"Technological Disobedience" in Cuba
January 7, 2015 5:54 PM   Subscribe

How economic embargoes turned Cuba into an island of hackers & DIY engineers. (Accompanying photo essay). In 1991, Cuba's economy began to implode. "The Special Period in the Time of Peace" was the government's euphemism for what was a culmination of 30 years worth of isolation. It began in the 60s, with engineers leaving Cuba for America. Ernesto Oroza, a designer and artist, studied the innovations created during this period. He found that the general population had created homespun, Frankenstein-like machines for their survival, made from everyday objects. Oroza began to collect these machines, and would later contextualize it as "art" in a movement he dubbed "Technological Disobedience." See also, the short film: Havana Bikes (previously). Oroza catalogs and calls these things the Architecture of Necessity.
posted by spock (7 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
I also meant to link Ernesto Oroza's name in the above to his domain: http://www.ernestooroza.com/.
posted by spock at 5:57 PM on January 7, 2015

Unfortunately, all of this creativity is motivated by profound poverty and desperation. For this reason is it hardly enjoyable for anyone involved,” Oroza says.

That about sums it up. Tremendously creative and interesting but so frustrating for the users, I'm sure. Here's hoping that with the moderation in US policy, Cuban poverty will be alleviated.
posted by librarylis at 8:01 PM on January 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Really, librarylis? That was the line which stuck out to me as possibly biased.

I've got one other datapoint on this: a colleague, who went down to do what she called "repair tourism" in Cuba, reported that she at one point was confused when a man she met described his brother using a word she thought meant "sexy." It seemed the word "handy" (as in "good at repairing things") was used interchangeably for "sexy."

Other datapoints, anyone?
posted by gusandrews at 9:06 PM on January 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

I dunno... "Repair tourism" in Cuba sounds a bit like poverty tourism with a happy face. There's no indication that Cubans are inherently gifted in extending the lifespan of and/or repurposing goods. Nor do I get any feeling Cubans embrace anti-consumerist asceticism with a chipper diy ethos. If anything, these sound more like examples of prison ingenuity. This kind of creativity is admirable, though inevitable when people have no alternatives.
posted by 2N2222 at 12:58 AM on January 8, 2015

Gusandrews, out of curiosity, what word is that?
posted by kandinski at 3:58 AM on January 8, 2015

This feels very familiar. I grew up in a fairly isolated place, in the days before the long tail of the internet could bring me so many things. I remember spending endless hours scavenging, repairing, repurposing and modifying things, because there were so many things I wanted and just couldn't get. Kid stuff, not life or death, so it's not the same kind of necessity. But it felt great to get something to work. I count it as a skill to this day.
posted by elizilla at 9:35 AM on January 8, 2015

The documentary Yank Tanks covered the automative angle (making brake pads in the kitchen, DIY chrome building, etc).
posted by gottabefunky at 11:16 AM on January 8, 2015

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