The Documentary on BBC World Service, tx from 8 January 2019 - listen here, after first tx

Pictures by Cathy Howieson

Ordinary Cubans reveal what their lives have really been like under Castro’s socialism and, more recently, it’s transformation into a more capitalistic economy. For some, the Cuban Revolution was the last bastion of the communist dream; for others, a repressive, authoritarian regime. Largely missing from those debates were the voices of ordinary Cubans.

Almost 60 years on from the Revolution, Professor Elizabeth Dore discovers how people from different walks of life and generations have experienced life, work, housing, racism, sexism and corruption on the island.

"Cuban Voices " is based on the first large oral history project permitted by their government in more than thirty years. Professor Dore and her team of researchers got unprecedented access to ordinary people for over 15 years, and she has now returned for the BBC, visiting small villages and rural enclaves as well as the bustling metropolis of Havana, to hear how those same people's ideas have changed about the achievements and failures of socialism in Cuba. What she discovers frequently defies the official narrative of the Revolution.

While many welcomed the State’s provision of basic food, health care and housing, now they increasingly bemoan the widening gap between rich and poor. You will hear the Communist party member whose State salary barely allows him to survive in the damp one-room flat he shares with his sister, while others make a fortune earning hard currency from hiring out rooms to tourists or, in the case of one petty entrepreneur, by running a small computer business using software smuggled in from the US. While once ‘egalitarianism’ was seen as central to socialist society, that has been replaced by ‘equal rights and opportunities’, so has the Revolution, as some would say, abandoned its ideals?

Presented by Professor Elizabeth Dore
Produced by Mike Hally (executive producer Kati Whitaker)
A Kati Whitaker production for BBC World Service