Posturing and Posing

Regina Cano

Jogger on a Havana beach. Foto: Caridad

Just like anywhere else in the world, a certain percentage of people here in Cuba actively work at conditioning their bodies – developing each muscle and thinking more about their “looks.”  What’s more, the number of these individuals is on the rise.

For quite some while now, gyms have been gradually incorporated into our daily lives in the country.

Problems arising from being a little or a lot overweight, aging or the need for physiotherapy are no longer the main reasons that compel people to come and work out.

In Havana’s Alamar apartment building suburb, gyms began springing up everywhere after being allowed in areas where they couldn’t be provided by the National Sports Institute (INDER).

Out of their own pockets, individual citizens took on the responsibility of promoting, paying a registration fee and maintaining the equipment in good operating condition.

Jerry-rigged gyms were set up in cramp basements or by taking advantage of the green spaces of the common areas of the micro-brigades buildings* characteristic of the Alamar community.

On occasion these are under roofs, but on others they’re exposed to the sun and elements, representing a range of risks.

The physique fever arrived with the island’s opening up to the world in the 1990s and with the consequent wave of information on “everything for the body.”

Though the island is characterized by shortages and struggles, there’s no lack of people who dedicate themselves to such efforts to create an “aureole of admiration” for their corporal conditioning.

The consumption of industrially-produced chemicals in the form of pills, injections or other supplements complement the perspiration that comes from the weights and dumbbells used to sculpt the desired physique, with those concoctions also feeding the black market.

Posturing and posing, all their eyes attentively look for the reactions of male or female onlookers.  Though they may be grouped under any social strata, there’s nothing that better serves to define them than “the gym.”

* Micro-brigades: housing constructed by teams of volunteers and name of the movement that began with the Revolution for the mass construction of housing.

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Regina Cano

Regina Cano: I have lived my entire life in Havana, Cuba – the island from which I’ve still never left, and which I love. I was born on September 9, and my parents chose my name out of superstition, but my mother raised me outside the religion professed by her family. I studied accounting and finance at the University of Havana, a profession that I’m not engaged in for the time being, and that I substituted for doing crafts, some ceramics, and studying a little English and about painting. Ah! – concerning my picture: I identify with Rastafarian principles, but I am not one of them. I wear this cap from time to time, but I assure you I just didn't have a better picture.

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