Broadcasting Modernity, Spectacles,
and Television
The building that holds the Yara Cinema in the Havana neighborhood of El
Vedado is considered one of the best examples of Cuba’s modern architec-
ture. Built in the 1940s, the structure was part of an architectural renaissance
in the early to mid- twentieth century that aesthetically positioned the island
alongside economically developed countries.1 Yet, the building generally
known today as el Yara (in reference to the 1868 battle that initiated Cuba’s
movement for independence from Spain) is not the only modern feature
associated with the structure. Originally called Radiocentro, it served as the
headquarters for cmq- tv, the most important television network in 1950s
Cuba (see fig. I.1). Emanating from a period when many Latin American
media professionals saw Cuban television as the most advanced system in
the region, cmq- tv, like the building itself, was a symbol of Cuba’s progress.
Nonetheless, if Radiocentro/el Yara became a modern icon the moment it
was completed, the relationship between television and Cuban modernity
was, in the 1950s, much more of a work in progress.
Throughout the approximately ten years that television functioned as a
commercial media outlet (1950 60), the medium became directly and in-
directly entangled with Cuba’s politics and society. As the country changed,
television changed circuitously, particularly in terms of its uses and the
attention paid to it by Cuba’s elite (Havana- based, educated, middle- and
upper- class individuals) and people in power (e.g., government officials).
Television critics, owners, media creators, government officials, regulators,
audiences, and nonaudiences (people who did not have access to television)
assigned different meanings to the technology based on their economic, cul-
tural, political, and social positions and interests. However, underlying these
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