June 20, 2010
utilidor cocacolacuba
Magic Kingdom Utilidor Map, Disney World, Florida, 1971 (source)


In 1928, Fritz Lang released Metropolis, a sci-fi film depicting a dystopian future where the working class is forced to live and toil underground in order to support a bourgeois ruling class that abodes in the sky. In 1971, Walt Disney opened the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, a utopian resort where the working class toils underground in order to support a ruling class of middle-income American families that temporarily abode in its various themed hotels.


The nine acres of ‘utilidors’—windowless underground hallways and rooms—that run beneath the Magic Kindgom are configured in a wheel and spoke configuration, spiriting resort staff between the various themed zones without detracting from the visual experience at the surface—Walt is said to have been distressed at seeing a cowboy walking through Tomorrowland on his way to Frontierland. Metaphorically, the utilidors are where the ‘magic is made’, containing all of the back of house operations for the resort including garbage disposal, computer systems, warehouses, kitchens, costuming, an arcade, a bank, a cafeteria, offices, break rooms and bathrooms. Industrial in aesthetic, the utilidors stand in stark contrast to the elaborate and whimsical architecture of the resort’s surface, not unlike the contrast between Lang’s caverns and skyscrapers. However, unlike Lang’s workers, Disney’s laborers are free to return to the happy land of surface dwellers at the end of their shifts.


E. Sean Bailey


Coke in Cuba, 1958 (source)


Islands are often identified as ideal places to host resorts given their extensive shorelines. While Cuba is regarded as a single physical island, the rationale of this entity is not entirely cohesive. The Cuban resort is an island of logic within a larger archipelago, which until recently was separated from both socialist Cuba and the American occupied Guantanamo.


Prior to 2008, to ensure the isolation of international tourism in Cuba from greater Cuban society, resorts were located remotely in order to ensure that tourists were segregated from the local population. The state tourism policy which encourages physical separation was often referred to as a kind of ‘enclave tourism’ or ‘tourism apartheid’. In many ways tourist apartheid is reminiscent of the pre-revolutionary state of Cuban society in the early 1950s with hotels and resorts acting as of exclusive playgrounds for foreigners. These were some of the same circumstances that had ignited a revolution, forty years ago.


Cuba has been communist since the latter part of the 1950s and throughout the second half of the twentieth century it remained a primary enemy to the US. Following the fall of the Soviet Union, which had previously provided a major source of aid to the island, Cuba actively pursued policies to foster their tourism industry in the early 1990s in an attempt to boost a declining economy. This strategy represented what might be perceived as a contradiction within Cuban society, creating tensions with the underlying egalitarianism espoused by the Cuban revolution. Two parallel economies and societies quickly emerged, their demarcation represented by access to the newly legalized US dollar. Those having access to dollars through contact with the lucrative tourist industry suddenly found themselves at a distinct financial advantage over those who did not.


The policy of restricting certain hotels and services to tourists was ended by the government of Raul Castro in March 2008, allowing a capitalist logic to bleed into the socialist sphere.


Erandi de Silva






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