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Epilogue I revisited Cuba in February–March 2008, wanting to see what had changed in the two years between my completing my research and this book going to press. Serendipitously, I landed in Havana on the quiet, humid evening following the historic announcement that, after Cubans had experienced nearly fifty years of daily life under Fidel, Raúl Castro had been appointed the new commander in chief. I was greeted in the darkened corridors of a familiar district by air fragrant with night-blooming jasmine and gasps of surprise from old neighbors. Waking early the next day, I immersed myself in the hum of the morning crowd, finding that the news of the new president was met with tremendous calm. People got up, bathed, splashed on some agua de violetas, made their way to work or school in pressed uniforms, and went about their normal business of contraband, cafecitos, daily struggle, family life, and romance. “El mismo perro, diferente collar” (same dog, different collar) was the explanation for the palpable lack of shift in energy, despite the notable change in leadership. I made the rounds to find eggs, bread, and coffee; confirmed that papaya and guava were in season; and desperately tried to locate a pen or pencil, having decided against bringing any electronic equipment on this visit in order to remain as anonymous a researcher as possible. After engaging in the ritual search of several shops, I purchased an overpriced ballpoint. This was not, however, the device my Cuban friends hoped I would be using for documentation . “You mean to tell me you didn’t bring un flash?!” (USB flash drive or memory stick) chided David, still my key informant, in disbelief, holding his head in his hands. Flash culture was rapidly diffusing through Havana in 2008, creating new possibilities for Cubans to share clandestine images and information discreetly and quickly. In fact, David owned three with different storage capacities, one a James Bond–style drive hidden within a slim golden pen. Besides their usefulness for discreetly downloading the most recent film releases from the U.S. market via illegal Internet hookups and burning them Epilogue / 181 onto CDs—an increasingly popular practice—flash drives were enabling the circulation of more specifically political material as well. For example, a flash drive had allowed Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez to document, in vivid and provocative detail, daily hardships and download them onto her “Generación Y” web page since April 2007. Her readership reached 1.2 million worldwide, and she was awarded the prestigious Ortega y Gasset prize for digital journalism in Spain (though the site is sometimes blocked for periods of time in Cuba, and she was not allowed to leave the country to receive the award in person). In a similar cyber-underground spirit, I soon found myself peering into an old personal computer as I sat next to David, illicitly viewing a recorded question-and-answer session between Cuban National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcón and an earnest student named Eliécer Ávila, whom David identified as “puro guajiro” (a “total hick” in Cuban slang). The student’s accent identified him as from the poor eastern region of Las Tunas. Cuban citizens and consumers had never seen anything like it before. In a town-hall-style meeting that took place at the computer science university in February 2008, the student had stood up and asked: “Why do hard-working state employees earn in pesos but have to buy basic goods in CUCs, the convertible currency meant for tourists and foreigners?” David nods. “Why are we not allowed to travel outside of the country, even if we had a million dollars to do so?” David nods enthusiastically. “Why can’t we access the Internet freely?” David catches my eye. “Why can we not have more direct contact with state officials in order to address questions like these and be truly represented ?” David nods again. Alarcón was flustered, “unprepared” as he put it, to answer such “ignorant” questions of today’s youth, whom he implied had little understanding of the history or nature of sacrifice. Waving his hands, he evaded the questions as best he could for thirty minutes.1 Alarcón’s shadow audience, in front of computer screens across the city, snickered and rolled their eyes at his inept replies, and the video clip spread like wildfire, flash-to-flash, between residents in Havana, referred to casually as “la respuesta” (the response). Cubans asserted that the...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780813045399
Related ISBN
9780813036984
MARC Record
OCLC
801843026
Pages
272
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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