VQR - Presidio Modelo - Panopticon prison -Cuba
Presidio Modelo - Panopticon prison - Cuba
While pursuing stories to show the reality of the effects on the population of Cuba’s fifty plus year experiment with socialism, I was directed to visit El Presidio Modelo. El Presidio Modelo was a former “model prison" of Panopticon design, located on the Isla de la Juventud in Cuba, built between 1926 and 1931, during the repressive regime of Gerardo Machado.
The Panopticon is a type of prison building designed by English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham in the late eighteen century. The concept of the design is to allow a guard to observe (-opticon) all (pan-) prisoners without the prisoners being able to tell whether they are being watched.
Modelled after the notorious penitentiary in Joliet, Illinois, El Presidio Modelo was considered the definitive example of efficient design, as up to six thousand prisoners could be watched and controlled with a minimum of staff, but it soon became infamous for unprecedented levels of corruption and cruelty.
As our movements both physical and virtual are tracked on digital devices, we are watched, observed and surveilled by cameras, satellites, and drones - are we now not in a form of global Panopticon, albeit without the physical bars...?
Published in Virginia Quarterly Review A Cuba Portfolio