SmokingHabaneras

SmokingHabaneras - 11 Social Text 104 Vol. 28, No. 3 Fall...

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Unformatted text preview: 11 Social Text 104 Vol. 28, No. 3 Fall 2010 DOI 10.1215/01642472- 2010- 002 2010 Duke University Press I first saw an object similar to the one pictured on the following page in Havana in 1996: standing about six inches tall, this painted clay figurine models a woman of color wearing a headdress, with a disproportionately large bosom and bottom, and smoking a cigar (fig. 1). The figure sat alone on a shelf in one of the then very few tourist shops on a street in Old Havana. The street, Calle OReilly, had not yet been but would soon be gentrified in Cubas attempt to make tourism central to the economy. In 1996, the crumbling, colorless colonial- era buildings had not yet been refurbished and repainted. Residents mostly and not coincidentally black families had not yet been forcibly relocated from the dilapidated buildings that were their homes. Those homes had not yet been renovated as quaint hotels to house tourists from Spain or Canada or beyond. That had not happened yet. What had happened was this object. She struck me with particular force: I recognized her, and felt and feared both the past she embodied and the future she threatened. What was she doing here ? The year 1996 marks a midpoint in the extreme economic crisis in Cuba occasioned by the dismantling of the Soviet Union and the conse- quent loss of Soviet financial support and the Eastern bloc as a market for Cuban goods. The level of scarcity facing Cuban society was extraordi- nary; all previous episodes of economic downturn or international isolation could not have prepared the Cuban people for this new struggle to survive. The economy was eviscerated in a matter of months: economists estimate that the country lost fully 75 percent of its imports and 75 percent of its exports. Everyday life became a state of siege, with relentless shortages of food, fuel, and medicine, punctuated by daily power outages, long waits Smoking Habaneras , or A Cuban Struggle with Racial Demons Jill Lane 12 Lane Smoking Habaneras , or A Cuban Struggle with Racial Demons for the few remaining buses in operation, long waits for rationed food. The lack of fuel, replacement parts, animal feed, and fertilizer meant the islands own food production diminished as need and hunger grew. The stories were poignant: advanced engineers and doctors the pride of the Revolution who became hotel porters just to win hard currency in tips; women standing at the edge of cordoned- off hotels begging tourists Figure 1. Ceramic smoking habanera . Photo: Jill Lane 13 Social Text 104 Fall 2010 for any extra soap, shampoo, or baby aspirin; cheerful television programs explaining how to make a meal of lemon rinds; a population of individuals who, on average, lost twenty pounds in the early years of the crisis....
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SmokingHabaneras - 11 Social Text 104 Vol. 28, No. 3 Fall...

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