Cubans used to joke about Napoleon Bonaparte chatting to Mikhail Gorbachev, George W Bush and Fidel Castro in the afterlife. “If I’d have had your prudence, I’d never have fought Waterloo,” the French emperor tells the last Soviet leader. “If I’d have had your military might, I’d have won Waterloo,” he tells the Texan. Turning last to Castro, the emperor says: “If I’d have had Granma [the Cuban Communist party daily], I’d have lost Waterloo but nobody would have known.”
Cuba has restricted access to social media and messaging platforms including Facebook and WhatsApp, global internet monitoring firm NetBlocks said on Tuesday, in the wake of the biggest anti-government protests in decades.
Cubans facing the country’s worst economic crisis in decades took to the streets over the weekend. In turn, authorities blocked social media sites in an apparent effort to stop the flow of information into, out of and within the beleaguered nation.
Every Friday night for the past five weeks, hundreds of young Cubans have stayed up into the early morning to start their weekend off with a taste of something illicit: uncensored information.
As countless Cubans have proudly told me over the years, “Cubans invent.” They use creative workarounds to get by in an environment with limited access to outside resources. Glass beer bottles are sawed off to become drinking glasses; helmets transform into flowerpots; shoestrings and bottle caps are affixed to doors as makeshift locks.
Alex, 28, rides his bike all over a neighborhood in Havana delivering el paquete. It doesn’t matter that there’s a “stay home” order in place—he goes out wearing a mask and carrying a chloride solution. His delivery is now more precious than ever precisely because of the quarantine: Alex provides his customers with information and entertainment. He delivers the Cuban “offline internet.”