“Do not talk about politics or religion,” says the number one rule of the most extensive illegal data network in Havana. Those who join the network of routers and antennas that make up SNET accept such guidelines as a matter of survival. Plugging into the service allows them to form a part of a brotherhood that every member protects and keeps “low profile”. Despite such strict limitations, it’s worth experiencing this chance to connect ourselves to others, to use the internal chat service and to experience the vertigo of being online… even though we know we are [still] sadly offline. An illusion of internet that is maintained as long as the wifi receptor on our computers is lit up.
The audiovisual “packets” are the same. Among their dozens of folders filled with TV shows and movies, some news and magazines slip in. One click is enough to see that few want to make problems for themselves with the government by distributing critical materials. Such that the sharers of the so-called “combo” pay the toll of including copies of the government newspaper Granma, materials from Cuban television news and backups of digital sites belonging to the provincial newspapers. But… as they say of a character in a film, “among the fallen leaves shine nuggets of gold.” Circulating in this compendium are several independent publications dedicated to music, celebrities and the private sector, whose audience looks forward to every new number.
Attention! One way to write and to convey ideas to a great number of Cubans is being incubated in the “packet”, which includes glossy magazines – the independents of the independents – aimed at an audience that on reading them is already imagining a different country. So these abound in vivid colors, careful design, images of scrumptious dishes served up in exclusive restaurants or interviews with well-known singers. None of these articles talk about politics, and yet every published text is a rejection of the ideology in power. From compendiums about how to be an entrepreneur, to success in business manuals, to simple workshops on cooking the most delicious stuffed churros in the neighborhood, it all makes up part of the publication offerings that are gaining space in the “packet”.
Those who would project Cuba’s future would do well to dive into this Cuba of the present. A reality contained in the more than one terabyte of data that passes from door to door. A [glimpse at] not what we claim to be, but what we are.
Yoani Sánchez is a Cuban journalist and activist. She was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people (2008). She lives and publishes in Havana, but because of government restrictions on the media her blog cannot be viewed there. Read more by Yoani.