Mark A Phillips | Reparación - the never-ending life of Cuban things

Reparación – and the never-ending life of Cuban things ...

Whilst visiting Havana for an academic conference, I was intrigued by the extent to which Cuban’s continue to “keep things working”. They are famous for repairing vintage cars, often using parts cannibalised from other models. But it was clear this ‘repairing’ extended to many everyday objects. I wanted to explore, not just what was repaired, but where it was done and who did it. From the middle of the 20th century the concept of repair and re-use has steadily declined in Western Culture to be replaced by a culture of consumption and ‘hermetic design’ that makes repair difficult or uneconomic. By contrast, in Cuba a repair culture continues to flourish. Following the 1959 revolution and the 1961 US embargo, Cuban society has had to survive with limited imported goods, particularly from ‘Western’ nations. They became heavily dependent on support from the USSR (1960s-1990s). But following the demise of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, Cuba entered a ‘Special Period”, where they became increasingly reliant on repair and refurbishment to keep ‘technology’ and the economy going. To address the impact of embargos and the collapse of Soviet support, the Cuban government produced books to help citizens carry out their own repairs. This culture of repair is evident everywhere, in the ‘classic’ cars, repurposed bicycles, and in the many street-side repair businesses and commercial repair shops. Cuban’s continue to “keep things working”, creating ‘the never-ending life of Cuban things’. This project explores the ongoing culture of repair in Cuba today, covering the practice, the facilities and, importantly, the repairers, their customers and their families. Are there wider lessons to improve our environmental footprint and sustainability? Or will this culture die off, as Western consumerism encroaches?
Cuban repair workshopWorkshopDomestic appliance repair in ReglaRepairing the controller in an ironTelevision RepairsOld analogue tunerWatch repairsSalvaged watch parts for repairsCamera repairsCupboard of old cameras for salvage partsRepairing mobile phonesShoe repair and customerOld shoes awaiting refurbishmentRepairing sandalsIvan and Javier working on repairs for customersJavier in Ivan's workshopJavier repairing a food mixerDomestic fan repairsSalvaged electrical parts for repairsRepair guarantee card (3 moths)