CUBANIDAD: A NOTION OF TIME

Created by Cebe Loomis

May 2013

To understand what it means to be Cuban today, one must understand time as a dynamic factor shaping national identity. Time for Cubans manifests itself within the historical architecture of city centers, classic American and Soviet cars carrying people functioning within daily time constraints, time waiting in line to receive monthly rations, the time of salsa, the time of reggaeton, how a university student will spend time after graduation, the Castro timeline or time waiting for the blockade to lift...

Name:
Ariel
Xaviel
Camilo


Age:
24
21
21


Occupation:
Student of Philosophy at University of Havana/writer
Student of Philosophy at University of Havana/rapper
Student of Philosophy at University of Havana/translator


Location:
Havana, Cuba


Question:
“Today, what does being Cuban mean?”

Answer (Camilo):
“You’ll find a lot of proud people because it [the revolution] was for the people and by the people, so older people are more proud. The younger people were born into it, that is why were not as proud. But we are proud; I mean we would like to be better. Right now the biggest challenge we have is creating a social conscious, encouraging them [the younger people] to participate. Now the government is encouraging us to speak up in schools. The president is telling that to the people.”

My experience in Cuba was largely shaped by my relationship with my 1950s Hasselblad camera. My camera was my tool, my companion and my confidant. By forcing myself to confront time in the sense of taking a more complicated photograph, I was able to further understand the relationship of time with the island. As I became more aware of time’s affect on the island, I came to appreciate the time I was dedicating to a camera thought to be lost in time, an antique, a camera that belongs to the time period of the cars circling Havana roads. I came to understand the importance of time with the subjects I selected, and I understood the gift of time they were lending to me.

For this project, I have chosen to construct an ethnographic photo essay in which I profile Cubans I met on my travels, as well as situate these profiles within the Cuban environment. The profile of a subject includes the following: portrait (120mm), name, age, occupation, location of photograph and an answer to a variation of the question, “What does being Cuban mean to you?” The question took on multiple forms as my research continued and I began to explore alternate interview techniques.

Name:
Cristina


Age:
29


Occupation:
Art critic/curator at Casa de las Americas


Location:
Havana, Cuba


Question:
“What does cubanidad mean to you?”


Answer:
“A place where you can still dream about.”

Photo:
N/A


Name:

Paul


Age:
26


Occupation:
University student of Economics/lifeguard


Location:
Cienfuegos, Cuba


Question:
“Today, what does being Cuban mean?”


Answer:
“I love Cuba, it is beautiful but I need to get out and if the police heard me saying this they would pick me up and put me in prison for five years. Ninety-nine percent of the population does not support Fidel or the government. I hope for Fidel to die in the next year. Chaves just died and I feel all of those older ones will go soon. I think Cuba will change, but after Castro…it will take time, but step by step.”

Cubanidad: A Notion of Time, was exhibited as my senior thesis project (B.A. Anthropology) at Vassar College, in May of 2013. The show included photographic prints, as well as accompanying text panels that presented the information given during my conversations with the project's participants.

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