Martor No. 26 / Year 2021

The One-footed Roller Skater. A Visual Ethnography of Contemporary Cuba  

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Mădălina CRISTEA 

National University of Political Studies and Public Administration, Romania 

Pages: 159-163


Consumption; black-market; scarcity; transition; Romania; Cuba. 


This article deals with scarcity of goods, consumption, and the ethics of photographing scarcity of goods in contemporary Cuba. It is based on a six-month ethnographic research conducted in 2015 and 2018 respectively and shows some of the photographs I took during these two visits. 

In the first part I discuss the scarcity and distribution of goods in and out of socialist environments, differences between capitalism and communism and non-traditional methods of consumption. How do desires of consumption impact people in contemporary communist Cuban society? What is the role of Cuban diaspora in sending so-called capitalist goods to Cuba? It also draws a connecting line between a state-controlled communist economy and specific forms of capitalist entrepreneurship, through the existence of a black market and the distribution of goods between people. The second part of the article questions my position in the field as an outsider who was gradually familiarized with the Cuban understanding of the world more generally, and of consumption specifically. How did locals react to photographs taken by foreigners like me? How can two children share one pair of roller skates and distribute their happiness? Making visible certain aspects of scarcity in contemporary communist Cuban society made me realize that photography has a profound ethical dimension. 

How to cite this article:

Cristea, Mădălina. 2021. “The One-footed Roller Skater. A Visual Ethnography of Contemporary Cuba.” Martor 26: 159-163. 

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