I never truly thought before about how disconnected Cubans are. Perhaps because I was too preoccupied with my own lack of communications. Or because that narrative is so ingrained that all I learned here last time was about the opposite of stereotypes. I found out they watch House and Gilmore Girls. They know America’s music and politics. These are not people who seem isolated. But the last few days, we’ve been trying to negotiate phones and internet for the group. Phones are not going to happen for the leaders of the group. There’s a lot of legislation about phones, and they end up being cost prohibitive anyway. 90 CUC to set up the line, 20-30 CUC for the phone, and then there’s the minutes! What Cuban has that kind of money?
Last time I was here I was very lucky with the internet. We had wifi in our home and at school. It was slow, but I was able to email and google voice chat every once in a while. All of that was free and in the two locations we went to most frequently. This time, we have to pay 10 CUC for an hour’s worth of internet on one of Habana Libre’s computers. Today we just now figured out how to get the internet on a couple of laptops at the Jose Marti center where we take classes. It’s a landline, it’s slow, facebook, twitter, Skype and WordPress are all blocked.
If I were a Cuban with a question, where would I go? The books sold at the Plaza de Armas are as old as dirt. Getting to the internet is incredibly expensive for someone on a salary of less than 100 USD a month. The newspaper here is the state-run Granma, named for the boat that brought Fidel and co. back to Cuba. education is amazing here, but the textbooks are outdated and everything is rn by the government (sort of sounds like America…). Often I can’t even find the party line, nevermind well-researched, balanced facts.
Luckily, Cubans are known for their ingenuity. I’m rying to learn more, but they have figured out ways of getting blocked television and radio, using proxy sites and SAT phones which are closely monitored here. I still wish informaton would open up more down here, and I believe it would help Cuba as a whole, inclding the government. Unfortunatuely, no big conclusions here. Just a lot of hopes and questions.