Society for Cultural Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
This talk examines the ways Cuban families still struggle to access food and maintain a decent quality of life after the political and economic changes of the post-Castro era. Drawing on long-term ethnographic research in Santiago de Cuba, this research demonstrates how Cuban families struggle to acquire food and assemble “a decent meal,” a local social category where families determine whether food quality and cultural-appropriateness meet their standards (Garth 2019). While sweeping changes have taken place over the course of this research (2008-2019), the new constitution and recent political economic changes on the island have had little bearing on household food access; households in Santiago de Cuba still struggle to access basic ingredients, live with sporadic food shortages and economic hardship. While the new constitution opens up hope for many future possibilities, the immediacy of the struggle to get food on the table is often at the forefront of people's minds. This talk reveals that one of the most common ways of dealing with food scarcity, was “luchando la vida” (struggling for life): the arduous task of finding ingredients seen as essential to what is considered a “decent” meal. Drawing on ethnographic work within 22 households across the city, this research analyzes the personal, social, and emotional repercussions of the faltering Cuban food system and details the reasons why Cubans continue to insist upon eating in a particular way rather than adjusting their food consumption habits to what is available.