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Cuba are Internet!

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Hola, how are you Jamaica Urban Legend here with some more news on Cuba. Now there has been so much change in this country, and its happening so fast!!The recent opening up of the Internet in Cuba is creating new international connections between Afro-Cubans and broader black global cultures. Francisco, a dark-skinned Cuban based in Havana who practices Santeria, an African-Diaspora religion from Cuba, stated, “Now we are finally connected,” as he added my email address to his phone and told me he would friend me on Facebook.This past month, during carnival festivities in Havana and Matanzas, the opening up of relations with the United States was visible on Cuban streets. Amid the crowds of people enjoying the parades of Afro-Cuban music and dance ensembles (las comparsas), groups of local Cubans were huddled in open-air public spaces accessing the newfound Wi-Fi hotspots brought about by the agreed opening up of online technologies for Cuban nationals. Standing outside hotels, on small cobblestone streets and in parks were Cubans of all generations chatting on phones, using tablets and typing on their laptops. A black Cuban woman in Matanzas using her iPhone to video-chat the carnival floats to her religious family abroad told me, “This just happened a couple of months ago. Thanks to Obama!Previously, Internet connectivity was one of the most coveted and highly monitored international relations on the island. During my research between 2004 and 2012, to even be able to purchase an Internet card required a passport, and the unreliable Internet connection cost CUC $6 (Cuban convertible pesos) an hour, or slightly over $7 USD, a significant expense considering that the average salary in Cuba is less than $20 USD a month. Legal email and Internet use was allowed either at the local phone company’s computer stations or at tourist-only hotels. Now, not only are Cubans finally admitted into hotels, but also anyone can purchase Internet cards that provide up to five hours online for CUC $10.Wi-Fi (pronounced in Cuba as “we-fee”) hotspots are currently transforming Cuban cityscapes. People recognize these shifts in technological access and international connection as directly related to the opening up of relations with the United States. Afro-Cubans I spoke with told me that “Obama brought us Internet!” which they saw as a form of “black remission,” an outside resource seen to typically benefit mostly whites on the island (particularly those with family ties to early Cuban exiles in the U.S.).So, what will new Internet relations do for Afro-Cubans? Media technologies have been key in allowing previously marginalized communities to have access to transnational relations. For the Santeria practitioners I work with, media has facilitated new religious economies. Attracting a wide range of diverse practitioners globally, Santeria has brought travelers and tourists of all socioeconomic, racial and ethnic backgrounds to black communities on the island, and these visitors have begun to provide Afro-Cubans with formerly scarce international resources. Indeed, many Santeria practitioners supplicate the Afro-Cuban gods (oricha) to continue these positive political changes.  Author: Ricardo – Jamaica 

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