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Reinaldo L. Román

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Associate Professor

I am a historian of modern Latin America. I teach undergraduate and graduate courses about Cuba, the Caribbean, the Atlantic world, African-inspired religions in the Americas, and the history of disasters. My courses emphasize the development of writing and research skills with a collaborative and scaffolded approach. (I’m currently working on a course with UGA’s Writing Intensive Program). My teaching has been recognized with several awards, including the Sandy Beaver Excellence in Teaching Award

I am interested in the intersection of cultural and social forces in neocolonial societies. My first book, Governing Spirits: Religion, Miracles, and Spectacles in Twentieth-Century Cuba and Puerto Rico, explores efforts by government officials, journalists, and members of the clergy to regulate, prosecute, and discourage popular religious practices after laws that guaranteed freedom of religion were passed. By focusing on the careers of healers, mediums, visionaries, and so-called brujos (“wizards” and “witches”), I show how legal and extra-legal disciplinary strategies evolved after Spain withdrew from the Caribbean in 1898.

I am working on two research projects. Cuban Genesis explores the social and political impact of espiritismo, a transnational religious and philosophical movement, in late colonial and early republican Cuba. My account shows that espiritismo, especially spirit communications, influenced Cubans’ political imagination, helping to propel the insurgency against Spain and articulating novel visions for the construction of the Cuban republic. (See my “Espiritismo” for an overview of the practice. For examples of espiritismo’s influence on the reordering of society, see "Espiritismo and Urban Planning: Envisioning Regeneration in Havana and Oriente after 1898).” The second project, which is still untitled, considers the overlapping roles that churches, governments, and non-governmental organizations have played in disaster relief in the modern Caribbean. In an ongoing study of major cyclones in Puerto Rico, I show that religious understandings informed public and private relief efforts from Hurricane San Ciriaco in 1899 to Hurricane María in 2017.

Selected Publications:

Espiritismo.” In The Oxford Handbook of Caribbean Religions, edited by Michelle Gonzalez Maldonado, 193–214. Oxford University Press, 2024.

Espiritismo and Urban Planning in Cuba: Envisioning Regeneration in Havana and Oriente after 1898.” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Latin American History (Online publication date September 2016; DOI: 10.1093/acrefore/9780199366439.013.364 ).

“Puerto Rico.” The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers, vols. XI, The Caribbean Diaspora, 1910–1920 (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2011): ccxlix – cclii and documents. 

Religion in Latin American Historiography,” co-authored with Pamela Voekel in The Oxford Handbook of Latin American History, edited by José Moya, 454-487. Oxford University Press, 2011.

Governing Spirits: Religion, Miracles, And Spectacles In Cuba And Puerto Rico, 1898-1956. University of North Carolina Press, 2007. Web.

Governing Man-Gods: Spiritism and the Struggle for Progress in Republican Cuba.” Journal of Religion in Africa 37 (2007): 212-241.

Scandalous Race: Garveyism, the Bomba, and the Discourses of Blackness in 1920s Puerto Rico. Caribbean Studies 31 (1) (2003): 213-259. 

Spiritists versus Spirit-mongers: Julia Vázquez and the Struggle for Progress in 1920s Puerto Rico.” Centro Journal 14 (2) (2002): 26-47.


PhD, UCLA, 2000

Of note:

Parks-Heggoy Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Teaching, UGA History Department, 2022 and 2013

Sandy Beaver Excellence in Teaching Award, 2021-22

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