Cuba Blog Post 1: Understanding A Woman's Experience

by tuftsigl
Jan 06


Emily Bartlett is a senior majoring in International Relations and Nicola Pardy is a senior majoring in Political Science.

This morning we woke up to a full breakfast that our hosts at Casa Vladimir and planned for the day using advice from our hosts’ local perspective. He told us one of our main challenges as American students would be getting honest answers in our interviews because of the complex relationship between our two countries. He recommended we say we were associated with a European university instead—at least until we earn the trust of our interview subjects. 

Over breakfast, we reviewed our project goals and created a tentative plan of action. We would aim to speak with Cuban adolescent girls in hopes of understanding their experience within this culture. In particular, we wanted to focus on family structures and responsibilities, future aspirations and career goals, as well as their daily routines and everyday relationships.  We contacted Ernesto B., a photojournalist based in Havana, who agreed to meet us later that afternoon. 

We then set out to get a lay of the land in Havana Vieja, which is filled with people and opportunities to meet potential girls to work with. While walking along the Malecón, we encountered two 17-year-old girls who attended a local sports school. One was a runner and the other was a basketball player. We spoke with them on record about everything from the environment for girls at their sports school to balancing a family and career in the Cuban context. They also allowed us to shoot their portrait against the Malecón backdrop. 

Around 4 o’clock, we met with Ernesto in a local café in the center of Havana Vieja. Amongst local musicians playing salsa and bearded men who looked a lot like Fidel, Ernesto filled us in on all types of pertinent information concerning the female experience in Cuba. He explained that there is a significant lack of religion within Cuban culture, and that this results in sexual freedom starting from a young age. In addition, we were told that abortions are not only legal but also completely free. This likely influences sexual relations and their potential consequences in this country. 

As Ernesto put so well, “in journalism, contacts are the name of the game,” so we were hugely thankful to him for putting us in touch with his 16-year-old sobrina (niece) and her friends, who live in the outskirts of Havana in an old Soviet housing district. He offered to take us there the next day after the girls got home from school, and even suggested that we spend a night or two in order to see the girls daily routine and perhaps even sneak into school with them the next day. 

So now we wait. In the morning of our second day, we are anxiously anticipating our first meeting with these young women, so are setting out to explore our barrio further. 


Add new comment