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“Three Bags Full” by Hermer & May, 1941

By Paul Ryer, Consumption & material culture, History, Syllabi & pedagogy, Tourism Add comments

Given that many of us earn our keep, at least in part, by teaching Anglophone undergraduate students about Cuba, I thought it would be of interest to share teaching successes.  So, please, if you have a good pedagogical strategy or reading you’re willing to share, post or send it to me to post.

Personally, I have had great luck with this short reading: “Three Bags Full,” by Consuelo Hermer & Marjorie May, Random House, NY, 1941, ch. 2.  (Unfortunately, had to lower the scan quality a bit to fit into ethnocuba’s media library; it is also available under the title “What to Wear” in the out of print book Havana: Tales of the City, ed. by Miller & Clark, 1996).

Taken from a 1941 travel guide for North American tourists, I’ve found that students–aside from the occasional one who takes the reading as a literal prescription of current Cuban fashion–not only are relieved to read something on the lighter side, but that ultimately the piece leads them to raise their own questions about the nature of US influence on pre-revolutionary Cuban culture.  For many undergraduates, then, this article moves indigestible concepts like “hegemony,” “colonialism” and “imperialism” into realms of couture, daily life, tourism, etc, in a way that follows the old dictum: “show, don’t tell.”   If you do try it, let me know how it works with your own students.

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