For many years now, Cuba has become a complex site of contradictory social practices. Regardless of the current détente under President Donald Trump’s Administration, the island has become a substantially different country, whereby ideals of solidarity and revolutionary sacrifice upheld by the historical leadership coexist with conspicuous consumerism and an individualistic ethos associated to the emergence of a private sector.
Practices of pluralism and contestation have manifested within such a conflated interplay of ideologies, defying previous models of authoritarianism. Cubans are progressively participating in new forms of activism and civic engagement—autonomously, semi-autonomously, and in many cases, from within State-run institutions—with ever-growing agency and sense of self-empowerment.
The idea of a documentary
The lack of information and/ or misinformation about such processes motivated me to take part in the production of a a corpus of work aimed at documenting said dynamics.
In June of 2015, I visited the island and interviewed bloggers, scholars, musicians, and editors and journalists affiliated to both independent and state-run publications. In my interviews, I wanted to approach a critical sector of the Cuban society, which, in spite of shaping Cubans’ everyday life, remains rather invisible.
Some of the questions asked were: Has the Cuban blogosphere emerged as an alternative to state-run journalism? Can alternative media outlets, as well as the emergence of independent artists and intellectuals be perceived as the foundation of a nascent Cuban civil society? What is the impact of the criticism exerted by these individuals and groups? To what extent Internet -despite limited accessibility- has contributed to shape new narratives within the island? Are Afro-Cubans at a disadvantage with respect to other sectors? Are there social classes in communist Cuba today? What role has the Cuban diaspora played in the emergence of thse new dynamics? What do Cubans think of democracy programs implemented by the U.S. government? Are Cubans advocating for/ expecting the emergence of political parties and opposition groups?