handcuffs, cuba, summer, vacation, moesgaard museum, anthropology, ethnography

A visit to Cuba: Miniature handcuffs

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South America

I was asked to write a blog post about an artefact from the Ethnographic Collections reflecting something about summertime. So, why did I choose a set of handcuffs from Havana, Cuba? Well, first of all Havana is – for me at least – the epitome of summertime. Endless beaches, rum, easy living, and funky drumbeats. I have never been there – except in my imagination, so if there are any Cubans out there reading this, or if some of you have been there, feel free to add to my imaginary list of things connecting Havana to summertime.

Back to the handcuffs… Relaxing in my hammock during my entire summer vacation (see the blogpost on the hammock) with a cool drink, a set of handcuffs could be a solid excuse for not turning up on the first workday after the vacation. Hmmmm… that might work.

However, I see another connection between the handcuffs and summertime: when the heat is on under the shining sun, people tend to go a bit crazier than normal. It could be argued that summertime in Denmark is an equivalent to the Brazilian carnival (if we really stretch the concept), where all normal rules of conduct and behaviour is suspended for a week or so. That means breaking the rules, and although that is accepted in Brazil (to a certain extent), breaking rules is NOT accepted in Denmark. Not even during summertime. Then ultimately, the police gets involved. And the police officers will put you in handcuffs.

In Havana, where Agnethe Grøn collected this set of miniature handcuffs in 2003, they are called “Herramienta de Ochosi”. Ochosi is the guardian angel for people who have trouble with the authorities, such as the police. The miniature handcuffs are worn as a talisman protecting the wearer. I am not sure if they are only worn in summertime. In fact, I am not sure if Cuba has any season that could rightfully qualify as ‘winter’ – but anyhow, they give protection.

Whether they are effective or not, I will leave the question open. And wish you all a fantastic summer – where you don’t get into trouble with the authorities. Of course.

//Ulrik Høj Johnsen

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putting thought to things

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