Ricardo Miranda Zúñiga

Structural Patterns

Reflections on Art, Technology and Society

Archive for the ‘Informal Sector’ Category

Cuban Girlfriend for Rent

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Spouting Bald Fat Man and Beautiful Young Woman

Friday April 26th, 2019, I had arrived in Camaguey, Cuba the previous day for the city’s video art biennial. Earlier this day, I presented a virtual reality piece – “Incertidumbre” outside the biennial’s theater – on the street in a small public square. It was a big hit with unsuspecting pedestrians, not so much because of the content, but rather because no one had tried virtual reality, so people were awed. Throughout the two-hour duration of presenting the work, there was a line, so that evening I decided to treat myself to a nice dinner at a restaurant that I had enjoyed on my last visit to the same biennial. I requested a seat on the rooftop deck as it was not too hot and I could enjoy the view of the city with its rooftop ceramic tiles and many church towers as the sun set.

I had the patio to myself until a couple arrived – a man perhaps near 50 with a young woman, perhaps in her late teens. As I was alone, I couldn’t help but overhear their conversation. He spoke with an Argentinian accent as he told her about his latest travels – business travels around Western Europe and South America. His voice was deep and aggressive, not particularly pleasant to listen to. He was a large bald white man who stood over six feet with a decent belly and skinny legs. His v-neck t-shirt with a pattern of sailboats was a bit too tight. She was a beautiful light-black young woman with an hourglass figure. Her large firm breasts shaped nicely her fitted dark tank top.

The large bald white man talked about flying first class, the delicious champagnes that he was served. He told her that in first class the seats fully recline. He would down three or four champagne glasses, transform his seat into a bed and put himself to sleep. He told her about the sporty BMW that he rented to travel around Spain as he had meetings in Madrid and Seville. He said his business was doing well, described how busy he has been, and that he was glad to be back in Camaguey to relax. He talked on and on while she remarked in awe but with a tinge of boredom. For the most part, she merely listened. Until he paused with a complaint – that he had been telling her all about his life and travels and she had not told him about her life – what she has been up to, details of her life…

At this she replied with a hint of frustration – “you already know all about my life. I get up, go to school, after school, I do sports until it’s time to go home for dinner, and then I study until it’s time to go to bed… That is my life, I don’t go out, because I’m too busy with school and athletics. I’ve already told you all this…”

At this point, I couldn’t help myself but shift my chair a bit and pretend to take a selfie with them in the background. It was a stereotypical reality that one hears about and sees upon visiting Cuba – older men from abroad paying girls for their time and bodies. It was clear that they knew each other and that they are together when he is in Camaguey. Perhaps he maintains her by regularly sending her money and in exchange she is his when he is in town.

I finished my dinner, particularly enjoying the plantains stuffed with shrimp. I had had those before and upon entering the restaurant, they immediately came to mind. I requested the bill from one of the waitresses – two and at times three had been hanging around the patio as the downstairs was empty and the only patrons were myself and the older bald white man with the beautiful girl.

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July 15th, 2019 at 1:16 pm

La Recesion en USA

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I was sent this video, I don’t know who made it or where it’s from.  The icon at the lower right corner looks like WHUT PBS, but can’t seem to find a link to it anywhere.  The video is great, so I’m posting it…  La Recession en USA:

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November 13th, 2008 at 12:34 pm

Street Vendors in Mexico City

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I arrived this afternoon to Mexico City to complete a commission for Transitio_MX02 Festival Internacional de Artes Electronicas y Video that kicks off October 12th for a week of exhibitions, panel discussions, screenings, performances, music… After getting a tour of the exhibition space that will be my home base Laboratorio Arte-Alameda and meeting a few of the coordinators, I went for a walk through the historical center of Mexico City. It’s been 12 years since I was last in Mexico City and the sidewalks seem even more crowded with street vendors than I remember. The street vendors in the historical center are a powerful force. When the civil administration has tried to get them of the sidewalks, the street vendors have united to present a powerful lobbying force. Today they are an institution that is not so much of an informal sector as a politically powerful entity that pays an undocumented tax to city representatives.  It’s a gamble that some 65 thousand people take to set up a small business.

This evening, I went for a stroll at 7pm, just as many of the vendors are ending their day. The steel frame of their stores are left empty, all goods are packed onto hand carts and pushed along the streets to secure outdoor parking lots where they pay to store their goods. The book stores look like large lockers that collapse into themselves and are padlocked.  The current city administration is trying very hard to clean the street of its “ambulantes” or street vendors, it’s succeeded in some blocks only to see them relocate in other blocks that already have vendors, making it very difficult for pedestrians to make their way.  The city in general is split, many of the people buy their goods from the street vendors at a portion of the price that they pay at a supermarket, so the street vendors become the market of choice.  Whereas others, perhaps with greater means find them to be a nuisance.
street vendor, Mexico City historical center

The store is packed and ready to be pushed to a secure parking lot for overnight storage. The frames remain, a permanent fixture of Mexico City’s Historic Center.

Street Vendors in Mexico City

One book store remains open when most have been shut and locked.

Street Vendors, Mexico City Historical Center

Behind the locked doors are shelves of books, magazines, CDs, DVDs…

Mobile shoe shinning unit, Mexico City

By 7pm the mobile shoe shinning units are shutting down and being prepared for storage.

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October 4th, 2007 at 7:43 pm

Posted in Informal Sector