March 12, 2010 Leave a comment
By Rob Packer
Anyone who’s had an eye on my Twitter feed over the past few weeks might have noticed a huge increase in the amount I’m tweeting. A lot of it has to do with slowly finding members of la comunidad tuitera (Twitter community) of Colombia, but my real epiphany came when I stumbled across an opinion article in El País by Jordi Soler, a Spanish writer defending his own tweeting habits and who mentioned Yoani Sánchez, probably the most famous Cuban blogger who tweets from the island. A place I spent a month in 2004 travelling around, meeting and talking to Cubans and realizing that the paradisiacal view that people in the West seem to have of a socialist island paradise is nothing but the same fraud that I was to see the aftermath of five years later while living in Kyrgyzstan. The injustice of the system in 2004 was overwhelming ranging from trivial bureaucracy in the casas particulares (private homes)system to register guests the moment they arrive and to serve tourists chicken or pork only, to prohibiting foreigners from travelling in Cubans’ private cars: we did this once on a trip from Camagüey to the beach and were told by our Cuban hosts of the risks they were running—if they were caught by the police they could have their car confiscated (and impossible to replace), while the hapless tourists would have a taxi called for them and sent on our way.
Through Yoani Sánchez, I found a group of Cuban bloggers writing and tweeting out of Cuba and the single most inspiring thing I’ve found about Twitter is the fact that there are Cubans tweeting from their mobile phones without even having access to the internet. It’s hard to describe the enormous democratic power of this: it feels like an incredible opportunity for Cubans to communicate with the outside world. Yesterday, one of these Cubans from the east of the island, Rolando Lobaina, became the latest to start tweeting. His first tweet possessed something incredibly simple but yet full of sadness:
Mi primer twitter. Andando que va tumbando la dictadura castrista. Libertad para viajar a nestor. Adelante juventud cubana!
My first tweet. Moving so that the Castro dictatorship falls. Freedom to travel to Néstor. Forward, Cuban youth!