Understanding Cuban society

In one of the Bollywood movies ‘Tiger Jinda Hai’ (Tiger is alive) shot in Cuba the hero and the heroine are seen as independent souls who were enjoying their life away from the glitz and glamour, while at the same time enjoying Cuban cuisine and interacting with the people. They were earning their livelihood by painting pictures and giving dance classes. This highlighted the unique aspect of Cuban society, which was minimalistic in nature, and was not looking for high brand glitzy fashion and other material benefits. 

 In the last five decades, the Cuban society has evolved from a primarily agricultural economy to a more industrialised one It is looking for more interactions with outside world. The cigars which were seen as one of the manifestations of the godfather movie brought into the limelight this critical luxury.  Cuban cigar is also seen as a luxury item. Many a times the sugar producing nations also feel that Cuba is one of the main competitors in the global sugarcane market. When one tries to peek at global society and tries to evaluate it from global perspective then the whole concept of living sustainable life with minimal demands comes into being. during the recent G-20 summit the whole concept of sustained living while reducing carbon footprint was buttressed repeatedly. 

Cuban society is a unique melting pot of Spanish, Caribbean, and African cultures and it is manifested in the music, food, art, and architecture of the society. Cigar has been integral part of the society and baseball is one of the favourite games. Even Cuban rum is one of the engaging things which most of the tourist try to venture into. Baseball has been discussed at regional and national level. It is a passion for many, and locals play it with panache. In terms of dance forms salsa is one of the important manifestations of unique Cuban dance skills and is one of the most popular dance forms in Cuba. Other dance forms such as Rumba and Mambo are the other two dances which are practiced in the Cuban society. 

Cuba has allowed mass organizations which includes workers central union of Cuba federation of Cuban women and many others which promote interactions between civil society organizations and working towards addressing those issues related to better social life and preserving the socialist welfare model. One of the organisations which is known as the committee for the defence of the revolution also acts as one of the broadest mass organisations which engages the youth and propagates the official line of action thereby promoting socialism through cooperative mechanisms. 

With an area of more than 110,000 square kilometres including land and water zones is one of the critical strategic spaces in the global history. Given the tropical climate and the natural resources that Cuba possesses which includes nickel, Iron ore, copper, silica, chromium etcetera while agriculture is one of the mainstays of the economy. The civil society comprises of whites which are more than 60 per cent of the population while the rest 40% comprises of mixed ethnic people and blacks which are 10 per cent of the population. Spanish has been widely spoken in Cuba and is also the official language of the country. Interestingly, Cuba has young population of 15 to 64 years comprising 70 per cent of the total population. 

The one concerning area has been the decelerating population growth and with the birth rate of 9.99 birth in 1000 population size, there are concerns about improving the birth rate and fertility rate as well. As in the many socialist economies the government spends 12.5 per cent of the GDP on providing health facilities to the population. This is much larger than many of the capitalist economies at the global level. 

There are few changes in the Cuban economy, such as cashless economy primarily aimed at bringing more electronic transactions into the system. The adaptation and implementation are still in elementary stages.  Cuba has done remarkably well in terms of containing the impact of corona virus and has been looking for containing inflation and providing food security to all the citizens. The US embargo on Cuba has been voted down by countries like Vietnam and Brazil in the United Nations to improve better international interactions between Cuba and the global community. 

In fact, one of the enticing things about Cuba is the culture and traditions which includes special kinds of musical instruments, native African dancers, and Spanish songs which are sung on the streets and ever in the popular cultural extravaganza. More importantly it is interesting to note that during the new year the Cubans through dirty water out of their house just to signify a unique cleanup process and start the new year with the fresh vibes. In terms of cuisine Cuba has tried to preserve its traditional cuisine which includes extensive use of pork, rice, and other ingredients such as black beans, vegetables, and other locally grown ingredients. Cuban coffee is one of the most sought-after drinks in the local society. 

The Havana Film Festival is seen as one of the biggest congregations of exposition of Latin American films every year and the friendship house in Havana brings about unique amalgamation of cultures, people, food, and music. Even in terms of literature and visual arts there has been major contribution in terms of novels and magazines which reflect Cuban society and their struggle against Spain colonizers. In fact, boxing is one of the crucial elements in the Cuban society and Cuban boxers and coaches have been making a mark at the global level. 

Prof. Pankaj Jha
Prof. Pankaj Jha
Pankaj Jha is faculty with Jindal School of International Affairs, O P Jindal Global University, Sonepat. He can be reached at pankajstrategic[at]gmail.com