26 June 2013

Cuba's Communism

Today I was searching the internet for a series of photographs of homes in Cuba and in my search for these pictures I remember vividly (but yet cannot remember the name of the photographer), I discovered Jan Sochor

His work is largely done in South America, though it appears he also does press photos around the world.  I especially loved his photo series in still-communist Cuba.  Sometimes one can forget that communism is still alive (perhaps not well) in the world, particularly since China is a special bastardized form that continues to boggle my mind.  Despite my interest in communism, I suffer from an academic disease known as "specific-time-and-place-interests"; I am not as interested in China's miraculous ability to marry communist political and social life with capitalist markets.  However, Cuba is a fascinating place that could potentially see a spot in my interests.  It very closely resembles old school, USSR-style systems and if this picture below doesn't prove that, you may not be paying attention.  Particularly fascinating is that people continue to support it, 50 years in.  Raoul did open the gates to some private enterprises, but Cuba largely remains the same as it ever did.  As an anthropologist, I see the cultural context in economic and political systems and how values and history ultimately support or subvert them.  I do not know even close to enough to speculate on the larger cultural atmosphere that enables communism to live on, but it's like looking at a time portal of eastern Europe, minus the nice weather and darker skin.

When the USSR supported Cuba, it took over social housing: from photo series 50 Years after Revolution by Jan Sochor
The USSR style housing may work better in a warmer climate since they were essentially slabs of concrete.  The Germans even call them "Plattenbauten", which means "slab buildings".

Queuing, a socialist pastime: from photo series 50 Years after Revolution by Jan Sochor

There is also the similar veneration of revolutionaries/present presidents.  Raúl Gómez García was a Cuban Revolution leader and poet.  It makes me think of Honecker portraits everywhere.
Raúl Gómez García's portrait in national office in Havana: from photo series 50 Years after Revolution by Jan Sochor

Be sure to check out his website for really great photo essays.  There were lots of others I really liked, but had no relevance to the blog. :(