March 11th, 2019
We had many early mornings, but this was one of my favorites because we talked to an economist, Ricardo Torres, that told us, "things reflect discrimination not always create it". We can argue that reflecting discrimination and being discrimination is no different, but lets just keep moving. He has visited American University, my school at the time, many times. Torres understands the U.S government and knows we do not need to compare the two countries. During our program many of us compared the two countries all the time, but this conversation helped us just look at Cuba as its own place.
Then met with a very interesting piano player, Victor Campbell, who was extremely knowledgeable about black influences within music around the world. He always talked about mother Africa. However this may or may not matter, but later we met his girlfriend and she was not from mother Africa at all just saying. This program is focusing on race and I am starting to notice a lot of trends that can mean something. Many women also did not have natural hair in the country. It seemed like the country was in the year 2000. Many men and women had perms and keratin treatments. Their hair was also dyed blonde. This could be seen among people of all skin complexions. These things mean something, even though people might not make conscious decisions to express themselves a certain way, they have influences.
Then we went to the studio of a famous Cuban artist named Eduardo Roca, this is when I realized that in Cuba the “celebrities” live among everyone. We met with popular people, who just hopped on motorcycles or just walked in the city to get to their next destination. Roca's art has been showcased across the world, including a Harlem art show exhibit. Also, side note, I thought Cuba would be good to my skin, but I didn't know how much sugar and salt would be in the foods, this ended up breaking me out and I also forgot my satin pillowcase.
After that we walked over to our next location in old Havana. The location overlooked the capital building. This store was called Dador. The place was amazing. The clothes ranged from $30-$200. The clothes are all made in the store and they employ people in the community. One thing I found beautiful was that the owners make sure everyone is paid and they get what is left. Many times we see wealthy business owners and their employee get what is left. I think this is an important business thing to have in mind. This is when we learned some pretty good information about the rising private sector in Cuba. In Cuba the government does not have enough money to support their socialist government, so the private sector has been opened to provide more options for economic stimulation. People in Cuba also do not wear clothes made in Cuba because it is expensive and bad quality. In Cuba you will see people wearing clothes that have been brought in from other countries and sold for door to door in Cuba. I seen something similar in the Dominican Republic, where people sold U.S brand in small rooms or out on the street. I am worried though that the private sector will increase color based discrimination. The women we spoke to had connections in the states and other countries so things could be brought into Cuba because things cant just be mailed to Cuba especially from the united states. Also Cuba is cash based so there isn't an online market to buy products. Many black Cubans do not have these connections to make their own businesses as the private sector increases. The business owners were also lighter skinned, which could explain their privileges in creating a private business. The best thing one of the owners said was that people in Cuba need to go abroad and come back because they are the only ones that understand this country.
Then we had dinner at a nice restaurant by our hostel!