Cuba is witnessing profound change, uncertain yet pressing expectations, and the need to redesign its economic and political paradigms. An ongoing economic overhaul and the diplomatic thaw declared by then presidents Raúl Castro and Barack Obama in 2014 are being rewritten by the haphazard stance of the Trump administration and by the election of Miguel Díaz Canel to Cuba’s presidency in 2018, signaling the emergence of a new leadership after 59 years. 2019 also signals the 60th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution as well as the 500th anniversary of the foundation of the city of Havana.
A unique reality marked by two currencies (both void of international legal tender) and multiple exchange rates; an ever-increasing divide between nominal wage (in average 25 USD/month) and real income; and still standing social benefits (free medical care, free education, the longest rationing system in recorded history: 1962-present)—Cuba offers the possibility to study up close issues related to: socialism, economic transformations, race relations, gender and sexuality, informal economies, technology, and urban planning. These issues are not to be seen as static categories, but as question marks in a shifting environment.
Havana has been historically one of the most vibrant and modern cities of the Western Hemisphere, as indexed by the first railway of the Spanish empire in 1837 (Spain would see its first train only in 1848). The city boasts one of Latin America’s most pristine historical centers (UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1982) combining architecture from the 16th to 19th centuries, with refurbished palaces leaning on collapsed complexes. The city is Cuba’s economic, touristic, and political heart and a place in which you will learn as much on the streets as in the classroom and through your involvement with Cuban organizations.
Given the many assumptions from outside, shifting landscape from within, and the need for cultural mediation in-between, the project is articulated around three cores. First, you will take classes with leading Cuban intellectuals, providing you with an alternative viewpoint on concepts we question from/against a neoliberal perspective in the US. Second, you will achieve hands-on experience through visits, workshops, and direct engagement with projects run by Cuban NGOs and CBOs. Third, you will have to conceive, execute, and evaluate a research project leading to a publishable paper—this can be a personal or group research project.
Objectives and Outcomes
Life in Cuba is intense. The country is undergoing a profound transformation and the reality on the ground is changing fast. You have a unique window to observe this change in the making. Students will be hosted in private homes (2 per room, breakfast included, with AC).