SOCIOECONOMIC CONDITIONS AND CULTURAL TRAITS
The colonial heritage and the political and economic developments discussed above have all had a profound impact on the socioeconomic conditions and cultural traits in Angolan society. Following nearly five centuries of slavery, forced labor, and exploitation, the postindependence period has brought continuing hardships in the form of war and insecurity, economic deterioration, and suppression of civil rights.
Under such conditions, one would expect to find nearly total disintegration of social structures and for hopelessness and despair to be dominant cultural traits. However, the working out of political and economic developments is not a one- way process. People meet crisis in their own individual ways and find their own strategies of survival. Surviving in a musseque, an unplanned squatter settlement, in Luanda or in a war zone in the rural planalto (central highland)is an art and requires considerable innovative imagination and resistance. In the midst of crisis, Angolans have also excelled in cultural expression, ranging from having the best basketball team in Africa to having produced a number of excellent novelists and poets. The various means Angolans have developed to cope with the crisis will be a recurring theme in this chapter.
This is not to deny the extremely difficult situation experienced by the large majority of Angolans. As we shall see, Angolan conditions fulfill most classical indicators of poverty and vulnerability. Life expectancy at birth is only forty-five years, as many as 320 of every 1,000 children die before they are five years old,