Since approximately the 1960’s US – Cuba relations have been poor to say the least. With Cold War tactics used to force an embargo against the island nation, the US has attempted to maintain an upper hand for the past fifty years. US lawmakers had hoped that pushing Cuba into a corner and poverty would force the country to abide by their rules. But Cuba remains strong in its freedom against outside economic forces, developing at the same speed as other Latin American countries, optimistically. Castro’s dictatorship in fact proved to be a great force in raising the living standards of Cuba’s poorest. However we also cannot pretend that Castro is not responsible for violent revolution, and for such places the US as their enemy due to differences in government control. What is important to note though, is that despite the muted voices Cubans in the home country seem to have, the internet is allowing them to be heard. From creating sites to put violence on display to using Facebook to demand a change in ongoing policies, the internet has provided a space for the Cuban diaspora to express themselves, renegotiate their identity, and be heard.
This is incredibly evident in the current movement to End the Travel Ban to Cuba, which has supporters throughout the US, that hope icy US-Cuba relations will thaw. This facebook site also provides up-to-date news in Cuba from rising health care standards to a better real estate market, that only prove that the nation is no longer the evil enemy of US imagination. This site also proves to be a major example of what Jennifer Brinkerhoff explains as transnational engagement in “Digital Diasporas: Identity and Transnational Engagement”, we are seeing the digital realm provide an area for Cubans and Americans alike to comment on political relations that limit travel to the island nation. The End the Ban facebook site proves to be one of many “virtual communities that overlaps with physical communities.” It lives in the physical world as a movement of people regularly facing lawmakers to force a change, while updating their advancements and relevant news regularly on the site. The Facebook page is there to garner more support for the cause and create a sense of community online. The movement has seen changes in Cuba with loosened policies for incoming travel but the US has yet to follow suit.
In fact, a recent story posted on the site, speaks of an Indiana University professor that wanted to go to Cuba for academic purposes but was denied a US visa. Students are now still trying in hopes of making the class trip happen. Of course it seems silly that a trip for students to broaden their knowledge of this very history rich island would be denied a visa when JayZ and Beyonce were able to go on vacation there (apparently not approved by the President). But this is what makes this cause all the more important – many are against this embargo with Cuba and hope to put it to an end. It is here in this space where Cubans openly welcome such an endeavor, while Cuban Americans express their hopes for a return and Americans share their support.
Clearly we are seeing the internet as a place where Cubans, americans, and Cuban Americans can promote more liberal values when it comes to political relations between nations. In fact with this site we are able to see Brinkerhoff’s assertion that Internet technology promotes “a universal moral code, transcending state boundaries and state interests.” What I mean by this is that cyberspace is providing people a place to disagree with government regulations and policies, supporting a cause that has peoples interests and needs at heart. Furthermore it is allowing the Cuban diaspora to communicate freely about an issue of great importance to them and many others. It even allows a space for Cuban identity to be further expressed by looking at the duality of Cuban American existence in this nation – citizens via asylum with a wish to return home someday but denied this right by the country that lured them with the American Dream.
This web platform is interesting. I certainly wonder to what extent Cubans have access to seeing and participating on this forum. I question how much they are a part of this conversation and if this is more for Cuban Americans. Cuban Americans do not have to freedom to travel back and forth as frequently and a lot refuse to return to the country until Castro is no longer in power. I love this site because it shows the half of the diaspora that so desperately wants to close the distance and reconnect with the land. Connecting with the actual land and space is part of feeling Caribbean identified.
Luseley, interesting point on the way in which social media, particular Facebook, is being used as a forum where is voice of the common man can be heard. I especially like that this site is not being used just as a means to propagate Americans neo-liberal ideals but it also gives Cubans a place where they can be a part of the conversation.