Cary Aileen García Yero is a cultural historian of Latin America


  • 2022 - 2024
    Alexander von Humboldt Postdoctoral Fellow
    Freie Universität Berlin; Leibniz Universität Hannover
  • 2022 - Present
    Scholar Associate of the David Rockefeller Center
    Harvard University
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Cary Aileen García Yero is a Cuban-Canadian historian of Latin American arts and culture. She is Alexander von Humboldt Postdoctoral Fellow at the Freie Universität Berlin Latin American Institute and at the Leibniz Universität Hannover Center for Atlantic and Global Studies. She is also Scholar Associate of the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University. Her research interests include Afro-Latin American music and visual arts, race relations in the Americas, Cuban history, Cold War history, and cultural theory. Cary received her PhD in History from Harvard University in 2020. Her dissertation received Honorary Mention by the Latin American Studies Association Cuba Section, Best Dissertation Award 2022. She also holds an MA in History and a BA in music from the University of British Columbia.

Her work has been supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Afro-Latin American Research Institute (ALARI), the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies and the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University, and the University of Miami's Cuban Heritage Collection, among other institutions. Recently, she has been part of the Leibniz University Hannover’s project Arts of the Black Atlantic and the ALARI's Traveling Research Seminar on Afro-Latin American Art to develop the field via colloquia, seminars, and publications.

Her book project Colors of Dissent: Race, Nation and the Arts in Cuba, 1938-1963, studies the power and limitations of the arts to oppose racism in Latin American societies shaped by ideologies of racial harmony. She has been invited to present the manuscript to Cambridge University Press for their series Afro-Latin America.

Cary has been Managing Editor of the journal Cuban Studies, published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Among the issues that she edited (No. 43- No. 50) one was dedicated to the contemporary Afro-Cuban movement, for which she interviewed several Afro-Cuban activists. Her work reaffirms the need for dialogue between anti-racist activists and scholars, also highlighting her interest in public scholarship. As the Cuba Studies Program Fellow at Harvard University, Cary created concerts and symposia that challenged racist stereotypes while showcasing the inventiveness of Afro-descendant cultures.

Cary's work has been published in the Latin American Research Review Studies in Latin America Popular Culture, Cuban Studies, Epicenter, among others. She has taught history courses at Canadian universities such Simon Fraser University and the University of the Fraser Valley.

Book Projects

Colors of Dissent: Race, Nation, and the Arts in Cuba, 1938-1963

Fragment of Antonio Argudín's Los Inmortales al Machete. Photo: Bromer Art Collection

Colors of Dissent contributes a new way of understanding the role of the arts in articulating racial conflict within Latin American societies whose social and political institutions are restricted by ideologies of racial harmony. Focusing on Cuba during the Second Republic (1940-1963), the upcoming book argues for the relevance of the arts as a political force in history. It was the dawn of the 1940 constitutional era that legally sanctioned racial equality for the first time in Cuban history. Although Afro-Cubans continued to suffer socio-economic disparities, interracial activism had brought some social improvements to Afro-Cuban communities. Ideologies of racial harmony that had shaped Cuban life since the beginning of the Republic continued to limit discourse and action within public institutions. In the island, Cubans articulated racial harmony mainly through notions of racial fraternity (the idea that black and white Cubans are equal members of the nation) and mestizaje (the idea that the nation is defined by racial mixing). These ideals were powerful; Cubans could not pursue through formal politics what were considered unsavory visions of nationhood, such as a white cubanidad, or black autonomy; such ideas were deemed divisive, racist, and anti-patriotic. Colors of Dissent demonstrates that the arts were a privileged domain for the articulation of racial tension and for the construction of white supremacist discourses within the period's restricted political context. The artistic realm was unique precisely because it was less bound by hegemonic ideologies of racial harmony than the political and social public institutions were. Instead, art could respond to and constitute a counterpoint of conflicting sanctioned and dissenting national imaginaries subtly yet powerfully.

Black Art in Cold War: Race, Power, and the Cuban-Eastern European Socialist Bloc Art Exchanges, 1961-1989

Fragment of Uver Solís's Mujer con Sombrilla. Photo: Melissa Blackall

Cary's second book project, for which she is beginning to research, studies the government-initiated art exchanges between Cuba and the Eastern European Socialist Bloc (EESB) between 1961-1989 through the lens of race. After the triumph of the 1959 revolution, political and economic hegemony over Cuba switched from USA to EESB influence. While scholars have studied how US informal imperialism shaped race and cultural production during the republican years, little is known about the EESB impact on racial formation processes. Analyzing the ways in which such government art exchanges limited and/or enabled social change on issues of race, this study explains how past and new racialized imaginaries of belonging developed through the arts under the cultural influence of communist ideology and the hegemonic power of the EESB over Cuba. It also maps the transnational journeys, creative strategies and output of the Afro-Cuban artists involved in the art exchanges.

El Pasado Mio/My Own Past: Afrodescendant Countributions to Cuban Art

Fragment of Alexandre Arrechea's Desperate Measures. Photo: Melissa Blackall

El Pasado Mio, co-authored with historians Alejandro de la Fuente and Bárbaro Martínez-Ruiz, complements the visual arts exhibition of the same title, currently on view at Harvard University's Cooper Gallery until June 2023. The book centers the visual production of Cuban artists of African descent from the 19th century to the present for the first time, highlighting the racialized understandings that have informed the traditional canon. It showcases a group of artists who have never been exhibited nor written about together, including some who have received very limited attention from art historians, critics, and collectors. The book aims to understand Cuba’s pasts through their lives, experiences, and artistic production.


Peer Reviewed Articles
Other Publications
Book Reviews
Papers in Conferences, Symposiums, Colloquia, and Invited Lectures
  • Paintings of Dissent: Race, Nation, and the Arts in Cuba, 1939-1959. Latin American Center Lecture Series, University of Oxford, June 2022

  • Racial Segregation and 1940s Cuban Arts. Afro-Latin American Traveling Seminar, Washington Meeting, Washington USA, May 2022

  • The Challenges of Writing the Life and Work of Afro-Cuban Painter Antonio Argudín: The Archives and the Emerging Field of Afro-Latin American Art. Symposium on Race, Inequality, and Visual Culture. Harvard University; University of Basel. Online Presentation, December 2021

  • A Well-Integrated Culture? The Arts and the Cuban Revolution’s 1959-1961 Antiracism Campaign. New Directions in Cuban Studies Conference. University of Miami. Presented online. October 2021

  • Racial Segregation and Domestic Imagery in Cuban Figurative Art, 1940s-1950s. Universities Art Association of Canada Annual Conference. Presented online. October 2021

  • The Bifurcation of Cuban Arts: Authenticity and Afro-Cuban Creativity, 1938-1958. Canadian Association for Latin American and Caribbean Studies Annual Conference. Presented online. August 2021

  • Race, Civilization, and The Circum-Caribbean Circulation of Panart Records. Latin American Research Group, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Presentation online, November 2021

  • Remaking A Nation Free of Racism: The Role of the Arts in the Cuban Revolution 1959-1961 Antiracism Campaign. Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Cluster on Comparative Inequality and Inclusion. Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA. Presentation Online, October 2021

  • Afro-Latinidad on the Record: Race, Civilization, and Panart, 1940s-1950s. Arts Council of the African Studies Association Triennial. Presented online. June 2021

  • Art Exhibition Spaces and the Formation of Racial Knowledge. Visual Arts of the Black. Atlantic Project Workshop. Centre for Global and Atlantic Studies, Leibniz University Hannover, Germany. Presentation online, March 2021

  • Mapping National Belonging through Figurative Arts in 1940s Cuba. Poster. American Historical Association, Presented online. January 2021

  • Hegemony, Ambiguity over Lo Negro, and the Making of State Cultural Policy in Cuba, 1938-1958. Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Weatherhead Scholars Seminar Series. Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA, November 2020

  • “Patrimony of All”: Figurate Art Exhibitions and the Formation of Racial Knowledge. Atlantic Studies Workshop, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA, November 2020

  • Sights and Sounds of Cubanidad. ALARI Mamolen Dissertation Group. Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA, October 2020

  • National Ideologies and Cultural Policy in Cuba, 1938-1958. Invited Lecturer, History Department, State University of New York, Albany, NY, USA, October 2020

  • Challenging White Cultural Hegemony from Within: Afro-Cuban Figurative Art between 1940-1958. Universities Art Association of Canada Annual Conference, Presented online. October 2020

  • Revolutionary Transitions: Cuban Arts, Race and Nation between Republic and Revolution. Boston Area Latin American and Caribbean Historians’ Workshop, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA, February 2020

  • Making Cubanidad through Vanguardia Music during the 1940s, Cuba. First Continental Conference on Afro-Latin American Studies, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA, December 2019

  • Folklore, Appropriation of Afro-Cuban Culture, and Nation Making, 1938-1958. New Voices in Cuba Studies: Graduate Student Symposium, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA, November 2019

  • Antiracism Crusades and Color Lines: Visual Arts and Race in Revolutionary Cuba, 1959-1963. Latin American Studies Association Congress, Boston, MA, USA, May 2019

  • Figurative Art, Cubanidad, and Afro-Cuban Representation, 1940-1958. Cuba Studies Program Art Panel “Reflections on Cuban Visual Arts: Race, Politics, and Institutional Development,” Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA, October 2018

  • Race, Culture, and Equality in Cuba’s State Cultural Policy, 1940-1958. Building Bridges Beyond Disciplines Symposium, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA, May 2018

  • Inclusive and White: Race and Cultural Policy in Cuba, 1940-1958. Cuba Studies Program Seminar Series, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA, February 2018

  • Upholding Western Culture, Constituting Cuban Art: Race and State Cultural Policy in Cuba, 1940-1958. Canadian Association for Latin American and Caribbean Studies Annual Conference, Montreal, QC, Canada, May 2018

  • Las ambigüedades de la racialidad en el arte abstracto cubano durante la década de 1950. Congreso Internacional La Esclavitud y sus Huellas, Casa de América de Madrid, Madrid, Spain, Octubre 2017

  • “Cuban and That’s It”: Nation and Race in Bola de Nieve’s Afrocubanista Performances. Latin American Studies Association Congress, Lima, Peru, May 2017

  • Abstract Art and the Paradoxes of Race in 1950s Cuba. Administrating Difference in Latin America Invited Lecture, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA, Spring 2017

  • Neither ‘Tropicalisms’ nor ‘Folklorisms’: Race and National Visual Arts in 1950s Cuba. American Historical Association Annual Meeting, Denver, CO, USA, January 2017

  • The Arts, the Artists, and the State: Cultural Policy in Cuba, 1940-1950. Latin American Studies Association Congress, San Juan, PR, USA, May 2015

  • Music as a Political Platform during 1940s Cuba. Graduate Student Symposium on Latin American Studies, History Department, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada, November 2009



Between 1500 and 1870, 10.7 million Africans were brought as slaves to the Americas. Almost two thirds of them arrived to the Iberian colonies. In addition to receiving the majority of slaves, the institution of slavery lasted there the longest. Despite hardship and oppression, Africans and their descendants built their lives, kinship, and culture within structures of inequality. However, their influence on Latin American societies has, until recently, been underexplored. This course introduces students to the emerging field of Afro-Latin American Studies. It investigates how Afro-Latin Americans have been central to the development of Latin American societies. Using different resources – such as the black press, visual arts materials, music, constitutional texts, black manifestos, and scholarly articles and books – students analyze the wealth and variety of Afro-Latin American experiences. Lectures will present how Afro-Latin Americans have been integral to the functioning of Latin American economies; how they have shaped the law through their assertive use of colonial and republican legal structures; how they have contributed to the construction of national ideologies of belonging; how their ingenuity and creativity has formed varied Latin American musical styles, visual arts, and other cultural expressions, and much more.

Alexis Esquivel, “Republique Light,” 2012
Alexis Esquivel, “Republique Light,” 2012


Since the early colonial times, art has been integral to the experiences of Afro-Latin Americans and to the development of their societies. Through the arts, Afro-Latin Americans have sustained kinship and created spaces of resistance against racism. This artistic production has also been central to the development of Latin American national cultures and identities. Even though Afrodescendant artists bring a distinct voice in hemispheric debates over race and nation, their artistic output has been, until very recently, largely overlooked by museums, curators, and scholars. This course introduces students to the emerging field of Afro-Latin American art, meditating on the questions of what Afro-Latin American art is and what it does within Latin American societies. It also provides an overview of the main scholarly debates that have shaped the field. These explorations are developed primarily through the analysis of musical and visual art sources, taking both a chronological and thematic approach that studies this artistic production within processes of colonialism, slavery, national formation, and diasporic exchange.

Roberto Diago, Autorretrato, 2000
Roberto Diago, Autorretrato, 2000


Courses Designed and Taught
  • Race in the Americas. Sessional Instructor, Simon Fraser University, Spring 2011
  • Gender and Class in Latin America. Sessional Instructor, Simon Fraser University, Fall 2011
  • Colonial Latin America. Sessional Instructor, University of the Fraser Valley, Fall 2011
  • Latin America Since Independence. Sessional Instructor, University of the Fraser Valley, Spring 2012
  • Music and Social Change in 20th Century Cuba. Sessional Instructor, University of the Fraser Valley Spring 2012
Courses Taught as Teaching Assistant
  • The Cuban Revolution, 1956-1971: A Self-Debate. Teaching Fellow, Harvard University, Fall 2016
  • Issues in Latin American History, I. Teaching Assistant, University of British Columbia, Fall 2009
  • Issues in Latin American History, II Teaching Assistant, University of British Columbia, Spring 2010
  • War and Society, I. Teaching Assistant, University of British Columbia, Fall 2008
  • War and Society, II Teaching Assistant, University of British Columbia, Spring 2009

The Arts

Cary is also a classically trained pianist. Her musical education was fostered in Cuba's renowned institutions such as the Amadeo Roldan Conservatory and the ISA National University of the Arts .
Her dedication to music and to mastering the piano have resulted in several Cuban and Latin music projects as a contributing musician and/or music director.

More recently, Cary has also engaged in curatorial work, co-curating together with Alejandro de la Fuente and Bárbaro Martinez-Ruiz the exhibition El Pasado Mío / My Own Past : Afrodescendant Contributions to Cuban Art , the first exhibition in the history of Cuban art devoted entirely to artists of African descent. This pioneering project constitutes a small initial step towards rewriting the canon of Cuban art, aspiring to encourage future research and exhibitions of Afro-Cuban visual culture. Opening what could be called a "corrective phase" of Cuban art history, the exhibition gives a broad and inclusive overview of Afro-Cuban production, covering two centuries, from 1820 to the present, with 52 pieces produced by 42 artists working in different media and formats such as painting, sculpture, photography, and video.

For a photo tour of the exhibit, click here. (Photo credits: Melissa Blackall) For more on the exhibition: and Cary's previous music endeavors have resulted in several recordings and videos.

  • 2010
    Cary Aileen García Yero's Trio

    La Comparsa: An Anthology of the Cuban Piano

    Music Director, Pianist
  • 2014
    Ray Lugo and the Boogaloo Destroyers

    Que Cheveré!

  • 2010
    Somos Collective

    Todo Fluye Así

  • 2005
    La Candela




By address:

Cary Aileen García
Freie Universität Berlin
Rüdesheimer Str. 54-56
14197 Berlin