Tag Archive for 'socialism'

Cuba and the US: A Historical Relationship

Sugar cane has played a prominent historical role in US - Cuba relations

Sugar cane has played a prominent historical role in US – Cuba relations photo by Isaac Holeman.


If you’ve read my recent posts on Cuba, some of you might think I’ve been “going easy” on Cuba, that I always give this politically, ideologically charged nation the benefit of the doubt. I do not. I am, however, very intent that social critique be productive. It’s worse than useless to harangue Cuba (or anything) without a specific attention to the underlying structures and trajectories that have shaped its characteristics and will determine whether, when, and how these characteristics change.

Many Cubans are quite close minded politically. Censorship happens. No one is being disappeared like in Guatemala, but the press sucks and ideological advertisements are ubiquitous. I want to write a few posts about this, but it is so important to first examine Cuba’s troubled relationship with the U.S.

The Castro led revolution that began in the 1950’s is the third of Cuba’s revolutions that the US has worked to undermine in order to protects its own economic-ideological interests. The first two times we were successful in exercising ownership over the “unruly” Cuban people. This time has been more complicated.

U.S. [economic] sanctions challenged Cuba precisely on the grounds that the leadership was best prepared to defend: the ideal of nation, free and soverign – a formulation with antecedents early in the nineteenth century and the defense of which the Cuban leadership claimed the historical mandate to uphold. U.S. policy challenged the Cuban revolution at its most credible point and the most defensible position. Sanctions were perceived as one more maneuver to exact Cuban acquiescence to U.S. hegemony, another attempt to remove a government in Cuba dedicated to the defense of patria (homeland & heritage), one more way to punish the people of Cuba for having dared to aspire to national sovereignty…

Sanctions also contributed to reduce space for dialogue and debate inside Cuba. If indeed the survival of the nation was at stake, what mattered most was unanimity of purpose and an unyielding course of action, neither of which admitted easily internal discord and disagreement…

U.S. pressure could not but have acted to impede the process of political change inside Cuba. The Cuban willingness to pursue reforms – and the signals were mixed – could not have easily occurred in an environment in which the central preoccupation of national leadership was framed in terms of national security (remind anyone of executive abuses of civil liberties in the name of the war on terror?). On the other hand, it is possible to contemplate that these developments too were a desired outcome, for the U.S. did not seek a government reformed but a government removed.”

Perhaps the human rights advocate Miriam Leiva put it best “The irony of the situation is this: extremism in Miami (epicenter of the anti- Cuban Socialism lobby) and extremism in the White House ultimately serve to fuel extremism in Havana.” All quotes from Cuba: Between Reform and Revolution, 3rd edition, pages 316, 317, and 329.

The Devil if you Ignored the Details: The Unnecessary Brilliance of Consumerism

Juice, Juice by Isaac Holeman.

The adage you don’t know what you have until you loose it is realized in many interesting ways in Cuba. Some are positive, some are not positive. Some are just weird.

Fruit juice boxes like those pictured above are the fruit drink of choice or necessity in stores and restaurants all over Cuba. It’s the only brand you can get in most places. I think they highlight a very interesting difference between the consumerism we practice in the US and whatever it is they practice here.

Look at the packaging. Functional, familiar, but look at the images. The pictures they are pushing are not fruit. They are subtly unappetizing. The cut in half mango and orange are supposed to be dripping with tangy real fruit juice, which is signified here by the flabby growths. Look specifically at the Mango’s flabby growths, the light source comes from above, a little to the left, and in between the viewer and the box, but the shiny bright spot on the side of this mango obviously indicates that a primary light source comes from the right and perhaps slightly above and closer to the viewer. This primary light source is probably supposed to the be same light that shines on the whole mangos to the left and in the background, but the placement of the three shiny spots is slightly uncoordinated, so each mango seems to have a unique light source. The mango on the right is just doing it’s own thing, I guess they haven’t figured out that you can’t coerce people into buying things that confuse them. A million light sources (see leaves, water droplets as well) for a batch of fruit that should have just grown out in the sun will not bring in the big bucks.

The droplets of dew on the half mango, if you look closely, do not conform to the shape of the mango which means that they are actually dew pellets. In nature (where fruit should come from) I’ve only seen that in the sap of some conifers. Look at the vine the fruit grows on. Have you ever seen a mango tree? Was it a eucalyptus tree?

I can vouch that the juice is very good, and it is probably organic (about 80% of Cuba’s produce is organic, according to a video I watched on peak oil and agriculture in Cuba). I would bet that it is nutritious, but the packaged whole looks so much less natural than the sugar from concentrate+food coloring they push in the US. I guess the poor Cubanos haven’t figured out that people will rarely waste their money to buy more than the can/should consume when so many of a product’s relevant details have been ignored. If they would just open up the economy, the invisible hand of competition would show them that it’s unnecessary to allocate such great resources to managing the quality of the juice. All that is necessary is to pay attention to these few important details that make the pre-purchase experience that much more tempting.

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