INTRODUCTION
“Antes”
pro cessions past
The fiesta [ today] is not as pop u lar. Now it is more religious. Before,
it was in the streets, now it surrounds the church. Before, people liked
to party, more in the town. Now, people come to see the Virgin.
María de la Caridad LaGuna
After offering me sweetened café cubano inside her home, an older
woman (affectionately termed viejita) residing in El Cobre, Cuba, in
the early years of the twenty- first century described to me the Septem-
ber 8 feast day pro cessions in honor of the Virgin of Charity, Cuba’s
patron saint, and festivities that used to take place in the streets antes,
before 1959. The word antes—its prerevolutionary temporal referent
considered so obvious as to render unnecessary any explanation—
was ubiquitous in my conversations with Cubans, particularly those
who came of age prior to 1959 (cf. Frederik 2012, 6). What ever their
ideological orientation, whether praising the revolution for challeng-
ing the United States’ economic dominance and for addressing the in-
equities in access to health care and education that were so prevalent
before the revolution, or lamenting the disappearance of quotidian
things that were taken for granted in prerevolutionary times, such as
religious pro cessions in the streets, Cubans repeatedly spoke to me
about their nation’s twentieth- century history in terms that empha-
sized the 1959 victory of the Cuban revolution as a definitive temporal
dividing line.
With some wistful nostalgia, the viejitas to whom I spoke described
the street pro cessions dedicated to the Virgin of Charity of antes as
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