Gerhard: We’re here in Havana in Cuba with
anthropologist Anna Cristina Pertierra who works on material and popular culture here.
This module is called “Life Within Limits” and we’ll be covering different issues or
different limitations that are sometimes thrust upon people and sometimes people impose on
themselves in terms of social, political, and economic ones. Can you give us a little bit more context
about Cuba and what sort of limits we have here? Anna: Sure. Well, since the early 1960s, Cuba
has been a socialist country and had a very famous revolution. Socialist economies do
tend to place limits upon how people can spend their money and where people can acquire their
goods from. Obviously, the intention there is to centralize things so that everybody
can have an equal share of whatever resources are around. That’s one set of limitations
that Cubans have both benefited from and struggled with in different ways for quite a long time. Since the 1990s, since socialism collapsed
in most other parts of the world, Cuba has been left without many countries to trade
with. There was a severe economic crisis as a result. Precisely at that time, the US government,
which is obviously a major power in the region of the Americas, placed some really heightened trade
sanctions upon Cuba, which meant that other countries are not allowed to do business with
Cuba. As a result, for about 20 years now since
the 1990s, Cuba’s had to make a whole lot of adjustments to how this economy is managed.
To everybody’s surprise, they’ve managed to retain a socialist system, but it has a lot
of modifications, and people experience a lot of problems in their everyday lives just
to keep things going in their households and to keep managing to meet their needs. Gerhard: Are we going to see some more of
that in detail down in Santiago de Cuba in the far east of the country, which is your
major field site—you’ve been working there for the last 10 years—to check out some
of these issues in more detail? Anna: That’s right.