Cubans and Blogs

Dariela Aquique

Without Internet access many Cubans are limited to the "official version" on issues and events.

HAVANA TIMES, October 6 — I’m sure that if one was to survey a good number of Cubans, the overwhelming majority wouldn’t know anything about the phenomenon of “blogging.”

The few chances of accessing the Internet by nationals, the almost zero possibility of owning a PC or a laptop by the vast majority, as well as the limited information about the existence of these types of websites in the country (given the fears that people have of unofficial news), have resulted in many professionals, university students and higher-level workers remaining unaware of the meaning of the words “blog” or “blogger.”

They boast of an educational and instructional system at the level of developed countries while the most fundamental advances in technology and communications are sequestered.

Despite this, every day the number of people motivated to connect to these sites grows as people are eager to learn and become familiar with other perspectives on a given topic.  The journalism provided by the government remains manipulated and biased, as we have pointed out many times.   I say that because in Cuba there’s no other recognized journalism other than that provided by the state.

However the ranks are growing among Cuban bloggers who write for several specific online sites as well as for their own personal blogs about Cuba, with these coming from inside and outside the island.

There are now many of these as people who have started blogs with the intention of revealing aspects of social, cultural, economic life and commenting on national traditions and particularities.   Sometimes it’s impossible to circumvent politics in blog entries; coming from how politicized life is for Cubans in all aspects.  But this isn’t why the posts of Cuban bloggers are neither orthodox nor definitively adversarial.

In an interview given by Professor Ted Henken in May of this year, this scholarly expert on Cuba drew a map of the Cuban blogosphere that he called Cartografia de Blogolandia (The Cartography of Blogland).  In it he traces a thematic map that divides the bloggers into six groups.

In Henken’s opinion:  “In Havana Times it is common to find criticism from the left of the revolution, its contradictions, its hypocrisy.  They even defend freedom of expression for bloggers of Voces Cubanas.  Havana Times advocates democratic socialism where there’s a right to disagree…”

I should not, I cannot, speak for my colleagues.  Each reserves the right to have a private opinion as to why they write blogs.  I believe a good part of our group advocates democratic socialism.  I, however, lean somewhat more toward the opinion of Professor Alexis Jardines, juxtaposing democracy and socialism, appealing to the position of the first, ruling out the possibility of a socialist alternative.

Finding a blog.

Many people turn pale before terms like pluralism, freedom of expression, individual rights, and democracy because they think these are referred to as the neo-liberal status quo in most of the world, which is considered to be in crisis.

I think all socio-political models are in crisis right now.  We are surviving in a wave of failures.  The only thing that’s undeniable is that the great technological revolution will be the only thing the drives the world forward.  Like any practice, it will take a long time, but only under these neo-liberal terms is change possible.

Social media’s importance and influence makes it an undisputable part of neoliberalism, although there are those who don’t like the name.  But I also believe that nothing will ever be black and white.

Recently someone insulted me, ending up calling me a term for pathological because they said that I praise the reality that I also grumble about.  I don’t understand where in my statements that comes from.  There’s no reason to be stubbornly intransigent.  What’s laudable will remain and what’s reprehensible will be denounced, but without passionate extremism.  Like the Bible says: “To Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”

But how can the vast majority of Cubans take part in the discussion if they don’t even have an idea that opinions like these or contrary ones exist, if they can’t read Yoani, Elaine or me, and if they only hear the official version of events.  If the Cubans and blogs never meet, it will be very difficult to make a new and better future for our island.

Dariela Aquique

Dariela Aquique: I remember my years as a high school student, especially that teacher who would interrupt the reading of works and who with surprising histrionics spoke of the real possibilities of knowing more about the truth of a country through its writers than through historical chronicles. From there came my passion for writing and literature. I had excellent teachers (sure, those were not the days of the Fast-track Teachers) and extemporization and the non-mastery of subjects was not tolerated. With humble pretenses, I want to contribute to revealing the truth about my country, where reality always overcomes fiction, but where a novel style shrouds its existence.

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