingly became more interventionist in the Caribbean to protect the canal and to allow the United States to dominate trade in the absence of European powers. From the Mexican Revolution to World War I and the postwar peace process, Wilson’s presidency was largely dominated by the exigencies of foreign affairs—exactly what he had feared at his election. When Wilson became president, he and his secretary of state decried the willingness of the previous presidential administrations of Theodore Roosevelt and William H. Taft to use military force in policing the Western Hemisphere, and yet within a short time Wilson’s administration became the most likely to use force and even military occupation. He decried unequal financial relationships and tax burdens as detrimental to hemispheric solidarity and national sovereignty but expected Latin American nations to follow a particular “Anglo-Saxon” path under US tutelage. When the realities of Caribbean nations did not match his expectations, or when he and his appointees found certain populations unready for democratic government, he was willing in an unprecedented way to use military force to impose the US standard as he saw it. The Wilson presidency (1913–1920) tightened US control over the Caribbean, with the administration intervening intrusively and placing heavy foreign burdens upon Caribbean countries. The occupations in countries such as Haiti and the Dominican Republic worsened US–Latin America relations. Occupations failed in their stated goals as popular opposition forced withdrawals, although they left US-friendly militaries that guaranteed long-term support for US interests, often under militarily backed dictatorships.