Friday, August 30, 2013

Uninformed or Poor?

Uninformed or Poor? / Yusimi Rodriguez Lopez
Posted on August 29, 2013

A couple days ago two neighbors were talking outside my house about the
notice published in the newspaper Granma, official organ of the
Communist Party. I don't know what the news was, but one said to the
other, "It came out in Granma, I read it," as proof of veracity. The
other responded, "I don't believe what Granma says, I read the internet."

A year ago it would have been difficult to hear a conversation like this
between neighbors, I don't think anyone would have talked out loud about
the question of the credibility of the official national press. Nor do I
know if my neighbor could connect to the internet a year ago, or just a
few months ago, and by what route if he was able to do so.

Many Cubans connected before network access became widely available in a
legal form for nationals. How? Some from their workplaces, legally and
free, had access to the pages that the Government allowed. Others
accessed from embassies, which is perfectly legal, but frowned upon by
our authorities: many did not use this route for fear of stigma, for
example that anyone could reproach them on seeing them enter the United
States Interest Section.

Other compatriots accessed the internet "under the table." Someone
whispered to you "so and so has internet, but you can't tell, it's under
the table." Not the least bit strange in a country where illegality
appears to be a prerequisite for things achieving the desired legal
status. For example, people sold their homes and cars before it was
legal to do so, not surprising in a country where you can go to jail for
an illegality one day before it ceases to be one. This happened with
holding currencies: one day made the difference between an "integrated
and compliant citizen under the law" and a "criminal"; the next day the
same difference was between "someone dying of hunger" and "a privileged

Because in the end, it's all about money. It's money that makes the
difference. We don't want to have the right to enter the hotels in our
own country, to travel, to buy a house or a car, unless we are high
performance athletes and important cultural figures? Then there are our
rights, let them. What's stopping us? Money.

The Government seems to be so aware that we do not have money, that,
according to the vox populi (which almost always is right), when a Cuban
citizen living in Cuba has stayed at hotels with a regularity outside
what is considered normal, their names are noted in a list and the
government then comes around to ask how they can afford it. But this may
be a rumor. Many good and bad things are attributed to our Government.
Not all are true (bad or good).

The truth is that money now not only divides us into Cubans can stay in
a hotel and those who can't even dream of it; between Cubans who can
dine at restaurants like Doña Eutimia, The Decameron or The Mimosa, and
Cubans who can only afford a pizza for ten Cuban pesos (and barely
that). Now money also divides us between Cubans who can access the
Internet, and Cubans who never will nor care to, because first they need
to think about eating. You can't think about having information, unless
you have a full stomach and more or less decent clothes to dress and
clothe the family.

I guess that's the difference between my two neighbors. One of them can
afford to discard Granma in favor of the internet as an information
source (I don't know if he's aware that not everything that is published
on the Internet is reliable); the other goes along with the official
national press that does not cost more than two Cuban pesos, even if you
buy from resellers.

A year ago, I complained that Cubans only had access to official
national information media, which contained information that the
Party-Government's interest in our consuming, processed in the way that
the Party-Government's interest wants us to have it. Now you can go into
the rooms that have opened in the country, and pay for services to
navigate the web (national and international) and email (national and
international). It's not news that one hour of internet costs 4.50 CUC,
just over $ 5 US and just under half the monthly salary of a worker. The
cheapest is the using national email only, 1.50 CUC. Well, you decide,
you aren't forced to access the internet.

I was told that these cyber rooms you could get access to the The Miami
Herald, for instance, and it's true. I was able to check a couple of
weeks ago, when I decided to commit harakiri and create myself an
internet account. The connection is fast, at least compared to what I
knew, and yes, you can access any publication even if it criticizes the
government. This is freedom of information, I thought. I can no longer
talk about uninformed Cubans; there are simply poor Cubans.

To be informed costs, in Cuba and in the world. It's only that we are
entering the ring right now. In the world there are places where the
information is free, and sites where you sign up to receive information,
places where you read a piece of information, and pay for the rest, and
places where you pay for quality information. Cubans are just entering
the XXI century. What happens is that at this stage of the game, it
still amazes us sometimes to discover that things are not as we were led
to believe that they were; that in reality, we are not all equal, and in
the future will be about the same.

That was my conclusion until I tried something as simple as accessing
the blog Generation Y, by the blogger Yoani Sanchez, who, believe it or
not, I had never read. I read a couple of her articles that were linked
to or posted on other sites, but not her blog. The worst thing is that
it took me a while to realize I could not access it. As I'm used to the
internet being I slow, waited, waited and waited, watching the minutes
that for me were money.

I tried the same with the blog Sin evasion, by Miriam Celaya, and that
of Reinaldo Escobar. In all cases I access articles and interviews from
elsewhere, but not their blogs. I repeated the operation with David
Canela, a journalist at Cubanet. I couldn't even read his articles. I
also could not access the publication.

I asked the workers staff the cybercafes, if Generation Y, for example,
was blocked. They didn't know what Generation Y is, or who Yoani Sanchez
is. No surprise, it happens to many people in Cuba. I explained, with
some difficulty because I realized I do not know how to define Yoani:
Dissident? Opposition?? Citizen? Highly embarrassing for the government?
Finally I was told that such sites or blogs are blocked. Then I learned
that the classified ad page Revolico is blocked too.

I could have saved money and time, if I had read the internet contract I
signed: Article 9 of the generalities of the service states "ETECSA is
exonerated from liability for the limited access to the content,
accuracy, quality and accuracy of the information posted on sites …"

Now I'm not sure it is enough to have money. Things do not seem so
simple. You can pay, but that does not guarantee that access to the
information that interests you. You do not decide what information to
consume. In the end will we be only poor? Or we also uninformed?

Yusimi Rodriguez Lopez

From Diario de Cuba

19 August 2013

Source: "Uninformed or Poor? / Yusimi Rodriguez Lopez | Translating
Cuba" -

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