“…Web access remains as slow and scarce as ever, with no evidence of any urgency to get the cable working. Rumors swirl about technical problems or bad business deals, with others speculating that Cuban authorities have been spooked by the Arab Spring and the central role that social media has played in it.”
I follow a young woman named Yoani Sánchez on Twitter. Sánchez, 36, is quite possibly Cuba’s most prolific and outspoken blogger, recognized around the world for chronicling and sharing her view of conditions in a country that retains tight control on what is said and by whom. As far as I can tell, Sánchez relies on hotels, Internet cafes, her smart phone, and friends who have access to the Web to get her messages to the world. A 2007 Reuters article provides a fascinating look at how she and other Cuban bloggers get around the hurdles that keep free expression sidelined in their country.
I am intrigued as to why the Castro regime, not known for brooking free speech, continues to allow Sánchez to do her thing. Over the years, authorities have blocked her blog and made the life difficult for her in numerous ways. It may be that she has achieved so much recognition and acclaim around the world that the brothers Castro have been compelled to tolerate Sanchez. She did encounter trouble when trying to use her smart phone to text and Tweet during the Pope’s spring visit to Cuba. I included her dispatches in my Storify treatment “Pope Benedict Visits Cuba.”
Anyway, I digress.
This morning I saw a Tweet from Sánchez about something called “Festival Clic” (hashtag #FestivalClic) Intrigued, I checked out the website and learned it is conference planned for June 21-23 in Havana. The festival is billed as, “El evento para hablar de internet y sociedad en Cuba.” (The event to talk about the Internet and society in Cuba).
¿De verdad? (Really)?
Since speaking critically about Cuban society is an dicey proposition–even in the privacy of the Havana, Cienfuegos, and Varadero homes I visited between 2002 and 2005–the conversation promises to be anything from contentious and frustrating to empowering and inspiring. It’s a safe bet that agents of the state will be there in some capacity: overt, covert or both.
The organizers of Festival Clic are a major blogger conference in Spain called EBE, Academia Blogger (founded by Sanchez), and Estado de SATS (a Cuban blogger collective of sorts). It will be interesting to follow this event as it unfolds. Stay tuned.
All this talk of Cuba reminded me of some photos from my trips. I invite you to view this slideshow: