Farewell to the Cuban Winter Kitsch

Dmitri Prieto

Winter in Havana. Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES — It would seem that time of the year in which Cuba is chilled by cold fronts arriving from the north – the period we euphemistically refer to as “winter” here – has definitively ended.

A couple of cold fronts gave us slightly cooler days last week and had no other significant effects on the country. The Cuban winter has come to an end somewhat late this time around.

With it also ends that interesting period of time that lasts a few months, when certain fashion trends bordering on the kitsch lead Cuban men and women to sport new garments – garments that may actually be of use in other, colder lands, but which are clearly rather excessive from the “climatic” point of view and which, highlighting certain masculine or female charms, afford us a set of coordinates with which to gage people’s consumer habits.

In effect, people’s increasingly conspicuous consumption habits are one of the features of Cuba’s current socio-economic environment. Despite the fact many informal clothing establishments were shut down, it is clear the consumerist logic is gaining more and more ground.

First, we started to see the employees of many State and private shops and cafeterias wearing Santa Claus caps and even bonnets with reindeer antlers.

The antlers were a rather ridiculous touch in more than one sense, but people used them as an emblem of professionalism (or so I gather), in a new economic environment in which publicity is becoming increasingly important.

Later, while walking down Obispo Street in Old Havana during a relatively cool afternoon (with a temperature between 17 and 20 degrees Celsius), I saw people wearing mittens and scarves. I realized this trend wasn’t unique to Old Havana, that one caught sight of it all throughout the city, where Cubans and foreign visitors try to convey a sense of elegance.

I was fascinated by this display of love for winter clothing. For me, they were the marks of an absent but imaginable winter, a winter lying in wait at a distance, perhaps – the sign that barriers were being taken down.

The winter – real or virtual – has ended in Cuba.

I wonder if we’ll be seeing the same fashion kitsch next year.

Dimitri Prieto-Samsonov

Dmitri Prieto-Samsonov: I define myself as being either Cuban-Russian or Russian-Cuban, indiscriminately. I was born in Moscow in 1972 of a Russian mother and a Cuban father. I lived in the USSR until I was 13, although I was already familiar with Cuba-- where we would take our vacation almost every year. I currently live on the fifth floor of an apartment building in Santa Cruz del Norte, near the sea. I’ve studied biochemistry and law in Havana and anthropology in London. I’ve written about molecular biology, philosophy and anarchism, although I enjoy reading more than writing. I am currently teaching in the Agrarian University of Havana. I believe in God and in the possibility of a free society. Together with other people, that’s what we’re into: breaking down walls and routines.

One thought on “Farewell to the Cuban Winter Kitsch

  • The funniest version of this phenomenon that I have seen is when the owner of my favorite casa particular walks around in her name brand UGG après-ski boots. She spends several months a year in Sweden where these boots are a necessity so it is even more ridiculous to see her wear them in Cuba.

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