• White Gold / Black Energy: Architecture, Sugar, and Oil During Revolutionary Cuba’s Gray Period
    Gabriel Fuentes

Justo German Cantero, “Casa de calderas del ingenio Asunción,” 1875, reprinted 1981. Colored Lithograph. Los ingenios: Colección de vistas de los principales ingenios de azúcar de la Isla de Cuba (Havana, 1857); reprinted Barcelona, 1984, edited by Levi Marrero

“Sin azúcar, no hay país.” This statement highlights the fact that sugar—or white gold—has shaped both colonial and modern Cuba. But where there is white gold, there is Black energy—an unholy alliance between fossil-fuels (their extraction, production, and consumption) and African slave labor. Indeed, sugar, oil, and slavery have played a major role in the development of Cuba’s national identity, sovereignty, and collective consciousness. As Revolutionary Cuba strengthened geopolitical and ideological ties with the Soviet Union throughout the 1970s, its dark history of plantation colonialism and industrial capitalism coalesced with the relentless pursuit of industrialization and energy autonomy to form a Cuban-Marxist project subjected to Empire on both sides of the iron curtain. Through archival and field research, this project sets Revolutionary Cuban architecture within global histories of energy, triangulated over three dominant world powers: Colonial Spain, the United States, and the Soviet Union.

Gabriel Fuentes is an assistant professor at Kean University’s School of Public Architecture where he directs the professional master’s of architecture program. His research intersects architecture, aesthetics, and politics, especially as these participate in world-making projects (e.g. visions, heritage, utopias, modernities, imaginaries, revolutions, etc.). Along these lines, his teaching and research focuses on ways in which architecture reconfigures scales and territories of power, identity, and culture. His writing has appeared in Thresholds, Log, The Journal of Space Syntax, e-flux Architecture, and Future Anterior, for which he wrote an article that examines relationships between heritage, architecture, and urbanism in UNESCO-designated Old Havana, Cuba. He has also written about energy and environmental aesthetics in architecture, engaging sources in science and technology studies, ecopolitical philosophy, and critical/cultural theory. He is a winner of the 2020 Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture/Buell Center Course Development Prize for “Unthinking Oil: Public Architecture and the Post- Carbon Imaginary.”