Dystopic Urbanism

Facts are just like pearls: they need a thread to stay together.If it lacks a unifying idea, the most interesting work by the most distinguished scholar remains unsatisfactory.
Werner Sombart, Economic Theory and Economic History, 1929

La Habana. The name has been a source of exotic fascination for quite some time. The fascination is said to have been ignited by a specific vehicle: an iconic picture by Alberto Korda portraying the Guerrillero Heroico, or Argentine physician Ernesto Guevara Lynch, better known—to those who failed to meet him—as el Che or—to the members of his inner circle—as el puerco (the pig) because of his scarce interest in personal hygiene. The portrait has a dreamlike quality: beret, gaze lost in the infinity of space, beard and hair both unkempt. Picture perfect, it became holy for a specific crowd—the so-called gauche caviar (caviar left)—that found it irresistible when mixed with the taste of Cuban cigars, rhum, and rumba (In countries, like Italy, where Catholicism and idealism shape culture, enforcing anti-modernism, anti-industrialism, and the combination of all of the above has made the fascination for el che an ever-lasting affair. One that cannot be discussed objectively. Still. One is either pro-Cuba and therefore ‘progressive’ or anti-Cuba, and therefore ‘reactionary.’).   Thanks to the portrait, el Che came to incarnate (for them) a collective aspiration and a ’dream.’ Guevara became a symbol for someone equipped with enough superhuman power to deliver what he promised: the shaping of a new type of man and a new type of (fair) social arrangement (It is interesting to note that a somewhat 'mirrored' analysis can be made about Guevara's sworn enemy—JFK—who died early enough in life for he too to become an icon of the somewhat counter argument). In 2011 Habana, however, the failure of this severely flawed social model is clear, and the state of general misery in which the city finds itself cannot but prompt intellectual speculation. Habana as the prototype of XXI century urbanity? Habana as a realized dystopia?

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