While in the free world people are now constantly connected, eating, waiting for the subway, and even going to the bathroom mobile phones in hand, Cubans are still struggling to access the sea of information that is the Internet. They can barely can have an email address, use a social network, and read a little press, carefully counting the minutes to keep from using their data plan, using Facebook at the office, or hotspots in the city.
Por fin hay cubanos en Twitter hablando en cubano cosas de cubanos desde #Cuba. Descargándole a la parte divertida de escribir tuits, con ese humor que, sobre todo, entendemos nosotros.— Lien Carrazana Lau (@lacajadelachina) 2 de febrero de 2019
Gracias, llevo años esperándolos.
The situation, however, is beginning to change. According to ETECSA, more than 70,400 Cubans currently connect to the Internet from their homes, while about 1,800,000 do so via 3G technology on their mobile phones. And this change is becoming manifest on social media.
Where before there was a predominance of Cuban exiles, dissidents from Cuba, and allies of the regime, today the spectrum has expanded, and on a network such as Twitter, along with the recent wave of government leaders and spokespersons, including Miguel Díaz-Canel, the presence of everyday Cubans is being felt.
These new tweeters have comprehended the network quite well, not limiting themselves to merely exchanging information. Rather, they interact, express themselves with humor, use irony, jump on the bandwagon of “in” phrases, giving them Cuban twists, forging communities; in short, they are beginning to constitute a different voice on the Island.
The #AldeaTwitter (#TwitterVillage)
Mentioning tweeters is inevitable to round out this text, but we must begin with what brings them together. Under the hashtag #AldeaTwitter a new wave of Cubans invading the network, with their vitality, comes together. Following the tag you can find them saying good morning, sharing the latest incident on the bus, in the oil lines, joking around, and sharing information.
At some point they wondered whether it was feasible to talk about politics using hashtags. The opinions are divergent. Some support the use of tags for any type of opinion, including political ones, while others refuse to use the label as a platform for political ideas, regardless of the type ... And, although there is no written rule, the community and its most influential members are setting examples.
Putetes a partir de ahora voy a tener más cuidado con lo que escribo en TW que ayer una compañerita me escribió para decirme que me estaba vigilando. Pa' mí que es del DTI así que ya saben...— Antiescoria (@racristofficial) 3 de abril de 2019
Defining the Village is complex. Someone came along and argued that it was necessary to establish certain rules, to prevent potential problems, such as people getting fired, or expelled from school, for "belonging to the #AldeaTwitter, a cybernetic group of dissidents funded by the Empire". The fears seem exaggerated, but there is a culture of fear and repression that fuels these thoughts. It would not be the first time that someone was let go, or expelled from the university, for their ideas, not conforming to "revolutionary standards".
Other users did not agree, believing that they are entitled to express themselves freely and share their opinion as members of the Village. There are even some who have a sense of humor about it, saying that they are already being watched... Others have created the #GranjaTwitter (#TwitterFarm) seeking a more "inclusive and pluralistic" forum.
Beyond the differences of opinion, one interesting thing emerges: debate. Long threads of opinions in which many users chime in, a chat group that evidences something new: people making their own judgments, a group of citizens with their own views, defying the sheepish mass into which Castroist propaganda has turned the Cuban people.
Every group has a leader
Un verdadero “influencer” fue un amigo de la infancia que me agarró a medio camino con un huevo para lanzarlo a una guagua. “¿Cómo vas a desperdiciar un huevo en eso?, vamos a mi casa y te enseño cómo se hace una tortilla“.— El Cacique (@ElCaciqueUrbano) 3 de febrero de 2019
Of the tribe, the most visible figure that stands out, for his grace and talent, at the level of any Mexican, Spanish or Argentinean twitterstar, is @ElCaciqueUrbano. Despite having just a little over 865 followers, he is still very influential, as his tweets garner more feedback than those of other tweeters with thousands of followers.
"If you have recovered from a pressure cooker explosion resulting in beans dripping from the ceiling, let me tell you that you can do anything," he says in one of his tweets.
Humor is his forte; that Cuban kind of humor that was missing on Twitter. And, in between jokes, the Cacique also spurs you to reflect.
"Let's see, let's have a laugh or two at ETECSA's expense. But, we are clear on the fact that it is really them who are mocking you, right?" he says ironically.
¿Seguirás atado?... ¿o te animarás a romper las cadenas? pic.twitter.com/LCES4QjCqc— Amy Magaña (@AmyCubana98) 12 de marzo de 2019
Exploring the origins of the #AldeaTwitter, I found it was an idea of Amelia Flores’ (@ameliafp1986), a Cuban resident in Uruguay, because if this community has one quality it is that it brings together Cubans from the island and the diaspora, generating a kind of virtual island in which distances are overcome.
#Cuba les presento a mis papas de marzo. Venden 8 libras por personas. En casa somos 4 así que tengo 32 libras. Mi esposo llegó a la cola a las 9:00am y salió ahora a la 1:30pm. ¿Quién dijo que el tiempo es oro? El tiempo es papa. Hemos pagado estas papas más con tiempo que con $ pic.twitter.com/2hysbRqf1d— Luz_Cuba (@Luz_Cuba) 16 de marzo de 2019
Amy's photos reflect that Havana hovering between beauty and decay. There are doses of reality: the noisy interior of a bus in a video, the photo of someone reading Hegel on the bus, a policeman in a bookstore, a sign saying "take care of the bus" with an image of Che Guevara... her tweets convey everyday life, even hers, like that of any young woman anywhere in the world who wants to share the books she buys, what she eats, and her walks.
Also portraying everyday life through images is Luz Escobar (@Luz_Cuba), a reporter for 14 y medio who has been on the social network for some time, and whose tweets are now really standing out.
Photos of the city, ramshackle butcher shops, Havanans going about their routines, garbage men; her tweets feature a journalistic approach, but they are not devoid of irony too.
"In #Cuba you sweat about money twice, once when you make it, and once when you spend it," Luz says in one of her tweets.
Crossing the "t"s and dotting the "i"s
¿Alguien sabe si es verdad que durante el recorrido del Príncipe Carlos por La Habana Vieja alguien lo saludó llamándole "Compañero Príncipe"?— Camilo Condis (@camilocondis) 25 de marzo de 2019
Among the most interesting trends are tweets that question the state of affairs, and demand accountability, even from Cuba's leaders, who are now present on the network.
One moment he is asking officials to look into a Canadian businessman photographed with several Cuban girls who seem to be minors, then he is complaining about collapsing buildings, or writing about the shortages from which the people suffer. He often announces that, for demanding explanations from these officials, he has been blocked by them. Condis' biting perspectives do not go unnoticed, his tweets having a major impact.
De nada sirven los "balances" si el pueblo no se entera. ¿Cómo vamos a exigir que algo se cumpla si ni siquiera sabemos las metas que se trazan? ¿Cómo saber si han hecho una buena gestión si no vemos los informes presentados? Gobernar de espaldas al pueblo nunca ha sido útil. https://t.co/AkL3kyynHU— Camilo Condis (@camilocondis) 20 de marzo de 2019
Along this critical line, of note is José Cemí (@PugaVenegas): "Almost free Cuban. No to Marxism, to Communism, to Socialism. Check out my tweets, maybe one of them will help you." These are the words of this tweeter, who exposes the failures of Cuban Communism. His posts, accompanied by very fitting images, have a great impact, and generate comments.
Other times he poses questions, and uses Castroist propaganda to expose the regime: "In what other country of the Western Hemisphere do people steal hospital windows? This is right out of Granma (the government newspaper): 'The predatory actions also extend to the windows, especially those in areas where there are few people at night'", he says in one of his tweets.
Serie cubana "Haz lo que yo digo, no lo que yo hago"— José Cemí (@PugaVenegas) 30 de marzo de 2019
El artículo 51 del Decreto Ley 164 “Reglamento de pesca” prohibe la pesca de langosta y castiga al pueblo con multas desde 500 hasta 5000 pesos por pescarla.
En las fotos: Mariela Castro y el difunto dictador. pic.twitter.com/1GxwIALDcp
"Some questions you never hear in Cuba: 1 - What party do you belong to? 2 - What newspaper do you like to read? 3 - What union do you belong to? 4 - Which internet provider do you prefer? 5 - What school do you plan to send your children to? 6 - What country will you visit on your vacation?", he writes in another tweet with more than 600 likes and more than 400 retweets.
The wave is unstoppable. There are many more and, best of all, every day there are more and more tweeters, taking a stand, defying the regime's rhetoric and its army of communist trolls. They, the "villagers" –as they like to call themselves– are the voice of the Cuban people. Listen to them. Follow them. Read them.