Review: “Everyday Neoliberalism in Cuba”

June 12, 2011 § 1 Comment

In “Everyday Neoliberalism in Cuba,” author Harrison discusses the effects of the US embargo on everyday lives of Cubans. The embargo was implemented to compel the Cuban government to adhere to U.S ideals of democracy and capitalism, and is thus seen by America as a necessarily evil, punishment intended to force Cuba to change for the better. But Harrison argues that the embargo is a tool to pressure Cuba into complying with the U.S hegemony that, partnered with existing sexist and racist sentiments already in existence, causes great hardships in the lives of ordinary citizens, in a country where the U.S ideals promoted are not necessarily even the most appropriate.

Due to preexisting racial and sexual inequality, Afro-Cubans and women have been most harmed by the embargo. The embargo has caused the Cuban economy to suffer greatly, forcing many Cubans to find work outside the country to support themselves and family back home. However, most members of the Cuban-American diaspora are white, which advantages only the white Cubans as they can depend on family overseas for resources. Cuban women are also handed the task of caring for the household and children, resulting in the perception that working women are not as able or committed as their male counterparts. Thus, women are often the first to be laid-off or denied self-employment licenses, forcing many women to turn to prostitution. Afro-Cuban women face racism even in the prostitution industry. Though they are often the object of male tourists’ sexual fetishes, Afro-Cuban women are barred from hotels, restaurants, and clubs where they may socialize with clients and are instead force to solicit on the streets.

The American government and its citizens have long believed that our ideals of democracy and economy are the best in the world, and it is in everyone’s best interest if we preach our principles to every country. Harrison shows us that by excessively intervening in other countries, America often does more harm than good for the average citizen. American efforts to “help” these people only leads to violations of their basic human right.


§ One Response to Review: “Everyday Neoliberalism in Cuba”

  • Thank you for such a thoughtful commentary! There was an article in the Sunday Times just a couple days ago on the increased travel between the United States and Cuba because of President Obama’s softening of embargo regulations. This shift makes it easier for emigres to reunite with relatives in Cuba and to help them out with money and goods. It also makes it easier for non-relatives to travel for educational and reseach purposes. The former limits on how much money you could take into Cuba have been raised considerably, so this means that remittances will come to play an even greater role in Cuba’s economy at the household and small business levels.

    I don’t think the chapter says that all emigres in the US are white, but certainly the first major waves from Cuba were disproportionately “white flight” in the Cuban sense of the socioracial category. They had political and economic advantages that darker and poorer Cubans who have managed to migrate have generally not enjoyed. The wave of Cuban immigrants described in the NYT article came to the US since the early 1990s and is much more diverse in terms of race and class.. Nonetheless, the experiential and structural dynamics of race still have an impact.on the differential patterns of mobility among them.

    The NYT article made an intersting point: the post 1990s emigres didn’t leave Cuba for Cold War reasons. In other words, they weren’t necessarily anti-socialist, but were sick and tired of the material and political constraints of living in severe austerity , scarcity and rationing. They wanted more out of their lives, so they left. They have maintained closer connections back home and visit more often than the earlier wave of emigres, so says the NYT journalist. The article gives graphic examples of travelers packing multiple suitcases with food, goods, including flat-screen tvs to take home to relatives. They pay fees for extra suitcases, according to the number and weight. THere are some who act as couriers going back and forth delivering monies and consumer goods to Cubans on the island. They do this service for a fee, not out of altruism!.The research shows that Afro-Cubans are less likely to be the recipients or beneficiaries of this flow of resources , because if they have relatives in the US, and many do not, those relatives are not as well off as the immigrants described in the aricle. Black Cuban immigrants have the disadvantage of racial discrimination..

    The journalist raised the interesting question of whether this increased traffic and flow of resources into Cuba would have the effect of undermining the social order or sustaining it in the manner of a safety valve. We will have to watch what happens over the coming years and subject our questions to empirical–including ethnographic-invetigation..

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