Pioneros: Building Cuba’s Socialist Childhood. On view from September 17 to October 1, 2015, at the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, Arnold and Sheila Aronson Galleries, Parsons School of Design/The New School.

Program funded by the New School’s Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, New Challenge award, Foreign Languages Department, and Sociology Department.


About the Project

This unprecedented exhibition of the material culture of Cuban childhood spans from the 1960s through the 1980s. During those decades, a state socialist regime of Soviet type was established in Cuba that transformed daily life in the country. The exhibition explores the relationship between the political, the domestic, the personal, and the material orders, and portrays the impact of the global and national on daily family life.

Co-curated by sociologist Maria A. Cabrera Arus and art historian Meyken Barreto, the exhibition features over three-hundred historical items. It includes toys, furniture, books, clothing, appliances, children ephemera, photographs, posters, television shows, and recorded music. The latter are curated by art historian Emilio Garcia Montiel.

All artifacts and items belong to the Cuba Material collection, except for the posters, which are part of the collection of designer Pepe Menéndez. Complementing the show, Cuban-American artist Geandy Pavon, a former pionero, produced a series of photographs that actualize the meanings revealed as part of his present.


Complementary Events

Panel “Grown-Up Children from State Socialist Regimes,” co-coordinated by María A. Cabrera Arús and University of Connecticut professor Jacqueline Loss. Led by Professor Loss, this panel will gather the testimonies of writer Anya von Bremzen (born in the USSR), Cuban-American NYU professor Ana M. Dopico, New School Sociology professors Elzbieta Matynia (born in Poland) and Virag Molnar (born in Hungary), Cuban writer José Manuel Prieto, and Cuban historian Abel Sierra Madero, the two latter living in the United States. Panelists talk about how it was growing up in state socialist regimes. They discuss the similarities and differences between the childhood in Cuba, in Miami as a Cuban exile, and in the Eastern Bloc.

Screening of the feature documentary The Sugar Curtain” (2006), directed by Camila Guzmán Urzúa, courtesy Icarus Films, and the short documentary “Good bye, Lolek” (2005), directed by Asori Soto. This event, co-coordinated by Walfrido Dorta and María A. Cabrera Arús, will include a Q&A session with movie director Asori Soto and CUNY professor, Emmy awardee Jerry W. Carlson, and will be conducted by Walfrido Dorta.