A prominent change that I have been witnessing over the past few months in Cuba is that there are many more WiFi hotspots. Contrary to what you may have read by journalists who report from the comfort of their hotels, the internet is not free. Nor has it ever been $12/hr anywhere other than the most expensive hotels in Havana. It has, however, reduced dramatically in price lately. One hour of internet access now costs $2 per hour, or roughly two days worth of wages on the state salary. Fortunately for most Habaneros, there are opportunities to make money on the side, making tips in the tourist sector. The Cuban way is to make possible the impossible, and people have found a way to share the WiFi signal with multiple people from access with a single internet card.
While it is fantastic that many more Cubans now have access to the outside world via the internet, an unfortunate result is the visual effect of huddled groups of Cubans in public places slouched over laptops and smartphones. A wildly social culture being reduced to blue-tinted faces, muted by technology. There's a luddite in most of us who loved the purity of a people trapped by fate in a beautiful past, but the humanity in us has to embrace the leap of freedom that we are witnessing: Cubans now have the liberty to access both the pressing news of the world, and also whatever color Justin Bieber's underwear happens to be. The personal choice to pursue whatever information one feels compelled to find is a luxury of freedom. Call it what you will, but I know that Cuba is still the place where, at least by day, I can strike up a conversation on the street with nearly anyone who crosses my path, and openly and earnestly exchange ideas about the state of the world. Despite many people’s fears that Cuba will be “ruined” by it’s opening, more of us on the outside will soon have the opportunity to witness the warmth and vibrance that the culture of Cuba offers, even if it comes with an occasional blue tint.