Cuba, Economic Reform, Consumerism, Tourism, Waste, Recycling, Environmental Sustainability


This paper seeks to explore how a shifting economic model and an increasing influx of U.S. tourism, customs, and products will impact consumerism and waste in Cuba. The paper begins by charting the rise of an unwitting conservationist culture among Cubans, built out of necessity as a response to Castro-era economic hardships. This is followed by a discussion of recent Cuban economic reforms and the rise of tourism, private enterprise and material luxury in Cuba. For the emerging autonomous economic class who have shouldered decades of scarcity, the social and economic values of consumerism far outweigh any perceived environmental cost. Finally, an analysis is undertaken concerning the ideological and infrastructural challenges facing Cuba as it moves towards a future of elevated consumption. Public infrastructure in Cuba is outdated and ill-equipped to manage the swift rise in material waste that will result from increased tourism and economic activity. While co-production models and community organizing efforts to promote environmentalism have proven successful on other island nations that have experienced a swift rise in consumption, civil society actors in Cuba experience socio-political barriers to public participation. Looking forward, the Cuban state must empower the burgeoning private sector and Cuban citizens to participate in the effort to maintain Cuba’s low ecological footprint.

Publication Date

December 2018



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Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 License.