Sunday, July 31, 2011

Cuba 1.5: The State of the Internet and Uses of Social Media in a Changing Cuba, Wed., Aug. 3, 2011, @ 8:30 a.m. Inter-American Dialogue



Cuba 1.5?

The State of the Internet and

Uses of Social Media in a Changing Cuba

Larry Press

Professor of Information Systems

California State University, Dominguez Hills 

Ted Henken

Professor of Sociology and Latin American Studies

Baruch College, CUNY 

Commentary by 

Robert Guerra

Director of the Internet Freedom project
Freedom House 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

8:30 to 10:00 a.m.

Inter-American Dialogue

1211 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 510

I am pleased to invite you to join us at the Inter-American Dialogue from 8:30 to10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, August 3 for a discussion on the state of the Internet and uses of social media in Cuba today and the outlook for the future. 

Larry Press, professor of information systems at California State University, and Ted Henken, professor of sociology and Latin American Studies at Baruch College, CUNY, will lead off the discussion.  For more than a decade, Press has been studying the global diffusion of the internet, with an emphasis on policy and technology in developing nations. Henken has conducted research on how the use of social media and mobile technology is providing an outlet for more voices in Cuba.  He plans to draw on recent interviews conducted with Cuba's diverse blogging community. Robert Guerra, director of the Internet Freedom project at Freedom House, will provide commentary. Opening remarks by our speakers will be followed by a wide-ranging exchange among participants. 

Please let us know if you will be able to be with us on August 3. 

Best regards,  

Michael Shifter

Montaner, Morales, & El Yuma: Havana Real hits Books & Books in Miami, Sat., Aug. 6, 5 p.m.

The new English translation of Yoani Sanchez's book, "Havana Real" hits Books & Books in Coral Gables, Miami, Sat., Aug. 6, at 5 p.m.

El Yuma will be there to lead the presentation in the role of convener.

But I will not be alone.

Yoani will join us via video.

Carlos Alberto Montaner, the well-known columnist and leading exile intellectual, will join us.

As will the Cuban blogger Ernesto Morales (El pequeño hermano), recently immigrated from Cuba.

We will also have one other special, surprise guest in the house.

For more info on the book and event check out these links.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

TV Martí Noticias — Tras visitar a blogueros interrogan en Cuba a académico de EEUU

Trolling through Google and YouTube today, look what I found!

You can read more here.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Last Pilgrims to Havana - Yoani Sanchez, Foreign Policy

Pull Quote: But Humala's presence here reminds us that the pilgrim cannot complete his journey without passing under the shadow of the ruined temple in which he once believed. 

The Last Pilgrims to Havana,0

Visiting Fidel Castro used to be a proud rite of passage for Latin American leftist leaders like Peru's Ollanta Humala. Now it's an act of charity. [or ritual?]


More on "Habana Libre" and Cuba's "Glitterati" from the NYT

What Would Che Say?
By GUY TREBAY, New York Times
July 27, 2011

OF beautiful people Cuba has many. Any visitor to the island or its satellite country, Miami, knows that.

But a classless Communist regime officially has no tolerance for privileged classes, social elites, specially anointed Beautiful People. And so even as the country moves inexorably toward the political metamorphosis that is widely predicted after the death of Fidel Castro, an image persists of a Cuba whose citizens drive vintage cars, wear faded clothes and generally inhabit the anachronistic bubble depicted in "Buena Vista Social Club."

There is another Cuba, of course. There is always another Cuba, if writers like Pedro Juan Gutiérrez, the author of the irresistibly bawdy "Dirty Havana Trilogy," can be credited. Certainly there is another Havana, the unabashedly modish and glamorous one populated by artists, models, filmmakers and writers that the photographer Michael Dweck first stumbled upon during a visit in 2009.

To keep reading, go here:

HABANA LIBRE by Michael Dweck

The American photographer Michael Dweck captures the secret life within Cuba

Michael Dweck
50.00 EUR
pages: 290
illustrations: 250
binding: Hardcover, jacketed
release: Fall 2011

Cuba has a secret. One that has never been photographed, never reported in Western media and never acknowledged openly within Cuba itself.

Michael Dweck is American photographer Michael Dweckʼs exploration of a compelling aspect of Cubaʼs contradictory status in the world today. The title, like much in Cuba, has a double meaning: Free Havana and Havana is Free. This revealing and contemporary work by a visual artist adept at capturing the quiet gesture, the alluring glance and the proud and provocative pose, brings to light a secretive social order as seen from within – a position not previously attained by an outsider.

Behind the clichéd press images of vintage cars, crumbling buildings, peeling paint and a struggling unhappy people held back from progress, lays a hidden society of Cubaʼs most influential people - the creative class. It is a socially connected group of keenly observant artists, glamorous models, filmmakers, musicians and writers captured in an elaborate dance of survival and success. Their lives are a constant play of appearances; they are the privileged class in a classless society.

These Cubans are international, elegant and sophisticated. They have cars and passports in a country where travel is difficult if not impossible. They are fashionable, though Cuban couture is an oxymoron as there are few stores. They are socialists who would be lost without capitalism to sell their creative wares in the worldʼs markets. And they are the pride and flesh of Cubaʼs culture. They put their conscience on record, their art is their vision of the country.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"Unfavorable cost-benefit correlation”

Who knew? Trabajo voluntario = "Unfavorable cost-benefit correlation," says Juventud Rebelde.

Don't tell El Che.

No Work Details This Summer for Cuban Students

HAVANA – Agricultural and production jobs that for decades were performed by students in Cuba during their summer vacations will not be carried out that way this year to reduce costs in line with the "updating" of the island's socialist economic model.

"It is not viable and it would not be sensible and useful to maintain" those work details in the current conditions, the official newspaper Juventud Rebelde reported on Sunday.

The paper noted that 500,000 college and high school students took part in such programs in the past.

"The most recent campaigns sent unmistakable signs: unfavorable cost-benefit correlation, falling trend in demand for labor," the daily said.

And as an aggravating circumstance, it cited "the recently sown disincentive that not even half of those committed will be called and, for those who participate, not much will be found for them to do and they will feel that it's not worth the trouble, that they are wasting time."

A member of the National Office of the Union of Communist Youth, Yoel Perez, told Juventud Rebelde that the decision "already approved and in effect to forego that entire gigantic national mobilization of forces" is designed "to do what is demanded at any given time."

"What sense would it make then to keep it up ... that process of restructuring and reordering, including the labor force, begun by Cuba to update its economic model," he emphasized.

That process includes measures such as the broadening of private labor, a massive cut in bloated public payrolls, more autonomy in the management of state companies and the elimination of unnecessary subsidies and social expenditures, among other things.

"We do not renounce the link between the student and productive and social activity," said the communist leader.

In addition, he emphasized the idea that when such work is undertaken "everyone can be, and know that they are, useful," particularly when what they are doing is being "done rationally, with indispensible human and material resources ... (and) has a concrete purpose and tangible results." EFE

Saturday, July 23, 2011

¿Se deben restringir más los viajes de los cubanos a la isla? Por Sebastián Arcos Cazabón

Del blog de Montaner

¿Se deben restringir más los viajes de los cubanos a la isla?
jul 22nd, 2011 @ 07:30 pm

Sebastián Arcos Cazabón, un demócrata ex preso político, hijo y sobrino de grandes luchadores por la libertad, luego exiliado y hoy académico vinculado a Florida International University, ha escrito con total lucidez por qué no se deben restringir más los viajes a Cuba. Sus razonamientos son ejemplares. No hay que agregarles una letra.

Por Sebastian Arcos Cazabón

Pongo mi grano de arena a este debate de los viajes a Cuba. Creo importante sugerir a ambos lados del debate que ni debemos cuestionar la buena fe de nuestros oponentes, ni debemos simplificar sus argumentos. Ni todos los que se oponen a los viajes lo hacen cegados por el resentimiento, ni todos los que favorecen los viajes lo hacen para ayudar a la dictadura. Es cierto que los hay, en ambos bandos, que usan este debate para avanzar sus intereses personales, pero estoy seguro que la mayoría de los que empleamos nuestro tiempo en debatir este tema de ambos lados lo hacemos con el común objetivo de llegar a una Cuba democrática. Recordemos a Martí:

"Miente como un zascandil
el que diga que me oyó,
por no pensar como yo,
llamar a un cubano vil.
¡Qué dijera yo de aquél
de opinión diversa si
me llamara vil a mí
por no opinar como él!"

En cuanto a la cita de Martí sobre los viajes a Cuba, coincido completamente con su opinión. El verdadero exiliado –y como tal me considero– no viaja de vuelta a su patria bajo las mismas condiciones que causaron su salida. No he regresado a Cuba desde que salí, y no pienso regresar como no sea como un individuo libre, sin permiso ni condiciones. No me place, aunque lo entiendo, que los cubanos exiliados regresen a Cuba por curiosidad o para visitar a un pariente. Desprecio a aquellos que regresan en son de fiesta, a disfrutar de privilegios que no tenían cuando allá eran ciudadanos de tercera. Mi mayor desprecio está reservado para aquellos que tienen negocios o se benefician directamente de sus conexiones con el régimen.

Pero esta es sólo mi opinión personal, basada en mis circunstancias personales y en los valores que me inculcaron. De esos valores, el que considero más sagrado es el de la libertad individual. Desde esa perspectiva, no me considero con el derecho de prohibir a otros lo que yo considero moralmente incorrecto. Si bien creo que no es honorable viajar a Cuba en las condiciones actuales, tampoco es honorable imponer a otros mis valores morales; me reservo el derecho a criticarles, pero no tengo el derecho a prohibirles.

Además del componente libertario, mi argumento a favor de no limitar los viajes tiene también un componente práctico importante. En primer lugar, está probado que la dictadura no se va a desplomar por 3 mil millones más o menos, y además la gente va a seguir viajando a Cuba a pesar de las limitaciones. Al final las restricciones no funcionan y terminan haciéndonos quedar mal a los cubanos libres porque actuamos como actúa el régimen como ha expresado Oscar Peña no nos corresponde a nosotros limitar la libertad de movimiento de otros cubanos. Dejemos ese triste papel a la dictadura.

El segundo argumento práctico es que el contacto directo, personal, entre cubanos de ambas orillas es la manera más efectiva de contrarrestar la propaganda del régimen. Ni los exiliados estamos pasando hambre, ni odiamos a los que se quedaron, ni queremos quitarle nada; eso lo sabe muy bien cada cubano que recibe dólares de sus parientes exiliados. Nada expone mejor la superioridad de la libertad que un gusano (ambos, el equipaje y el exiliado que lo lleva) cargado de baratijas de consumo, y nada expresa mejor nuestro deseo compartido de ser un sólo pueblo, sin divisiones artificiales creadas por aquellos que sólo pretenden fragmentarnos para subyugarnos.

En resumen, creo que no debemos restringir los viajes (ni las remesas) a Cuba por las siguientes razones:

- Porque no es consecuente con los valores que decimos representar.

- Porque no va a tumbar a la dictadura.

- Porque no es práctico.

- Porque es contraproducente.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

CubaFotos de IPS Cuba II

"On the Internet no one knows you're a dog!"
"En en Internet, nadie sabe que eres un perro!"

CubaFotos de IPS Cuba I

"La India and her children."
"La India y sus niños."

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Rotilla Rave Hijacked

Organizers of Cuban Rave Fest Say Government Hijacking Event

Latin American Herald Tribune

HAVANA – The organizers of Cuba's Rotilla music festival said Wednesday that they will take legal action in response to what they describe as the Culture Ministry's "hijacking" of the annual event.

The ministry's bid to take over the running of the festival is an "act of moral violence" and a violation of intellectual property rights, Rotilla founder and executive director Michel Matos told a press conference in Havana.

Click this link to read the entire story.

New data on Cuban connectivity: 2010 ICT report from Cuba's National Office of Statistics (en espanol)

Cuba's National Statistics Office (ONE) has just made available its newest data on island connectivity and information and communications technology (ICT/TIC).

You can go here to view the website and here for the entire PDF report.

Below is my back-of-the-envelope analysis of the data.

The report covers a number of areas of which three stand out to me: (1) telephone (land line) and cellphone service and infrastructure, (2) computers and Internet access, and (3) "social use" and "public access" to computing via Cuba's Joven Clubes de Computacion (JCC).

In terms of telephones, the big story is the rapid growth of the use of cellphones in Cuba over the past 3-4 years (while the growth in land lines has been stagnant even as it has been gradually digitized).  For example, there were just 22,600 cell phones in Cuba in 2002, while this number jumped to 152,700 by 2006, and roughly doubled each year after that hitting 330,000 in 2008, 621,200 in 2009, and toping the million mark in 2010 with 1,003,200.

Also of note is the growing chasm between the number and growth in land lines and the number and growth in active cell phones.  For example, while almost all phone lines in Cuba were "fixed" (i.e., land lines) in 2001 (574,000 of 575,000), by 2010 only half of the country's more than two million (2,291,455) telephone lines were land lines (1,163,470), with most of the rest (more than a million) being cell lines.

Thus, like in many developing countries around the world, the introduction of cellular technology has been truly revolutionary, allowing places like Cuba to leapfrog into the mobile phone era.

The issue of Internet access is addressed in the chart and graphic below. Just under 60% of Cuba's 724,000 PCs are on line on one fashion or another.  However, this does not mean that all or most of these "on line" computers are connected to the world wide web.  In most cases, these computers have only e-mail access or are connected to Cuba's domestic Intranet, not the global web.

In terms of individual access and use of the Internet, Cuba reports 1,790,000 users out of a 11 million plus population.  There are 64 PCs for every 1,000 residents (but presumable this PC number includes both individual PCs and the PCs of state entities).  Finally, the report claims that there are 159 Internet users for every 1,000 residents, slightly up from 111/1,000 in 2006.

The following graphic indicates that while nearly all state entities and institutions have computers, only a little more than half possess an Intranet connection, while less than a third are connected to the world wide web.

A final area touched on by the report are Cuba's network of 606 "Joven Clubs" for computation.  These JCCs are located around the country and free for users.  They collectively possess 9,356 computers, employ 2,711 professors, and claim nearly 2.5 million graduates since their inception.  An important issue not addressed in the report is the ease of access to these clubs (they are free, but are they easily accessible geographically, and does one have to be a member of any organization to gain access to them).  A final key issue is what kind of access their computers have to the Internet.

Of course, a final issue that will be interesting to watch is whether and how these statistics on ICT and access to the Internet will change in the future when Cuba itself goes "on line" via the new broad-band cable from Venezuela (sometime later this summer).

Monday, July 18, 2011

Punitive US Policy, It's the Cuban People Who Pay the Price

The Bodies of the Martyrs Would Be Borne by Us / Yoani Sánchez
Jul 18, 2011

Social processes have an often unpredictable alchemy. Although there are analysts who persist in wanting to write a universal formula for uprisings, or another for civil peace, reality is wedded to the contrary. Cuba, for example, has defied the prognostications of nearly all the optimists and exceeded the expectations of even the most hallucinatory minds.

It appears that the specialty of our country is to shatter the forecasts of Santeria priests, spiritualists and fortune-tellers. For several decades we have disappointed the predictions of our collapse and, in particular, the repeated prophecy of a popular revolt. Cubanologists of all stripes have assured us, on this or that occasion, that the the island is on the verge of fracture and that the people will throw themselves into the streets at any moment.

Instead, the sidewalks are indeed full of people, but they are standing in line to buy bread or eggs, or to submit applications to consulates to emigrate. Not even the candles lit by the Santeria priests for tranquility are upended by violence. Those of us who hope for a peaceful solution are happy because, at least to date, nobody has had to serve as cannon fodder against the anti-riot squads.

The chimerical formula of explosion foretold by some relies on the element economic strangulation to inspire a people to rise up in struggle. There are those who would like to give another turn of the screw to the United States embargo against the island and cut off all remittances that come from the outside. According to their hypothesis, Cubans caught between the rock of their needs and the hard place of an authoritarian government would choose to overthrow the latter.

I must confess that the mere mention of this theory reminds me of a bad joke: An ancient leader, being interviewed by a journalist, enumerates the signs of resistance. The autocrat relates that his people have survived the economic crisis, the lack of food, the collapse of the electrical network and the absence of public transport. As he explains each hardship in this string he appends, again and again, "and yet the people stand firm." Finally, the daring reporter interrupts him with a question, "And have you tried arsenic, Commander?"

The thesis that our reality simply needs more economic hardship for the social pressure cooker to burst is heard, oddly, most often among people who do not live in the country. The Diaz-Balart amendment to the Financial Services Appropriation Bills, recently approved by the House Appropriations Committee of the U.S. Congress, would roll back measures taken earlier this year by president Barack Obama that eased restrictions on family travel to the island and liberalized person-to-person monetary assistance. Voices in support of the amendment see these bridges as oxygen that feeds the Cuban government, prolonging its stay in power.

According to the arithmetic of "deprive them to make them react," change would be just around the corner the day the spigot of foreign aid dried up once and for all. But in the middle of that proposition, untested in practice, eleven million people, and an equal number of stomachs, would be caught. People who did not hit the streets in the devastating years of the nineties when our plates were nearly empty and our clothes hung in tatters from our emaciated frames.

During that time of endless hardship, a single popular "uprising" happened on August 5, 1994, sparked by people desperate to leave the country, not change things here. As fearful as we might be that the pressure cooker could reach the bursting point, the reality is that the vast majority would rather throw themselves into to the sea than face the repressive forces.

And it is not because a people has a genetic predisposition to bravery or cowardice, it is simply that there are a vast number of methods to confront social rebellion. Those that have already touched us are, without a doubt, efficient to the point of scientific proof.

For those political scientists who veer closer to physics than to social sciences, it would be enough to shut off the flow of remittances and travel between Cuban-Americans and the the island for something to begin to move on the national stage. In their desire to prove such a conjecture, the theory would be promulgated by them and the bodies of the martyrs would be borne by us.

Over the course of the experiment and as it moved toward its conclusion, the swimming pools of the mansions of the olive-green clad rulers would not lack their supply of chlorine, the satellite Internet of the Maximum Leader's children would not diminish a single kilobyte in bandwidth, and the brand name lingerie of so many officials would not cease to flow through back channels into the country.

Not only would this turn of the screw be unnoticed on the dining tables of the official hierarchy, but with their full bellies they would continue to rule over a people with only one obsessive thought: where to find something to eat every day. The misery that reigns in so many places would continue to be a mechanism of domination, not one of disobedience.

Watching the news that filters to us through illegal satellite TV, text messages, Twitter and email, we feel like guinea pigs in a laboratory where all decisions are made by others, far from our shores. We have the sensation of being mere numbers in a calculation as simple as it is dangerous. Where the result anticipated by the architects of the "pressure cooker theory" – that it will explode – ignores the fact that its detonation could provoke a cycle of violence that no one could know how or when it might end.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Anda Obama!

Obama vetaría proyecto de ley que revierte flexibilización de viajes y remesas

El equipo del presidente manifestó su oposición a varias secciones de la House Bill 2434, enmienda que intenta establecer la cantidad de fondos de 2012 para las agencias financieras del gobierno

Redacción CE, Madrid | 14/07/2011

La Oficina de Presupuesto de la Casa Blanca informó este miércoles que el presidente estadounidense, Barack Obama, podría vetar el proyecto de ley que pretende revertir la flexibilización de viajes y remesas a Cuba.

El equipo del presidente Obama manifestó su oposición a varias secciones de la House Bill 2434, una enmienda que intenta establecer la cantidad de fondos de 2012 para las agencias financieras del gobierno, reportó Prensa Latina, que cita el sitio digitalHounseing Wire.

"Si al Presidente se le presenta un proyecto de ley (…) que revierta las políticas actuales hacia Cuba, sus principales asesores recomendarían un veto", dijo la Oficina de Gerencia y Presupuesto.

También los asesores del presidente Obama recomendarían el veto si el proyecto de ley pone en peligro la Ley de Asistencia Asequible (referida a la reforma del sistema de salud), o la Ley Dodd-Frank de Protección al Consumidor y Reforma de Wall Street.

El Comité de Asignaciones de la Cámara de Representantes de EEUU revirtió a finales de junio, en un voto a viva voz, la flexibilización de viajes y remesas a Cuba que ordenó en 2009 el presidente Barack Obama, normativa que aún debe pasar por el pleno del Legislativo.

El comité aprobó una enmienda presentada por el legislador cubanoamericano de Florida, Mario Díaz-Balart, dentro del proyecto de ley de gastos para servicios financieros para el año fiscal 2012, que revoca la orden de Obama respecto a los viajes y remesas de cubanos con familiares en la Isla.

En la práctica, las autoridades regresarían a las restricciones impuestas durante la Presidencia de George W. Bush, en el marco del embargo que EEUU mantiene contra Cuba desde hace más de cuatro décadas.

El Grupo de Trabajo para América Latina (LAWG, por sus siglas en inglés), una colectividad de estudios políticos a favor de flexibilizar el embargo contra Cuba, calificó de "totalmente inaceptable" el proyecto de ley.

"Quienes apoyan el embargo votaron una vez más, por dividir a las familias cubanoamericanas de sus familiares en Cuba", según un comunicado del grupo.

De acuerdo con Grupo de Trabajo para América Latina, "si esta enmienda se convierte en ley, la mayoría de los cerca de 400.000 cubanos que viajaron a Cuba el año pasado a ver a sus familias ya no podrían hacerlo, y se cortarían las remesas que les ayudan a sobrevivir en una difícil economía cubana".

Sobre las recomendaciones de la Oficina de Presupuesto al presidente Obama, Díaz-Balart comentó que "si la Casa Blanca fuera seria en su intención de lograr algo significativo, entonces se uniría a los representantes republicanos para aprobar la enmienda al presupuesto".

"El pueblo estadounidense debe recordar al menos un puñado de falsas promesas de esta Administración, que hacen insignificantes sus esfuerzos o su 'promesa' de recortar millones de millones de dólares, si no existen medidas para hacer cumplir la ley", expresó el legislador republicano Díaz-Balart.


Dirección URL: noticias/obama-vetaria-proyecto-de-ley-que-revierte-flexibilizacion-de-viajes-y -remesas-265395

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

How to Ignite, or Quash, a Revolution in 140 Characters or Less: Today at The New America Foundation

How to Ignite, or Quash, a Revolution in 140 Characters or Less: The Promise and Limitations of New Technologies in Spreading Democracy

Watch live stream here.

Do the Internet and social media empower Big Brother or individuals in autocratic regimes, or do they offer a rare level playing field?

This year’s Arab Spring resurrected exuberant claims for the role of new technologies in spreading democracy. At the same time self-proclaimed “cyber-realists” were quick to point out that President Mubarak’s problems seemed to grow after he unplugged the Internet. Now, summer’s deadly stalemate in Syria has given pause to anyone peddling absolute theories about the interplay between new information technologies and revolution.

If not a panacea, how can social media and the Internet be deployed to maximize civic engagement in autocratic societies? Does the U.S. policy of supporting Internet freedom amount to a policy of regime change in some countries? When Big Brother does unplug the Internet, what can, or should, the rest of us do about it?

RSVPs for today's event are closed, as we are over capacity. Please watch the live webcast, which will be available on this page, and join the conversation on Twitter: #140rev

Yoani Sanchez "tweets out" against restricting travel and strengthening the embargo

 Yoani Sanchez 
 Yoani Sanchez 
 Yoani Sanchez 
 Yoani Sanchez 

For more on this topic, see Yoani's most recent post, "My Reasons for the Bridge.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

In Cuba with "No Reservations"

Anthony Bourdain on taking 'No Reservations' to Cuba 

Q: You spend time with people who know the history, culture and quirks of the place. The most efficient way for most travelers to get the same behind-the-scenes look is to go on expensive guided tours. Is this a waste of money in your mind? Is there a better way to do it?

A: "We do a lot of research before we go and we're looking for local bloggers, people who live there and have a particular interest in what I'm interested in, which is looking at the world through a food-centric view. Also, we're looking for someone with a sense of humor. Reaching out to local bloggers is always a good thing. There's somebody, chances are, who has incredible and hyper-nerdly expertise in your area of interest. If you're talking about a tour of Renaissance art in Florence, it would probably be a good idea."

"Whatever your politics, however you feel about Cuba–look at tonight's show and admit, at least, that Havana is beautiful. It is the most beautiful city of Latin America or the Caribbean. Look at the Cuban people and admit that they are proud and big hearted and funny and kind–and strong as hell, having put up with every variety of bullshit over the years. On these things, I hope we can agree."

Posted By: anthony bourdain

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Ms. Sánchez, "Havana, For Real" by Miriam Zoila Pérez

Havana, For Real

July 7, 2011 by Miriam Zoila Pérez

As a lefty progressive and a child of Cuban exiles, I've always been privy to two dominant narratives about Cuba. From family members who were forced to leave for political and economic reasons after Fidel Castro's rise to power, I have heard the very typical anti-Castro perspective of Cubans in the U.S. My family mythology was shaped by exile and loss; by the livelihood that was left behind and then torn from our fingers forever by the Cuban Revolution.
The other narrative I've encountered about Cuba has been a stark contrast to my family's personal disdain for the revolution, steeped in the palpable losses they endured. From the lefty, radical activists I associate with, I hear instead what feels like a knee-jerk and cursory support for the Cuban Revolution, sometimes simply as a way of denouncing American capitalism. That perspective always felt alienating to me, based on idolization of Che Guevara and alternative politics rather than reality.
What Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez's just-published Havana Real: One Woman Fights to Tell the Truth About Cuba Today provides is, finally, a third narrative. It's the only one I have come across in recent memory that is grounded in what is actually happening in Cuba today. Thanks to online technology, proxy web hosts and sheer perseverance, political bloggers such as Sánchez have thwarted the great Cuban censorship machine that tightly controls information leaving the island. Through her blog, her Twitter feed and now this book-length compilation of her posts (published by Melville House), Sánchez is finally able to communicate what it is actually like to live in Cuba today–something none of my family members and few of the radical left in this country truly understand.
To read the entire article, click here.