Accepted paper:

Articulating 'capitalism', 'socialism' and 'crisis' among Cuban migrants in Spain


Valerio Simoni (The Graduate Institute, Geneva)

Paper short abstract:

The paper considers how Cuban migrants suffering the effects of current economic transformations in Spain articulate different values and frameworks of expectation associated with living in ‘capitalist’ Spain and ‘socialist’ Cuba, and are led to reassess possible life projects in the two ‘systems’.

Paper long abstract:

In the last two decades, an increasing number of Cuban nationals have migrated to Spain with the prospect of improving their lives and livelihoods. A common narrative circulating among the Cuban migrants with whom I carried out fieldwork in Barcelona during 2012 and 2013 is that they had left behind a crisis-ridden socialist system with the hope of joining a more affluent capitalist one. The current transformations in Spain, however, are reshaping the conditions of possibility these people are facing, prompting a reassessment of the two 'systems' and what they have to offer. Grounded in ethnographic research in Cuba and Spain, and inductively linking moral and political economies, the paper explores how Cuban migrants articulate these two frameworks of expectation, and are led to reassess and reimagine different life projects in the two countries. Discussing their precarious conditions in Spain, people criticize insecurity, individualism, isolation, lack of solidarity, and the primacy of work and money as current features of life in the capitalist country. This is contrasted with the situation in Cuba, seen by some as 'the best country in the world to be poor', where basic needs are guaranteed and solidarity still thrives, and where making a living is not predicated on having a formal job. Such relational oppositions and the assertions they prompt on the two systems and their different possibilities in times of crisis, lead to wider reflections on what makes for a good life, and what ought to be the place of the economic in it.

panel P65
Linking the moral and the political economy in the European periphery