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This paper was part of the 2016-2017 Penn Humanities Forum on Translation. Find out more at


A species native to Africa, the marabú tree was accidentally transported to Cuba in the form of seeds the transatlantic slave trade. Since then, it has been described as a weed that hinders agricultural development of the island with its dense rhizomatic thickets. Particularly during periods of agricultural stagnation, marabú spread with ease over the colonial legacies of sugarcane monocultures, becoming an insidious threat to the utopic agrarian policies of the Castro regime. Yet this sprawl prevented erosion and extinction of native species, reconfiguring the industrialized agricultural landscape with no regard towards political and colonial paradigms. As a network woven into the landscape, the marabú tree materializes the relationships between issues of migration, environmental decay, state failure, and decolonization. Tracking references in Cuban agronomical reports from the early 19th century and Fidel and Raúl Castro’s speeches, this project interprets marabú as a material-discursive system that imposes itself with a biological drive. How does marabú employ tactics of (in)visibility and insidiousness to reshape the landscape and its social, cultural, and political paradigms? How does marabú operate as an agent of dissent and resistance against totalitarian politics and colonial legacies?



Date Posted: 08 July 2019