Archive Master's degree thesis History

Multifaceted Memories: oral history of Cuban citizens on food, justice, and future imaginaries

This thesis presents the findings of an oral history conducted in Havana, Cuba during the summer of 2022, focusing on the memories of Cuban citizens regarding food, justice, and future imaginaries. Grounded in memory studies, the research explores food as a tool to access memory and build relationships. The interviews uncovered themes such as food access, traditions and habits, socialism, and future imaginaries, providing insights into the functioning and imagined state of the Cuban food system. The narratives of twenty-three Cubans depict the complexity of individuals navigating a complex society, offering a unique perspective on the idea of the “collective” and its broader implications.

The thesis follows a chronological structure, with Chapter 1 establishing the researcher’s personal connection to Cuba and the significance of food in connecting the Cuban diaspora. Chapter 2 presents biographies and stories of the interviewees, contributing to a deeper understanding of Cuban society. Chapter 3 explores the historical context of Cuba, including the pre-revolution period, the Cuban Revolution, the U.S. embargo, and the Special Period, as well as contemporary challenges in food access.

Chapter 4 discusses the intersection of traditions, consumption, and cuisine in Cuba, addressing the formation of a national cuisine and the influence of diverse cultures. It also examines how different identities intersect with food traditions and consumption patterns, considering aspects such as gender, race, and religion. Chapter 5 explores the impact of the Revolution, socialism, and the blockade on the Cuban food system. It discusses the historical evolution of socialism in Cuba and the perspectives of interviewees on socialism and its relationship with food. Chapter 6 focuses on the generational differences and perspectives of Cubans, highlighting contrasting experiences and viewpoints between older and younger generations. Chapter 7 and the conclusion emphasize the importance of joy, love, and hope amidst the challenges faced by Cubans, showcasing the interviewees’ desire for change and moments of resilience.

The thesis concludes by highlighting the radical insight provided by using food and oral history as methodological tools within an authoritarian regime, allowing for a deeper understanding of complex problems. The study employed oral history techniques, prioritizing empathy, deep listening, and a decolonizing perspective. Interviews were transcribed, translated, and compared to the original recordings to capture nuances and identify organizing themes. Overall, this thesis contributes to the broader understanding of Cuban society by utilizing oral history and memory studies to explore the multifaceted memories of Cuban citizens regarding food, justice, and future imaginaries. It offers a unique perspective on the complexities of living in Cuba and underscores the significance of food as a lens through which to analyze societal dynamics.

Read the thesis >