Janey Fellow Gabriel Vignoli presented a paper based on the 2011/2012 Janey Summer Fellowship he was awarded
Title: Habanomics: cuentapropismo vs. capitalism, towards a kaleidoscopic ethnography
On Sunday April 22nd 2012, Esteban Lazo Hern√°ndez, member of the Political Bureau and one of Cuba’s vice-presidents said: Today almost 95% of the country’s GDP is produced by the state; within 4 to 5 years between 40 or 45% will be produced by different forms on non-state production, .
Whilst this contention is certainly questionable at least in terms of its timings, given that the economic reform proposed by Raul Castro in 2010, according to which 500.000 people to be laid off from the state-sector between October 2010 and March 2011 would enter the newly and partially liberated private sector, has been only partially enacted (the unofficial number is a little over 50.000), it is indicative of where the country is going. The shift towards a growth of the private sector in Cuba, albeit riddled with uncertainty and insecurity after more than 50 years of paternalistic politics, is set, and as Raul himself has claimed many a times: there is no way back, .
This essay has two broader objectives.
First, it tries to sketch the impact of the economic reforms occurring in Cuba through three biographical sketches representing three different generations. This will allow me to problematize the notion of cuentapropismo, i.e. the condition of being on one’s own, as the so-called emerging private sector is defined in Cuba.
Second, it tries to link the emerging response to the reforms by proposing a direct connection with the Special Period in Times of Peace, as what is arguably the hardest economic crisis that hit Cuba after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the discontinuation of its subsidies to the island was euphemistically called by then president Fidel Castro. The link is not arbitrary, since it on the one hand is claimed by people on the streets, and on the other hand allows the reader to see the emergence of socio-economic realities and categories that permeate today’s economy in the Special Period. Finally, this second objective should allow problematizing the official historical narrative of ‘heroic resistance’ proper of the special period through the concept of ‘polysemic history’ a concept that will be explained in the paper and in a supporting publication.