dimanche 8 juin 2014

BODY AS PROTEST; THE CUBAN CONTEXT

BODY AS A PROTEST: THE CUBAN CONTEXT
Two very distinct, contrary to each other, changes has been occurring to the Cuban Bodies over the course of few years.
1.   Overweight and Obese Bodies, of a sizable portion of the population
2.   Well-sculptured bodies, begotten after consistent work at the Gymnasium.
How could this be?

The propagandists in Miami often tout the lack of hard currency in Cuba and quantitatively shout that the Cuban professionals are paid so little. They also haemorrhage the propaganda that the country lacks food.
So successful has been their propaganda aided and abetted by the Mainstream Media in the USA that every one thinks of Cuba as a very poor country where people are kept enslaved and going without food.
A Mexican teacher I met at Kuala Lumpur airport, and a recent graduate from the USA, asked me, how is the poverty in Cuba, it is very poor right?
I had to tell her, you would never see the kind of poverty you see in Mexico, that sort of poverty is non existent in Cuba, and other such things of USA as homelessness, children not attending school etc.

But coming back to the theme, how come obese bodies exist along the well sculptured bodies?
Under Raul Castro the economy has changed and the people given freedom to operate small businesses.
I was told that many body building Gymnasium have opened up, charging the participants between 15 and 20 dollars a month to participate, and even a trainer provided. There are public spaces with training equipment as well. I was not able to visit or photograph one such gymnasium (lack of time rather than lack of permission) but I am told that they are up to date, most of the machines manufactured in Cuba itself.
The hard cash one has to lay out is a huge investment in deed. The Cuban economy can never be explained by the normal understanding of supply and demand. The regular phone system is so ridiculously cheap, as is the electricity (both under a dollar each for an apartment of two bed rooms) but the ubiquitous cellular phone has to be paid in hard cash. Almost every one seems to have a cellular phone these days in Cuba!
So there is some other driving force to spend such a large amount of money, in the Cuban context, and spending at least one hour each day at the Gymnasium?
Merleau-Ponty had discussed about context in Anthropology and of course, many of the folk illnesses such as Nervios in North Eastern Brasil and Perdida de Sombra in Central America has been explained in context of the socioeconomic situation in those countries.
To see scores of young men, all fit and trimmed, with fashionable haircuts and sculpted bodies, I began thinking whether this could be a form of protest, like the famous Polyneuropathy of the 1990s when Cuba suffered a great economic disaster?
Like many other things in every day life, the sculpting of the bodies cannot be controlled by any one, but it is the expression of the desire of the individual, even if costs a pretty penny.

Whatever may be the reason, the usual reason given is that they want to look pretty! Like Ricky Martin? It does not seem to be for attracting the opposite sex since the sexual mores of Cuba are dramatically different than other Latin American Countries.
Cuba is changing very fast and someone who has not been there in the last year would be surprised at the changes. Who would have thought in early 2013 that I could sit by the shade along a nice avenue in Vedado sipping Cortadito, the same quality if not better than the one available in Miami, for a fraction of the price (20 to 25% of the price). I enjoyed it tremendously!



Welcome to the New Cuba! A mixture of fundamental solidarity with some bodily luxuries to make this sensitive and sensuous population even more so!