Havana beyond the Ruins
Cultural Mappings after 1989
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: Duke University Press
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This collection had its origin in a double panel at the Latin American Studies Association Conference in Montreal in September 2007. We would like to thank the panelists and those who attended the two sessions for engaging in a productive discussion and giving us the impetus for this book in the first place. Since then, we have received assistance from many individuals and institutions...
Introduction: Beyond the Ruins
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Havana, the twenty-first-century city that is home to over two million people and has captured the imagination of countless others, seems to stand at the brink of a new era. The impulse to read a city of rich and varied physical spaces from a temporal perspective is perhaps inevitable in the once utopian context of the Cuban Revolution, where history—as a past to be undone and a future to be built—weighs heavily...
Part I. Mapping Havana: Citizenship and the City
1. Visits to a Non-Place: Havana and Its Representation(s)
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If the notion of a city first implies the idea of the citizen and cohabitation in a physically delimited space, no less important is its reference to a civic imaginary and the symbolic construction of the city itself. The representations of the city, along with the memories and dreams that are produced in and by it, constitute the city itself and are expressed as the familiar, everyday narratives of its inhabitants...
2. The Bitter Trinquennium and the Dystopian City: Autopsy of a Utopia
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In contemporary cities, as well as Cuban architecture, there appeared—with some distinctive nuances—the e√ects of the same rigid and authoritative cultural politics that damaged thought, literature, theater, and other intellectual and artistic works in the 1970s. That persistence is largely due to the extent, cost, social repercussions, public placement, and lasting nature of the construction works, and above all to their ties to politics and politicians...
3. Barbacoas: Havana’s New Inward Frontier
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The recent documentary Habana: Arte nuevo de hacer ruinas (Havana: The New Art of Making Ruins, 2006), by the German filmmakers Florian Borchmeyer and Matthias Hentschler, examines the lives of habaneros inside the decaying buildings of a ruined city. The filmmakers bring to the foreground elegant works of eclectic architecture from the beginnings of the twentieth century that mirror the people living inside them...
4. The ‘‘Slums’’ of Havana
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Foreign visitors to Havana—while charmed by its stunning architecture, friendly residents, vintage cars, and tropical pleasures—can hardly escape a sense of dilapidation and seeming impoverishment. Steps from Old Havana’s elegantly restored colonial edifices, they may easily stumble upon shored up buildings and crumbling facades. On the way from tourist hot spots on La Rampa to Old Havana, they may catch a glimpse of decaying structures...
5. Havana and Its Landscapes: A Vision for Future Reconstruction of Cuban Cities
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The title of the project ‘‘Havana and Its Landscapes,’’ currently under way at Florida International University’s School of Architecture, is predicated on the fact that cities, which are urban landscapes located at strategic points in the regional landscape, are part of Cuba’s overall rural landscape. The word landscape is used to suggest a territory whose ecological characteristics are basic and important in providing sustainability...
6. The Illegible City: Havana after the Messiah
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Is there history after the messiah? How should one think about the historical period that follows the messianic kingdom? As leftovers of the past? As child abandonment? As a new Fall of humankind that will reinitiate its growth? In his book La potenza del pensiero, Giorgio Agamben returns to Walter Benjamin’s philosophical thesis to investigate the type of sovereignty...
Havana: A Photo-Essay
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Part II. Havana’s Shifting Margins
7. The City in Midair
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It was to a city ‘‘abandoned the night before by all of its inhabitants’’ that José Lezama Lima compared Julián del Casal’s poetry. According to Lezama Lima (1988, 192), Casal’s poetry ‘‘at times, follows a line of inhabiting with pleasantness a unique land’’ one that for Lezama Lima (1970b, 182) represents the Orplid, ‘‘the city of stalactites where the real and unreal interlace...
8. Made in Havana City: Rap Music, Space, and Racial Politics
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In her rap song ‘‘Niche Niche,’’ Cuban slang for black or dark skinned, Magia declares, ‘‘I am what my image shows, a black woman.’’ She raps, ‘‘Representing those women who dare to get out there / My skin is the color of night, it reveals secrets already known / To show that which is hidden is seen by all.’’ Through rap music, young black Cubans began to speak about race...
9. Urban Performance Pieces in Fragmented Form: A Reading of Pedro Juan Guti
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Tell a story. This is what we do in life and especially in academia where we weave stories in and out of texts to prove certain theoretical arguments. In this case, I wish to address the intersection between literature and the sociocultural environment as understood through the textual experience of dwelling spaces and buildings, in particular the home...
10. Topographies of Cosmonauts in Havana: Proyecto Vostokand Insausti’s Existen
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What to do with monuments once the figures they represent are no longer viewed as heroes is a subject that many nations from the former Soviet Bloc confront. According to Michael Kimmelman (2008), Hungary adopted one of the most unusual resolutions: ‘‘In Budapest statues of Communist idols have been relocated to a park on the city outskirts to become virtual headstones at a kind of kitsch graveyard.’...
11. Touring Havana in the Work of Ronaldo Men
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The term city brings to mind other expressions like urbs, polis, and civitas from ancient Greek and Roman civilizations. For the great philosophers of Athens and Rome, the city represented the peak of cultural progress. Aristotle affirms in the first book of the Politics that the city was created principally to make mankind happy and truly fulfilled...
Part III. Coda
12. La Habana: City and Archive
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To speak of Havana, the Havana of today and the Havana of the future, allow me to stray a little farther. Far in time and space. To a night in Thessaly, in the center of Greece, approximately (because there is no exactness in the memory of the events to which I refer) around 500 bc. On this night a banquet is celebrated in the house of a certain noble of Thessaly named Scopas...
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Page Count: 368
Illustrations: 16 illustrations
Publication Year: 2011