HAVANA TIMES — I returned to China from my visit to Cuba to see my family and, to my surprise and joy, discovered there that there were actually two families waiting for me in Havana: my blood relatives and those from Havana Times.
My recent trip to the island allowed me to meet some of the people who write the diaries and publish comments on this online opinion forum. I had been in touch with some of them via email previously. I recognized others from their pictures, which I had seen on the page many times. I guessed who others were on hunches, just by looking at them.
There were also those who had to introduce themselves, as their anonymous status online dictated. All of them, without exception, inspired that indescribable feeling that paves the way towards communication and understanding among human beings.
Over time, Havana Times has proven a multi-purpose, I dare say kaleidoscopic vehicle for the expression of opinions, showing new dimensions at every step of the way.
There are those who use the site almost exclusively to vent their hatred towards the Cuban government and its policies – and to grill those who see something positive in either while they’re at it. There are also those who, on the contrary, avail themselves of the page to reaffirm their faith in Cuba’s political undertakings.
This sparks off monumental virtual brawls between the two camps, often settled without much “bloodshed” and sometimes with a certain degree of elegance – thanks, in good measure, to the editorial expertise of the site’s main administrator.
Though the opinions section is the “hottest” part of the page, Havana Times also affords us a glimpse at the many dimensions of contemporary Cuban society, with special emphasis on its culture and, more specifically, its arts.
Thanks to the site, we’ve been exposed to personalities from Cuba’s art world who would otherwise have remained unknown by the vast majority, particularly those of us who live outside Cuba.
Though far from perfect, Havana Times is pluralistic, polemical and useful. This is the reason I continue to read it. In Cuba, we need debate just as much as we need investment to steer our society in the right direction.
But there’s more. At a more personal level, Havana Times has given me the opportunity to meet people, create relationships and even help people in need. The way I see it, this is the most important thing: to penetrate the otherness of one’s fellow man/woman, to become closer to one another. This is extremely rewarding, at least for me.
Shaking hands, hugging and exchanging kisses with the bloggers of Havana Times was one of the climatic experiences of my stay on the island, an experience to remember.
Though everyone there is, in one way or another, a heavyweight in the expression of opinions and ideas, we spent our time together – far too brief for me – talking about mundane, everyday things and with the banter without which we would not be Cubans, as though we were old neighbors sharing the latest gossip around the block. That is how much we identified with one another.
Today, far from Cuba, I continue to read their posts, grateful for having come upon people who express what they truly think, in a world where, for the longest time, I have been running into so many masks, individuals who hide the feelings that gnaw at them, waiting for who knows what, to get things off their chest.
Thank you, Havana Times.