Liu Institute presents: Cuba's Special Period: Frikies, Film, and the AIDS Crisis
Roundtable Discussion with Gerardo Chijona (filmmaker from Cuba), Antonio Eligio Fernández, TONEL (Art History, Visual Art, and Theory, UBC), Jerry Spiegel (School of Population and Public Health, UBC), and Oralia Gómez-Ramírez (Research Group on Gender and Sexuality in Latin America, UBC).
In the midst of Cuba’s “Special Period” (1990-1999) — a severe economic and political crisis spearheaded by the downfall of the communist bloc, the US lead-embargo and the failure of its farming industry—Frikies, a crowd of young people including gothic, metal heads, and skateboard kids took over the streets of Havana. They established a vibrant counter-culture scene influenced by European and North American punk culture. It was the same period in which Cuba endured one of the worst health crises in the nation’s history due to the scarcity of nutritious food. Throughout the crisis, Cuba’s public health care system not only managed to stay afloat but sustained worldwide recognition, in part due to its approach in treating the AIDS epidemic. People living with HIV were housed in “Los Cocos”, a clinic located near Havana. Equipped with excellent medical facilities, patients were given salaries, allowed to bring their families to live with them, and were fed high protein meals not easily available to other Cubans. Loosely based on the diaries of Dr. Jorge Pérez Ávila, director of “Los Cocos Sanatorium”, Gerardo Chijona’s film Ticket to Paradise tells the story of a group of Cuban Frikies who see in the AIDS healthcare system an escape from the socioeconomic conditions they encountered.
The event will serve as a forum to discuss the geopolitical forces that have shaped the lives of Cubans in recent decades, their connections with global health policies, and the role that film plays in disseminating these complex histories.