author photo

Alfredo Fernandez: I didn't really leave Cuba, it's impossible to leave somewhere that you've never been. After gravitating for 37 years on that strange island, I managed to touch firm ground, but only to confirm that I hadn't reached anywhere. Perhaps I will never belong anywhere. Now I'm living in Ecuador, but please, don't believe me when I say where I am, better to find me in "the Cuba of my dreams.

Why Are There No Cuban Academic Videos on the Internet?

November 5, 2013 | Print Print |

Alfredo Fernández

The Univeristy of Havana.

HAVANA TIMES — Every day, I have to put together the classes I teach, so many that I need to use audiovisual materials to optimize my time (for my work also entails a number of bureaucratic tasks that pretty much force me to manage my time efficiently).

YouTube, full of lectures in Spanish about practically every subject, is the great ally of any academic, intellectual, artist or common person interested in obtaining or confirming information about a given topic.

After a simple study based on everyday observations, I am quite surprised that, in the six months I have been searching for materials on YouTube – about subjects as broad-ranging as literature, philosophy, journalism, film and many others – I have not once come upon a single Cuban video.

The Cuban government only makes political materials, to let the world know Cuba’s “truth” and the true identity and intentions of the “so-called” dissidents. In cyberspace, the Cuban State seems to have completely forgotten about materials by Cuban scholars.

It pains me to confirm this, for I worked at Cuba’s Sciences Academy as a researcher and I know very well how talented Cuba’s professionals are.

I wonder why the University for Everyone courses aired on Cuban television aren’t on YouTube. Wasn’t it, after all, an essential part of the Battle of Ideas campaign? How long will the lectures of our university professors and researchers continue to be consigned to oblivion?

It is painful to think of how little Cuba contributes to the Spanish-language academy because videos with lectures by Cuban academics aren’t published on the Internet.

I recall that, years ago, I taped a master lecture by the great Cuban biologist Dr. Gilberto Silva, the living scientist who knows the most about bats around the world. I had wanted to upload the video to YouTube, but the recording’s length – an hour and a half – proved too much for Cuba’s slow Internet connection.

Without access to the Internet, the country is slowly dying. It is as though the country did not exist, as though nothing were going on anywhere in Cuba. The truth of the matter is quite the opposite: with the exception of Internet access and a decent salary, Cuban scholars have no reason to envy their colleagues in the region and around the world, for they are daring, creative and, most importantly, tenacious.


What's your opinion?

  • Moses Patterson

    Fret not. There are an ample number of Cuban ‘how to roll and smoke cigar’ videos and a wide number of ‘salsa and reggaeton’ instruction videos made by Cubans. There are even quite a few rum drink recipes uploaded by Cuban bartenders. What more do you want? Where does the University of La Habana rank among leading academic universities around the world? Save the Google search, it doesn’t rank. How about Nobel scientists? Or even patents in medicine. Very, very few. So maybe not having academic videos on YouTube is no big deal. I can’t think of one thing in my home or office that is impacted, invented or improved by Cuban intellectualism. So what’s the big deal?

    • Keiver

      The big deal is not how much Cuban intellectuals have or have not changed your daily life…
      The big deal is why there is nor better internet connection in Cuba? The simplest thing, do you know why? Real reasons?
      The big deal is why you don’t know how much Cuban doctors do in 66 different countries around the world, in 40 of them the services they provide are for free.
      Patents? Do you know what institutions regulate them? Are they north american? Do you know what happens between Cuba and the US?

      Anyway, you definitely did not get the point of the article.
      Do some research please.

      • Moses Patterson

        No reasonable person should deny that despite the Castros many faults, their medical diplomacy has done some good in the world. International patents are headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. The REAL reason that Cubans have the lowest internet connectivity in this hemisphere has nothing to do with the US embargo. The Venezuela undersea cable has been in operation for two years. The Castros fear what Cubans will learn about the real world and what the world will learn about the real Cuba. I understood the article very well. I am just not impressed.

        • emagicmtman

          Do you really think that the reason why the internet is so restricted in Cuba is because the “Castros fear what Cubans will learn about the real world…” ? If that were the case, how come Americans know so little about the rest of the world?! I think you’re over-estimating both. Most Cubans will continue to be interested in “Caso Cerado” or “Sabado Gigante,” and other trash, just as most Americans are interested in “Keeping up with the Kardashians,” or “Dancing with the Stars!” They’re not interested in the political bile spewed by the Miami dynasaurs over Radio (or TV) Marti. In most cases, both Cubans and Americans are interested in lowbrow trash. At least the Cuban state makes concerted efforts to educate the audience of its mass media (not that, after 50+ years of the Revolution, such efforts have met with success–in fact, the trend seems to be reversing)!

  • lpress

    Online education is taking off in a big way and would be an excellent application for the ALBA-1 undersea cable. Spanish language courses are needed and Cuban academics, medical researchers and others could make a significant contribution. See a proposal along these lines at:
    http://laredcubana.blogspot.com/2012/06/online-education-application-for-alba-1.html

  • walkingbear

    WHY DON’T CUBANS HAVE ACCESS TO THE INTERNET? This point I have pondered, and I conclude the reason is purely economic in nature. The Cubans receive 1.1 million Canadians each year, and total of perhaps 2.5 or so million tourists. Many of us have established real and meaningful relationships with Cuban people, families with whom we become close. To communicate, email is possible, but using the internet is still somewhat of a taboo. The COST of calling from Cuba to Canada never gets cheaper than about $1.10 per minute. If you call Canada collect from Cuba, the call can run up at over $5.00 per minute! This many first time tourists learn by shocking billing when they come home after a trip when they may have phones home to Canada to check on the kids. The point is, this is a huge…HUGE financial cash cow for the Cuban government…HUGE! SO if internet became commonplace, hundreds of millions of dollars in long sidtance calling would go down the drain, including cuban to cuban calls, which require that little cell phone which somehow many cubans mysteriously can afford. Yup…there are two economies in cuba. One wherein a cuban without foreign connections is supposed to live and survive. The other is where a Cuban has a foreign friend or relative, that feeds the bucks back there to help out. A cuban with a friend can see their salary go from perhaps $20 per month, to several thousand per year. So don’t expect to see any opening of internet access in cuba in the near future. It would be a financial crippler.