HAVANA TIMES, February 4 — Recently, when I read the excellent Havana Times interview “Miriam Celaya: A Dissident by Nature” by my colleague Yusimi Rodriguez, it confirmed my thesis that the Cuban blogosphere is fragmented, consisting of fiefdoms and courts like in the Middle Ages. While some share commonalities, others are definitely at opposing ends of the political spectrum.
But at least if those whose intentions are the same were open to dialogue and collaboration, the existing segmentation wouldn’t be so marked or the forces so divided. Like I said in a past entry, nothing will ever be gained with a situation like this.
Cuban blogs can be classified as independent, alternative, officialist, mercenary, etc. According to Ted Henken’s “Mapping of the Cuban Blogosphere” the island’s bloggers can be divided into six groups. All these definitions have to do with the level of commitment to or identification with the prevailing politics on the island, which colors the issue of Internet access here.
I have done my own division, which consists of three major groups, within which are subgroups.
1 – Officialists
a) The fundamentalists of the officialdom are located on the web portal of the Cuban Journalists Association (UPEC). Though possessing a variety of formats, they all converge in calling themselves “a weapon for defending the revolution and attacking its enemies!” There’s also the portal BlogCip (Blogs Periodistas Cubanos) and BYCR (Blogueros y Corresponsales de la Revolución). The latter proclaims on its home page:
“This platform constitutes a way to clear away the mass of misinformation and inaccurate information about Cuba, and to raise awareness from within the island about how we Cubans think, live, fight and work in a country constantly harassed by those who seek to prevent 11 million people from freely and sovereignly deciding their own future.”
Within this group are included those sites linked to the web portal Cubadebate.cu.
b) The independent officialists are elite personalities of art and culture who have their own blogs. This is a sort of “intellectual-cracy.com” of those who have somehow accommodated themselves to the system thanks to the advantages it provides them. This illustrious group have created politically conservative blogs or ones openly committed to the regime. Examples of these are blogs by the veteran singers Silvio Rodriguez (Secunda Cita) and Vicente Feliu (Creeme), as well as those by others.
These other blogs sympathize with “the Revolution” (the state) or attack those who criticize it.
2 – Mercenaries
a) The most demonized bloggers on the island are those making up the group Voces Cubanas. Within that collective is the famous Generacion Y blog of Yoani Sanchez, who has been classified by the Cuban media as the mercenary counter-revolutionary blogger for her open positions against the political leadership on issues of democracy in Cuba. However other well-known Voces Cubanos blogs are those by Claudia Cadelo, Reinaldo Escobar, Miriam Celaya, Orlando Luis Pardo, Laritza Diversent and Dimas Castellanos.
b) Of the demonized blogs off the island, the best known and most attacked by the official media as being an instrument of the enemy is Ernesto Hernandez Busto’s Penultimos Dias.
Second on the list is Café Fuerte, put out by Wilfredo Cancio and his wife Ivette Leyva Martinez, though access to this site is blocked in Cuba.
In English, there are many other such mercenary sites.
3 – The alternative sites
a) The officialist alternative is Joven Cuba, by a group of journalists and correspondents of the official media who have their own blogs. This site is sponsored by institutions and is listed on other sites such as BlogCip and BYCR (both mentioned above as officialist sites).
Joven Cuba has a code of ethics which states that it:
…should be seen as a place of open and frank discussion, with respectful arguments, as a platform that facilitates the convergence of views (often opposing ones) in a language that is tolerant of other people’s opinions. In our articles and comments, the use of aggressive language will not be permitted either by individuals or political figures. No deaf speeches will be allowed that do not take into account the arguments of others.
Also included under this heading would be BloggersCuba.com (BC), a project born just over three years ago and that has since retained a certain degree of thematic autonomy. BC is the product of a group of young people who seek to “do something for the nation,” but from their own perspectives.
Another significant alternative site is La Polemica Digital, by journalism professor Elaine Diaz. She seems to not want to be classified, though her bent appears tendentious to some and conservative to others. She wrote in one of her posts, Blogger y punto”:
“Why this mania over giving adjectives to bloggers as ‘officialists’ or ‘mercenaries,’ rather than defending their freedom to be bloggers – period?
b) The unaligned independents are those who address the situation in Cuban from an extra-official perspective but not necessarily as “dissident” voices (I’m borrowing the term “dissident” from the perspective that the Cuban officialdom has historically used the term to pigeonhole all those who are disaffected and critical, beyond the actual senses and meanings of that term).
Here is where enters Havana Times, a group of bloggers and writers who have their dairies or serve as correspondents.
Not mentioned are many other Cuban and foreign blogs and web sites navigating the issue of the island without veering off toward the extremes.
But at the end of this journey and the tedious classifications, I fully agree with “mercenary” blogger Miriam Celaya when she pointed out things like:
“I’m confident that most of us Cubans are anti-annexationist and anti-blockade,” and “I’m as Cuban as anyone. Who said that socialism is Cubania?” or “I’m a dissident by nature. I always have things to question, in this system or another that may come.”
These words and those of any of the bloggers with Havana Times or works published by the Observatorio critico have a lot in common.
The only problem is that camps have been created based on the differences. What we need to do now is call for dialogue, for unity. I think the majority share points of views on many points (except of course the officialist bloggers, who are always closed to debate).
This calls for a coming together and a respectful exchange of ideas and opinions, which would be prudent and beneficial at this period being lived in the country. We won’t go far as fiefdoms.