Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

Ikú, Cumachela and the Figure of Death in María Antonia by Eugenio Hernández Espinosa

Bulletin of Hispanic Studies (2019), 96, (9), 969–983.


This article examines the figure of death in Eugenio Hernández Espinosa’s play María Antonia (1967) and Sergio Giral’s cinematic adaptation (María Antonia, 1990), focusing on the gendered performance of death through the character of Cumachela and her relationship with the work’s eponymous protagonist. First considering the depiction in the play of death (Ikú) as a figure with whom the living can interact within the framework of the Cuban Santería/Regla de Ocha religion, I then explore the presentation of Ikú as an omnipresent agent within the play and the manner in which this female iteration of death both reinforces and challenges patriarchal social and religious frameworks examined therein. Further, I draw on work by scholars of urban decay in Havana to analyse the inscription of death into the fabric of the city and the ways in which Cumachela/ Ikú’s performance renders her part of the palimpsest of the Cuban capital through her physical and conceptual association with its ruins.

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Author details

Humphrey, Paul