by Mimi Chakarova
changing rapidly for youth in Cuba.
When the Soviet bloc fell
at the end of the last decade, everyone expected Fidel Castro to follow.
Indeed, economic conditions in the early 1990s were as bleak as they've
ever been for the island's 11 million people. A class from the Graduate
School of Journalism visited in 1992 and signs proclaiming "socialism
or death" dominated the landscape. Cubans had to make do. The end
of Soviet financing meant a scarcity of everything from bread to gasoline.
The streets were empty; so were the few, poorly stocked peso shops.
Socialism or death? Not
exactly. As the black market exchange rate soared and Cubans became
restless, the real choice became the dollar or death. Castro chose life
and legalized the dollar. Once again it became important to see what
had happened to the island so students from the Graduate School of Journalism
and the Freshman Seminar Program visited again last spring. What a difference
a dollar makes.
We found that the new greenbacks
from tourism and remittances had triggered the most profound changes
on the island since the 1959 Revolution. Adam Smith has replaced Marx.
Well-stocked dollar stores abound and nearly every Cuban legally
or on the side has become an entrepreneur. Juliana Barbassa writes
about the new Cuban capitalist and
Julian Foley visits Trinidad to profile
a black market tourist guide. Alicia Roca travels across the island
to see how the women in Manzanillo fare
by Mimi Chakarova
Life is also
changing for many workers around the country.
Archana Pyati looks at the
latest wave of Cuban immigrants to
the United States and the families they left behind on the island. The
dollars such immigrants send home have created new inequities and Annelise
Wunderlich meets the hip hop artists
who have found music in the advent of a class structure. Other, more
established figures in the cultural community, including those at the
National Ballet that Ana Campoy finds,
and the literary community that
Ezequiel Minaya profiles, have turned the economic opening to their
advantage. All of a sudden, a government that forbid artists to sell
abroad is encouraging them to do so and taking a cut.
At every turn, the question
arises: Can Castro control the changes? The government remains highly
centralized and block committees for the defense of the revolution still
exist, but it's impossible to count on neighbor ratting on neighbor
when securing dollars mostly in illegal commerce has replaced
baseball as the national sport.
The question of control
goes beyond the economy. John Coté demonstrates how ingenious
Cubans subvert restrictions to access the
Internet. And Bret Sigler finds Cubans in the small tobacco growing
town of Pinar del Rio wondering if there is room
for God, babalawos and Castro. Nearby in the town of Pilotos, Daniela
Mohor shows how socialism can still make the
We get a sense of Cuba's
past from Olga Rodriguez who finds the true believers, the foreigners
who remain loyal to the revolution; and from Angel Gonzalez who
describes his journey to his family's home
in Cameguey. Megan Lardner discovers the most ironic of historical twists:
the Spanish whom Cubans spent decades trying
to get rid of, are back.
All of this wandering and
writing was made possible by the generous support of Orville Schell,
dean of the Graduate School of Journalism and Harley Shaiken, director
of the Center for Latin
American Studies. In addition, Tom Engelhardt, helped inspire us
and assisted on the editing.