Skateboarding, a pastime politically rooted in contesting private property by intruding into public space, is burgeoning a cultural revolution in Cuba, fronted by the island’s younger generation. Among the most dedicated riders of the country’s rising skateboard culture are women, whose very presence is a direct affront to traditional notions of gender and machista culture. A new documentary film, Hermanas en Ruedas, directed by Amberly Alene Ellis, chronicles the journey of female skaters in the Cuban subculture’s underground, liberated by their love of the sport.
The subculture is still heavily male dominated, not unlike in the United States, however the lack of the presence of women is moreso attributed to a thorough lack of resources within the film. “Almost always here, skateboarding is something that the men practice, you understand? Now the women are skating, but it is something that is basically new and there aren’t a lot of women practicing because we don’t have much,” says Gabriella in the documentary’s trailer. “We don’t have boards. We don’t have wheels. We don’t have a system. We need those things that give ourselves the power, to open ourselves in respect to skating, so women can experience something new.”
Despite skateboarding’s popularity among the island’s youth, it has yet to be recognized as an “official” sport by the Cuban government, making those who avidly skate subject to arrest by police. One of the few places that Cuban skateboarders can evade police interference is in the DIY skate park, Patinodromo, located in the Vedado area of Havana. Daria, a 15-year-old Cuban skater appearing in the trailer, emphatically argues why there should be more skating parks in the country. “There are only two skating parks in Cuba. One in Havana and another in Cienfuegos, and we really need to continue skating because sometimes you cannot go to one because it is flooded and the other isn’t running and you can’t skate in the park.”
The young women of the Hermanas en Ruedas trailer appear to be calm, collected and casually badass, with an aura of understanding that the rise of women in the sport is inevitably on Cuban’s socio-political and cultural horizon.