Changes in Cuban Society from the 1990's to the Present
The conference "Changes in Cuban Society from the ‘90s to the Present" was held in Santo Domingo on December 17 – 18, 2003. The first panel served to contextualize the changes that have taken place. Mayra Paula Espina Prieto, Centro de Investigaciones Psicológicas y Sociológicas—CIPS (Cuba), discussed the structural changes that have occurred since the 1990s by examining the rise in inequality and social recomposition. Haroldo Dilla, FLACSO-DR, presented an overview of the recent history of civil society organizing in Cuba and discussed the uncertain future of Cuban civil society. Cuban scholar Juan Valdés analyzed Cuban society in international, economic, social, and political contexts. Javier Corrales, Amherst College, served as commentator.
In the second panel, Jorge Luis Acanda, University of Havana, analyzed the concept of civil society for the Cuban context and discussed how changes in Cuban civil society have been reflected in Cuban thought. María Isabel Domínguez, CIPS, explored the attitudes and expectations of Cuban youth and summarized extensive survey research of the impact of "the crisis" on youth and on women. Rafael Hernández, Centro Juan Marinello (Cuba), examined the role of art and literature in Cuban intellectual life and their role in the changes currently taking place in Cuba emphasizing how the arts represented a form of social space in which controversial or taboo subjects might be discussed; he also served as commentator for this panel.
The third panel addressed new modes of economic and social survival. Viviana Togores, Centro de Estudios de la Economía Cubana, submitted a paper that addressed consumption levels and survival strategies, but was unable to be present at the conference. Guillermo Milán, FLACSO-DR, who was also unable to present his work in person, contributed a paper on the impact of recent immigration on Cuban society and the economy and the trans-localization of survival strategies. Cuban scholar Armando Fernández addressed new economic and social modalities centered on neighborhood participation in environmental issues. He stressed that the local initiatives represented new, legitimate forms of participation in the policy process. Cecilia Boves' (FLACSO-Mexico) contribution concentrated on citizenship, national identity, and the reconstitution of the Cuban nation. University of Havana economist Omar Everleny Pérez provided commentary on all of the papers and presentations.
The fourth panel explored the relationship between religion, culture, and society. Keeping with this theme, Aurelio Alonzo, DES/CIPS, examined the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Cuban state; Raimundo García, Centro Cristiano de Reflexión, focused on the role of religious organizations in community work and provision of services; and Lázara Menéndez, Facultad de Artes y Letras, looked at African-based religions and the social spaces of Santería in the reorganization of community spaces in Cuba. Margaret E. Crahan, CUNY, served as commentator.
Ariel Armony, Colby College; Joseph S. Tulchin, Woodrow Wilson Center; Rafael Hernández; and Margaret E. Crahan offered conclusions.
On the second day, a workshop was held to assess this project and indicate the direction for future work on Cuban society. It was decided that an inventory of the research currently being done in Cuba was necessary to understand the production of knowledge about the current state of Cuban society. The idea of social recomposition also emerged as an important nexus for studying related social phenomena such as community cooperatives, community organization, immigration, religion, race—both as a subject of inquiry itself and as a means of studying inequality, and the disarticulation of aggression and social consequences. Finally, it was agreed that the topic of citizenship requires further analysis, particularly as it relates to participation, community action, gender, cultural investment, the construction of citizenship and the role of migration and identity. Citizenship is also an important research question in that it allows for comparative studies, which would reinsert the case of Cuba—one often considered to be an exceptional case inappropriate for comparative study—into the field of comparative social research. This is particularly significant for the study of citizenship, which has emerged as an important topic for understanding governance, state-society relations, and identity.