I started with the embedded course syllabus (INTAF 597C Penn State SIA) and then will post reflections for each day of the journey through the course materials and within Cuba. The hope is that this provides some food for thought respecting the necessary evolution of political and economic systems, and the constraints within which systems change or expend great energy to stay the same.
Links for full contents HERE.
This post considers our activities on Day 3--Cuban Health Sectors, Cuban cemeteries, and Cuban Social Structures From a National and Regional Trade Perspective.
1. Cemeteries exclude and welcome in ways that reflect the inclusions and exclusions of the society of the living form which they draw their residents. As a Catholic cemetery, now more open under the sensibilities of the current political organization of the state, it welcomes its own. Jews and Chinese had to find their own spaces. Thus the cemetery, like the society around it, seeks to normalize a majority while in the marginalization of tolerated (or even embraced subsidiary) elements physical differentiation is meant to underline the space between the “normal” or the “baseline” and everyone else. This is prejudice, to be sure (at least as understood today). But it is more an imperative of a society the basis of which is itself dependent on the maintenance of the divisions.2. Even within the normalized spaces reserved for the eternal ordering of social space the internal divisions of social hierarchy were respected. The rich, famous, and societal hero’s were accorded pride of place along the main avenue into the cemetery and leading to the Church that forms the center of the necropolis. This is space that is used to show off the wealth and status of the upper levels of social and political hierarchy, and also a space reserved to honor those individuals who gave their lives in the service of this hierarchy and the maintenance of its good order and safety. Among the most prominent of which were the many firefighters who died in the early part of the last century to save the city from a massive fire.3. But this division is not a simpleminded application of Marxist notions of class struggle physically manifested. The aggregation that was colonial and post colonial Cuba are also represented. The cemetery fractures along the ethnic lines of the largest elements of immigration—sections for Gallegos and for Catalans, for example. And of course, Afro-Cubans were relegated to the farthest points from the center of the cemetery—with the notable exception of a mulatto man who had the good fortune to marry one of the wealthiest white women of her generation and whose remains line the main street of the dead.4. Death can be monetized. The value of the Colón for the living is the extent to which the dead can serve as a source of income. The visits of relatives are nice but tourists are better. And even better the ability to guide the living through the interpretive journey to the land of death. Like other aspects of social life, the cemetery can serve as a social space for the articulation of the principles on which the current social order is based. And where foreigners especially can be charged for the privilege, all the better. This is not an indictment of the Cubans. Heavens knows the Europeans have a thing or two yet to teach Cuba on that score. But the use of dead spaces for socialization and embedding of current ideological bases of political organization can be profoundly important ot a spate sitting within site of a giant.
5. Money does tend to produce revolutions and family status does tend to move even the most rigid social norms. Placed directly across form the most prominent monument within the 5th Avenue of the Necropolis was the grave of one of the wealthiest, best connected, and scandalous women in Cuba in the first half of the 20th century. This tomb raised a large middle finger in death that reflected he position of her finger in life as it was pointed at Cuban society, the state and the Church. She was married into the most prominent family in Cuba, with children, and from one of the most prominent families herself. Their social, political and economic position put her and her husband at the apex of the social order. From this apex she appeared to fall--she began a life long, torrid and very public affair with another member of society, one that eventually saw her banished from Cuba--to Paris. Eventually connecitons and money allowed her an annulment--but with a heavy price--separation from her children; a price she accepted. She eventually moved back to Cuba and died on one of her frequent trips to Paris. Her lover played only a small and supporting role in this drama. And the fruit of all of this drama: a divorce law for Cuba. And as for that nose thumbing in death--she outwitted the rules that prohibited the building of a tomb monument taller than that dedicated to fallen firefighters--a tomb that sits directly across d¡from hers--by building a fairly squat building fronted by two magnificent palms that now soar above the monuments in the cemetery. And that, perhaps, provides the key metaphor for Cuban social culture emerging through the centuries.
6. People make their own saints and invest them with such power as may give comfort to the living. Such was the case with one of the most popular tombs of the cemetery--that of "La Milagrosa", a woman who died in childbirth along with the infant. When buried her child was placed at her feet, in accordance with the burial customs of the times. But it was said that when the tomb was opened the child had moved up to be near her mother. Thereafter many people come to the tomb to seek interventions for health, pregnancy and child protection. The Church has never recognized these events nor do they take a position with respect to the miracle. But people have. This disjunciton between popular culture and mores existing below but in sight of the rigid and powerful official culture and customs also marks a grounding feature of Cuban culture--social, political, economic, and religious. Perhaps it marks, as well, in its own contextually distinct ways, many societies cleaved by hierarchy.
The paper on which the presentation was based starts with an examination of ALBA’s ideology and institutionalization. It then examines ALBA as both trade organization and as political vehicle for confronting the power of developed states in the trade context within which it operates. ALBA remains embedded in a large web of trade arrangements among its member states that bind them in different ways under different arrangements. That context highlights differences, especially in relation to MERCOSUR (the Latin American intergovernmental trading bloc) and the abandoned FTAA. It also produces both cooperation and challenge. This is most acutely felt in ALBA’s relationships with CARICOM (the Caribbean Common Market) and in the rising network of bilateral investment treaties among regional states. Taken together, for the moment, at least, ALBA’s greatest contribution might well be its ideology. Its mere existence serves as a basis for challenging assumptions in the creation and implementation of methods of integration. It provides a base through which this distinctive ideological voice can be leveraged by its state parties in Hemispheric integration debates. It seeks to balance the tensions between post colonial nationalism, internationalism and state sector dominance by substituting for private markets and private actors, state actors and tightly controlled markets. It is no longer focused on eliminating borders for the production and management of private capital; instead it is focused on using borders as a site for the assertion of public authority to control all aspects of social, political, cultural, and economic activity. Understood as an ideological joint venture among its participants, ALBA represents a space within which a consensus on alternatives to the existing preeminent economic model of globalization might be constructed. As such, it may represent one of Cuba’s greatest triumphs and also its greatest challenge to the normative tenets of the current framework of economic globalization. Thus contextualized, ALBA serves as a nexus for six great points of tension and connection within both modern trade theory practice and the construction of state system frameworks in Latin America. ALBA implicates tensions between integration and nationalism; between public and private models of integration; and between internal and external regional trade norms. It also highlights connections between the current form of trade frameworks and the construction of alternative forms of trade arrangements; between anti-Americanism and integration; and between conventional frameworks of Latin American trade and it challengers. These are summarized in the conclusion.
The paper on which this was based may be accessed HERE: https://papers.ssrn.com/Sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1407705.The PowerPoint slides that are helpful may be accessed HERE: https://de.slideshare.net/LarryCatBacker/organizing-cuban-economic-enterprises-in-the-wake-of-the-lineamientos/30-Order_Discipline_and_ExigencyGrannacionales_as