Saturday, February 26, 2011

"Videolits: Padura and Gutierrez," Friday, March 18, 5:30 PM

In anticipation of the upcoming visit of Cuban writer Leonardo Padura to New York on March 31, we are holding the following event to allow the public to get acquainted with some of his work and that of the provocative Pedro Juan Gutierrez.

The Bildner Center/Cuba Project cordially invite you to the following event in the CUBA Seminar series:

Cuban Arts Initiative: Film Screening
Padura and Gutiérrez

WHEN: Friday, March 18, 2011, 5:30 PM
LOCATION: The Graduate Center, Segal Theater
365 Fifth Avenue (@ 34th Street)

Please join the Bildner Center and presenter Jerry Carlson of City College and the Graduate Center, CUNY for the screening of two films Cuban Mysteries, An Interview with Leonardo Padura, and Dirty Real Havana produced by Claudia Ferman (University of Richmond).

Dirty Real Havana
Claudia Ferman's documentary Dirty Real Havana is about Cuban writer Pedro Juan Gutiérrez and post-revolutionary Cuba. Gutiérrez became an international literary figure after his Dirty Havana trilogy was published in Spain in 1998. In this novel, which has not been published in Cuba to date, Gutiérrez exposed to an international audience life in Cuba during the so-called 'Special Period,' a critical time for Cubans following the fall of the Berlin Wall. The documentary reveals the writer's persona as he opens up about literature, sex, and Cuba, in the context of 21st-century cultural debates. Ferman's documentary debuted on July 22, 2010 in Argentina at the National Fine Arts Museum. The film weaves together conversations with Gutiérrez, which took place in Havana over a four-year period, with excerpts from his narrative and poetry presented in performance segments. The film was entirely filmed in Havana and post-produced in Buenos Aires.

Cuban Mysteries, An Interview with Leonardo Padura
Cuban Mysteries, An Interview with Leonardo Padura presents contemporary debates on culture, politics, and literature in Cuba, through an approach to Padura's writings. Leonardo Padura is one of the most recognized writers in contemporary Cuban literature. He is internationally known as one of creators of the new detective novel. His best-known work is a tetralogy, Las cuatro estaciones (The Four Seasons), four novels depicting post-revolutionary Cuban society through the eyes of Mario Conde, a character that personifies the best qualities of the New Detective Novel. The film weaves together excerpts and dramatized sequences from Padura's writing with an interview with the author at his home in Havana.

To register send a email to

©2011 Bildner Center | The Graduate Center - CUNY | New York, NY

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Excellent New Blog: Larry Press goes to press -

El Yuma just got some great news from reader and colleague (and now fellow blogger) Larry Press.

He has just kicked off a new blog focused exclusively on the Internet in Cuba appropriately called: La Red Cubana.

I mentioned Press, a professor of Information Systems in California and one of the first to study new ICT in Cuba back in the early 90s, last week in a blog roundup about Cuba, Egypt, and the "dictator's dilemma."

He has just published a new working paper on the state of the Internet in Cuba today (Jan., 2011 - link below) that couldn't be more timely. There are also some great posts already up on the blog about current developments (cyberpolice and broadband) in Cuba.

What follows is his "Who Am I" statement at the blog.

Larry, let me be the first to say bienvenido a la blogosfera cubana!

About this blog
(translation in Spanish follows)

In the 1990s, during the years just before and just after Cuba's first Internet connection, I visited the island three times, and wrote several reports and articles on the state of Cuban networking.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

E-communist or Economist (Part II)

Un lector me escribe con esta respuesta a mi pregunta del post pasado:

Ese documento interno...

...del PCC no es más que un refrito con algunas citas de Raúl, sacadas de sus discursos.

El párrafo:

“Debemos defender los intereses de los trabajadores por cuenta propia, igual que hacemos con cualquier otro ciudadano, siempre que actúen en cumplimiento de las normas jurídicas aprobadas”. copiado del discurso a la Asamblea Nacional. Y esta otra que también se cita:

“Medidas como esta y otras que será necesario aplicar, aunque sabemos que no son populares, sí son obligadas para poder mantener y mejorar incluso los servicios gratuitos de salud pública, educación y la seguridad social a todos los ciudadanos”.

Citas literales de Raúl.

I'm an e-communist (or is that economist?)

What the CPC [Communist Party of Cuba] is telling its members right now, among whom there are some micro-mini-private entrepreneurs, is that when it comes to the “cuentapropistas” (self-employed workers), both the party and the government must “first of all facilitate their activities and not create stigmas or prejudices against them, much less demonization.”

From the article "A warning to communists," by Aurelio Pedroso, Wednesday, 16 February, 2011, Progreso Weekly.

By the way, can anybody out there in cyberspace (ahem, Ernesto?) find and put up a PDF of the document circulated by the CPC to which Pedroso refers?

Also see this interview of Cuban (Communist?) Economist Pavel Vidal Alejandro at the ever-readable Espacio Laical, "Desarticular el monopolio de la centralización estatal" [To Dismantle the Monopoly of State Centralization] done by Lenier González Mederos [H/T Penultimos Dias].

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A virtual Bay of Pigs?

Esteban Israel (the same Havana-based journalist who inadvertently helped make Yoani Sanchez a household name with an early article profiling her and other bloggers back in October, 2007) just published a sharp, balanced, and quite comprehensive article on Cuba, civil society, and the Internet at Reuters, entitled, "Cuba fights latest U.S. 'invasion' -- on the Internet."

Here are a few juicy excerpts:

It is 50 years since the last U.S.-backed invasion of Cuba but the island's communist leaders believe another one has begun -- not on the shores of the Bay of Pigs as in 1961, but in the virtual world of the Internet. [...]

"Social networks have become a new weapon for civil society," blogger Claudia Caudelo told Reuters in an interview. "They don't want the social networks to spread because they are aware of the danger that poses to a totalitarian government which hides the truth from its people." [...]

"There is evidently an intention to attack Cuba through the Internet. And of course Cuba has the right to defend itself," said Manuel Henriquez 47-year-old author of the blog Cambios en Cuba ( 

"It is an old war and this is its latest expression. What these (opposition) bloggers are looking for is to demonize the country, create an image of a repression that doesn't exist and later on allows justifying laws and blockades." [...]

Cuba's government says the long-standing U.S. embargo has been the main obstacle to Internet penetration and that there are no "political obstacles" to opening up the Internet to the broader public. But they say for the time being they cannot afford to install the needed wider infrastructure. [...]

Henriquez, the pro-government blogger, says the United States is trying to export a cyber rebellion model promoted in places like Iran. "But it isn't going to work whether there is Internet or not. A Twitter message isn't itself a reason to mobilize," he said.

Cadelo, however, says it is just a matter of time. "The Internet is going to get to the people. They can't avoid that. A war against the Internet is a lost war," she said.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Rubio makes his first move

The Tampa Bay Times' Steve Huettel reports that Florida Sen. Marco Rubio last week proposed an amendment to a Federal Aviation Authority funding bill that would prohibit any additional flights between the United States, and countries, such as Cuba, designated as "state sponsors of terrorism'' by the State Department.

Cuba, Egypt, and the Booming Blogosphere (Cyber-Roundup)

Commentaries, contrasts, analogies, and comparisons between Egypt and Cuba continue to pour forth across the blogosphere.  This post will highlight a number of them and attempt to summarize the most interesting.

  • Miriam Celaya at her blog SinEVAsion, "Fantasies and Realities of Virtual 'Rebellion'": "In Cuba there is practically no access to the Internet nor do many Cubans have access to social networks. This makes it almost impossible for a democratic liberation to grow out of cyberspace, whether it be via the computers or perhaps simply via the cellphones of our combative cyber-activists of the moment. [At the same time] it is certain that in Cuba there exist practically all the necessary conditions to produce a social uprising. [...] Paradoxically, on our island the absence of a manifestation of mass protest is not due to the conditions that currently exist, but to those that DO NOT EXIST and prove determinant."
  • At her blog Mala Letra, Regina Coyula largely agrees with Celaya in a much more succinct post, but ends her commentary with this note of hope: "If as they say, each country has the government it deserves, then this is the government we get through our ration booklet. But we should not forget that our veteran ration card is on the road to elimination."
  • A response to Celaya and Coyula is at Punt de Vista.
Two enlightening posts on China, Egypt, Cuba, and the "Dictator's Dilemma":

  • First, this from Larry Press, a professor of information systems and an old hand at studying the Cuban Internet going back to the mid-1990s: "While there is some degree of access or content control in every nation, those with relatively free political systems, tend to be more open. Dictatorial governments seek to control access to political information. At the same time, they recognize that the Internet can be a source of economic productivity and improved health care, education, and quality of life. This presents a 'dictator's dilemma' -- the desire to have the benefits of the Internet without the threat of political instability. How do you give people access to information for health care, education, and commerce while blocking political information?"
  • And this from Zeynep Tufekci, "Seven Theses on Dictator’s Dilemma": Egypt’s apparent move to shut off Internet has called for revisiting the so-called “dictator’s dilemma,” i.e. the idea that authoritarian governments cannot have their Internet cake and eat it, too. The dilemma is often framed as this: “If they allow Internet to spread within the country, it poses a threat to their regime. If they don’t, they are cut off from the world–economically and socially.”  China’s successful and widespread filtering of the Internet has caused many people to revaluate whether it was possible to allow the non-politically threatening parts of the Internet through while filtering out material that a regime finds objectionable.  I would like to argue that the dictator’s dilemma is alive and well but, as with many other aspects of this debate, the reality does not lend itself well to simplistic analysis.  1- The capacities of the Internet that are most threatening to authoritarian regimes are not necessarily those pertaining to spreading of censored information but rather its ability to support the formation of a counter-public that is outside the control of the state. It is not that people are waiting for that key piece of information to start their revolt, but that they are isolated, unsure of the power of the regime, unsure of their position and potential.  2- Dissent is not just about knowing what you think but about the formation of a public. [click above to read all seven of her theses]
CubaEncuentro holds a Q&A with various academics, writers, and Cuba experts each of whom answer the question: "¿Podría el descontento popular lograr la caída de la cúpula gobernante en la Isla?" [Could popular discontent lead to the fall of the governing power in Cuba?] (also see hereherehere, and here for articles about what high-speed Internet might (and might not) mean for for web access for the cubano de a pie.

  • Nick Miroff has a good summary of these and other "Cyber-War" events up at the Global Post.

  • The Nuevo Herald chimes in as does an editorial at the Miami Herald: "Cuba is No Egypt": "The flip side of this officially sanctioned terror [in Egypt] was the attempt to create a kind of fictional democracy to give the state the appearance of legitimacy. Thus, Egypt’s citizens had access to the Internet. Opposition (closely watched and within strict limits) was allowed in the media. The anti-regime Muslim Brotherhood was officially banned, but its underground survival tolerated. Rival political parties exist, at least on paper. Until now, foreign reporters have operated freely and with little fear of harassment. Uncensored TV news from sources like Al-Jazeera was widely seen. Cuba is a different place..."

  • A variety of conflicting opinions on the "Cyber-police" video are up at Penultimos Dias.

  • Fidel, an expert on revolt and revolution if there ever was one, chimes in (without of course directly mentioning today's Cuba): "The people don't defy repression and death or remain entire nights protesting forcefully over simply formal issues. They do so when their legal and material rights are sacrificed mercilessly to the insatiable demands of corrupt politicians and to the national and international circles that loot the country. [...] We support the Egyptian people and their valiant struggle for their political rights and social justice." (H/T translation Cuban Colada)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Egypt 2.0

"They now know, because Egypt has taught them, that every step they let us take into cyberspace brings us a step closer to Tahir Square."    
-Yoani Sanchez

Full post at The Huffington Post.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Ivan Garcia: "Paladares" in Havana Pose a Threat to State Restaurants

"Paladares" in Havana Pose a Threat to State Restaurants

Photo: Paladar Doña Blanquita, in Prado neighborhood between Refugio and Colón, Old Havana

Each day in Havana a new fast food joint appears, or a pirate CD stall, or a place that sells religious objects. These are three businesses that proliferate in the city during this spring-like month of February.

But they are not the only ones. Signs both rustic and well-designed advertise appliance mechanics, shoe repairers, seamstresses, photographers forquinces (traditional 15th birthday celebrations) or weddings, and paladares — private restaurants — perhaps the most lucrative among them.

These small restaurants with 20 seats or less sprout up like flowers in Havana. In neighborhoods such as Vedado and Miramar, close to embassies, five-star hotels and business offices it is not uncommon to spot more than one paladar on the same block.

Also in the poor suburbs and mostly black neighborhoods of San Leopoldo, Belén, and San Isidro, in the old and deteriorated part of the capital, private restaurants open with great fanfare.

"We started out very excited and praying for it to turn out lucrative and prosperous. For now, inspectors don't seem to be as rigorous as in past years. The oversight is more flexible. That may be a good sign," says Roberto, owner of a paladar that opened two weeks ago a stone's throw away from the Cathedral of Havana.

Enrique, owner of La Guardia, the site of scenes from the film Fresa y Chocolate which has been visited by Queen Sofía as well as American artists and politicians passing through Havana, is filled with the same optimism. He has reopened his paladarwith a new look and a menu featuring gastronomic novelties.

Prices differ depending on the neighborhood, the spot's ambiance or the chef's experience. "For apaladar to be accepted, the key element is a good head chef. If you craft quality dishes, the customer will repeat the visit," assures Leonardo, who runs apaladar in the municipality Diez de Octubre.

A quality kitchen chef earns between twenty and fifty dollars daily. Almost all of Havana's most famous paladares hire culinary masters with extensive curriculums in hotel facilities and even in other countries.

Hundreds of paladares have opened up in the past three months in Havana. And that figure promises to double by the summer – as does the competition for state restaurants.

It is already evident. Within hotel chains the number of guests has diminished. Ricardo, manager in Havana's Chinatown, where numerous Chinese, creole, and international cafés and restaurants are located, views the increase in paladares with worry.

"Now we must not only increase our quality to be able to compete with the paladares, whose smaller quantity of diners allows them to offer a personalized menu, but we also have the issue of prices. We cannot lower prices without the approval of the state, and that is a big problem," he points out.

Dinner in a first class state restaurant costs two people between forty and fifty dollars, not counting beer or wine. If the dinner is in a five-star hotel, the price shoots to up to a hundred dollars.

In a paladar, four people can eat well for twenty dollars. Amidst a monstrous crisis which tightens the pockets of tourists as well as Cubans who receive remittances, the option of private restaurants is almost a godsend.

It's still to be seen whether the government will put on a long face. Government inefficiency and its terror of people accumulating large sums of money worries the thousands of Cubans that have opted to open a small private business.

At the moment, the low profile of state inspectors is good news for independent workers. Will it stay that way? As always in Cuba, we'll just have to wait and see.


Translated by Antonella Pagani

February 9 2011


Friday, February 11, 2011

How Cuba is (and is not) like Egypt (VI): Twitea la flaca

yoanisanchez (Yoani Sánchez)
Yoani Sánchez
yoanisanchez   In the images I see of Tahrir I'm impressed by the quantity of cellphones you can see in the hands of Egyptians
Yoani Sánchez
yoanisanchez   We couldn't see live images of Tahrir plaza, but at least a few retransmitted fragments were included in the mid-day news broadcast
Yoani Sánchez
yoanisanchez  My phone doesn't stop ringing. This is like a press agency, everyone calls looking for info about I can't complain!
Yoani Sánchez
yoanisanchez  They put a few images of  on state TV. Impressive! Freedom is tremendously contagious!
Yoani Sánchez
yoanisanchez   Who said we need illuminated leaders in order to change things?
Yoani Sánchez
yoanisanchez   Revolutions are no longer made by armed people dressed in military fatigues. Now they are carried out by citizens with cell phones and Twitter
Yoani Sánchez
yoanisanchez   Right now I feel like I'm in Cairo, I cry out and celebrate along with them. I call all my friends and tell them: One dictator less!
Yoani Sánchez
yoanisanchez   The censors are right to fear social networks, right now I'm here with no access to the Internet and nevertheless finding out what's going on
Yoani Sánchez
yoanisanchez  Authoritarians have no political color, it does not matter whether they say left or right, they are authoritarians and that's it, obsessed with power
Yoani Sánchez
yoanisanchez   Although Cairo is far away there are too many analogies between us and those faces gathered together there in Tahrir Plaza
Yoani Sánchez
yoanisanchez  To speak in  about the longevity of the regime in  is like mentioning the rope in the house of a hanged man
Yoani Sánchez
yoanisanchez   A 30 year cycle ends in  while we continue under 5 decades of our own authoritarianism
Yoani Sánchez
yoanisanchez   Incredible! I call one of my Twitter followers and he put me the live sound of the TV by phone and I heard  leave
Yoani Sánchez
yoanisanchez   I am receiving sms with the news that Mubarak resigned the presidency of  Is it true? Please confirm this for me at +5352708611