¿Haz clic aquí? What will be the upshot of an Internet and society conference in Cuba?

“…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.”

From In Cuba, Dial-Up Internet Is A LuxuryAll Things Considered on NPR. Dec. 24, 2011

English: Yoani Sánchez (b. 1975), a Cuban phil...
English: Yoani Sánchez (b. 1975), a Cuban philologist and blogger Español: Yoani Sánchez, una filóloga y bloguera cubana Deutsch: Yoani Sánchez, kubanische Philologin und Bloggerin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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:

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3 thoughts on “¿Haz clic aquí? What will be the upshot of an Internet and society conference in Cuba?

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  1. Thanks for the post Holly, well written except for the American snark “Really”? -you are too fine a journalist to stoop to sarcasm. That being said I’d like to help you when you write about my country.

    First of all Ms.Yoani Sanchez has a stellar European education thanks to the Cuban Government. Her blogs asking those rhetorical questions that have no immediate answer or no one one is actively working on a solution drive me nuts. I therefore no longer follow her.

    Yes she has received all kinds of awards and recognition world wide. After all what she does is intriguing. Your analysis on why the government allows it is on point.

    My country has been destroyed. The Cubans of her generation are not like us. Pre-revolution immigrants.

    Anyone talking about my country needs to keep in mind the Republican Party in America since 1987. You repress free speech, oh yes you do, despite the First amendment. In America you have a racism that is cruel despite the two main groups living together 400 years.

    Don’t leave out the fact that many Cubans are Republicans, Don’t deny that racism still exists in Cuba. And don’t forget to mention that along with Yoani Sanchez? Fidel Castro is admired worldwide as well.

    Thanks for the pictures. A horse and buggy in 2003-4? I am ashamed of my country.

  2. Thanks for your response! (My “really” was more of an expression of my amazement than sarcasm, but I take your point).

    I will always we glad for the opportunity to visit Cuba and hope to return someday. What a complex, dismaying, beautiful and vexing place! Except for my very first visit (2002), I always stayed with a family, which allowed me to experience the rhythms and realities of Cuban life to a degree.

    You are absolutely right about the racism (denied by many in Cuba, of course), which is another complicated matter. Most of Cuba’s leaders are white or at least light-skinned. So are most of the Cubans working in tourism spots and other venues where they come into contact with foreigners.

    I knew a woman–a mulata–who, when speaking of a black person and his her her failings, would rub her forearm, grimace, and spit “negro.” And yet, Cubans of all races and blends rely on each other for daily survival; they share, barter and loan (with collateral, of course). They socialize together one minute and trash each other the next. Intimate relationships? Well, the result is clear: Cuba is a brown and black nation, where the lighter you are the better.

    As for Ms. Sanchez, I follow her because she is brave and perseveres. If thoughtful people like you find the rhetorical questions that have no answers frustrating, I can only imagine how she feels! Sometimes chipping away is the only thing a person can do to make a difference.

    And as for US and US-Cuban complicity in the situation, wow — what a mess. A blog post for another day!

    All the best, Holly

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