Transactional bodies

Dance, tourism, and idea(l)s of Cubanness

Authored by: Ruxandra Ana

The Routledge Handbook of Popular Culture and Tourism

Print publication date:  June  2018
Online publication date:  July  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138678354
eBook ISBN: 9781315559018
Adobe ISBN:


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Shortly before noon, Isabel’s mother welcomes me in their house in Old Havana, telling me the dance classes had already started early in the morning, but would carry on until late in the afternoon. That would give me the chance to talk to some of the instructors, even though their breaks were very short or sometimes even inexistent as the demand for dance classes was quite high due to the increased number of tourists (la cantidad de turismo). Isabel and her husband, Javier, my hosts ever since I first travelled to Havana, are running a rather successful business as owners of two casas particulares – Cuban houses for rent, also known among tourists and tourism organizers alike as the cheaper alternative to hotels, and advertised as an opportunity to glimpse at the daily realities of Cuban life. A few years ago, my hosts started renting the living room of their third house (in which they currently live, having kept the two other houses exclusively for renting out to tourists) for dance lessons, and Isabel’s mother took charge of keeping the registry of the new business. ‘No es facil’, 1 she tells me, a Cuban saying that can be heard very often all across the island, in order to describe shortly and accurately the hardships of everyday life.

You know how it is, you come from a socialist country as well, you need to spend the entire day out in the street, looking for the things you need, and now with the dance classes I have even less time. But I have to be here, I have no choice.

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