Cuba: the wifi generation | VPRO World Stories

Cuba: the wifi generation | VPRO World Stories


Eggs. 120 pesos per box. One box of eggs for just 120.
The last ones. You have no permit.
– But I do. I am the only one who can work here.
They are just stooges. I don’t care.
– Of course not. We will be on television.
– No no, I am leaving. Let them just film you. I am leaving. Let them film you. Cuba after Castro At 19 years old, Yuri left Cuba,
preferably to never return. He started a new life in the Netherlands
and we stayed behind. Now, 15 years later,
Fidel and Raúl are gone and Yuri returns. The question is: Has Cuba changed
enough for Yuri to pick up his life here? episode 2
Wi-Fi and whisky Dear me, this is real change:
the elite on the golf course. We revolutionaries thought we had
chased the elite off the island for good. But no, it has returned
under another guise. Enrique, a successful restaurant owner,
is one of them. Perfect, because I have big hands. You are kidding me.
– You are supposed to hit it long. I am used to playing in the street,
playing baseball and such. For my golf is a sport for rich people. That is a misconception about golf. Many foreign hotel guests play here. And many people
from the Spanish embassy. You are half Spanish, right? I have a Spanish passport because
my grandparents were from Spain. But I am 100 percent Cuban, like you.
– Like me. We just saw a picture of Fidel and Che
playing golf together. That picture has a story.
Fidel once visited the U.N. in New York. The U.S. president did not welcome him,
but instead was playing golf. This was during the Cold War. The big news that day was that the
American president had hit a hole in one. I hear Che liked to play a bit of golf.
But Fidel did not, I think. He played a lot of baseball
and basketball. So the picture
is a bit of a joke about golf. Exactly. Like in many places in the world
golf was stereotyped as a sport… …for a certain social class. Unfortunately, one of the first things
they did after 1959… …was to re-zone golf courses
for other usage. The Country Club had a great course.
Yes, it was very exclusive… …and I heard stories that people of colour
were not welcome there. It had a bad vibe. As a consequence
the poor golf course got in trouble. Nowadays people recognise
the importance of golf for Cuba… …as a source of foreign currencies. Let’s see… A bit too far, maybe.
– No, it is perfect, man. Please do not overstress him. That is my friend Felo.
– How are you? Usually I play with Enrique. He is very easy to beat, don’t you think? He hit his approach on the green.
– Sorry. I am a natural.
– Tiger Woods. You look like him, only more well-baked.
– A bit, yeah. With a mate like him…
– Let him be. Let’s have a whisky. You drink whisky?
Me too, but I prefer Dutch beer. Good foreign whisky is a luxury that
entrepreneurs like Enrique can afford. But for now we, regular Cubans,
stick to Cuban rum. Golf is back again.
Another novelty is the internet. But for that you first need to buy a ticket
at the state office. Hello, I would like an internet ticket. For 30 minutes or five hours? I will have five hours. With this ticket you can go to the park
and the state owned Wi-Fi hotspot. For me this is a new side of Cuba. All these people are here
for one reason only: Wi-Fi. Oh dear, I ruined it. I bought this expensive ticket
and now it is ruined. It is unusable. I am sorry, but what are you doing? Facebook and Instagram.
– Really? You have your own account? For a long time?
– Yes. I tried to scratch it
to see the number, but… Is it gone? You have to be
careful when you scratch. I will not get my money back? You have to be careful.
That is what it says here. How are you? Well? What are you doing?
– Skyping my brother. Where is he?
– In Chelyabinsk, Russia. Here, you can talk to him. Hey brother, how are you? How is it to Skype
with your brother in this park? Really great, man. It is great. I wish you lots of luck
in Russia. Cheers, man. Thank you.
– See you. Hello. What are you doing? We’re on the internet. I am on YouTube to check
how many views I have. YouTube? You have your own channel?
– Yes. What do you do on YouTube?
– I upload videos. What kind of videos?
– Funny videos or contemplations. How are you?
I am doing super, super, super fine. How many followers do you have?
– 18,700. 18,700?
– Yes. I first test this make-up
before I post this to YouTube. Yes, they call this progress as well. Imitating the way
people in the West act. How do you like being able to connect
to the internet in this park? I love it. I would die without the internet. Because the internet
is my daily addiction. I was thinking… Fifteen years ago I left Cuba
to migrate to the Netherlands. At that time it seemed inconceivable
that Cubans would ever get online. On YouTube I feel free
to tell my own story. I can express myself.
YouTube is like a diary to me. But what more do we get into?
Everything we wanted to keep out… …is now able to enter.
I am sure it must have its benefits… …but my god, such emptiness. And now you can get Wi-Fi
at home in Cuba… …but at the cost of a monthly salary. That is why most Cubans
still get connected in the park. And if it is too slow,
we make it ourselves. Ian Pedro. How are you, brother? This genius
created his own Wi-Fi network… …that connects over 20,000 people. It has a Cuban ‘eBay’, dating sites,
and a game centre. Isn’t that dangerous?
– No, it is not. You see many roofs like this in Havana.
That is the Wi-Fi equipment. That connects a big part
of this neighbourhood. He bought the material for this antenna
via a Cuban version of eBay. Many small parts are from the USA. The boy makes no profit.
Now, that is socialism. These cables come
from the flats downstairs… …and they run to the Wi-Fi equipment. We met and together we reached
agreement over the fee. A fee of about one euro a month
covers all the cost. So, this is it. It is incredibly impressive. But still, for most Cubans
one euro is a fortune… …considering the average Cuban
earns 30 euros. Best quality bananas. That makes the concept of progress
relative. Many people don’t earn enough to live on
and don’t know how to earn more. Madam? Are you self-employed?
– No. What do you do for a living?
– I buy and sell. Things like ice cream and soft drinks. That is how I earn a bit of money. Do you have kids?
– Two boys. Does your husband work?
– Yes, but he earns very little. He is a dock worker. Do you have enough to eat?
– No, not really. Sometimes we have nothing.
Then I go out to search for food. I have enough to live. I manage. And I do not have kids. I earn just enough to manage. Would you like to be self-employed?
– Sure. But? What would I do? For us Cubans making good money
and entrepreneurship were dirty words. After the Revolution of 1959
all private companies were nationalised. Only since the Nineties we are,
to a degree, allowed to start companies. If you want to earn more money,
you must be self-employed. Because everyone who works for
the state makes the same: too little. The Free Market is a new concept for
Cuba and demands fundamental change. The church organises classes for people
who want to learn entrepreneurship. Unfortunately the state does
not offer these. What will we do today?
We will start with the customer. We focus on core activities. So, to summarise what I said… I will be right back. Yes, Monica? I am teaching a class. I will call you back. Most of us have our own business.
Always put your phone on vibrate. If it is for the business you answer. At the moment we are working on
the tax declarations for the quarter. That is why at the moment
many clients call me. Always divide your potential customers
into target groups. A classic example. Thursday mornings, on Reina
and Galeano, you see girls… …usually well built… …with a pile of flyers for a party
that is free for women. Whichever way you go,
they will give you a flyer. Sometimes you might even get five.
They don’t pay attention. The person who invested in this project,
partly wasted that investment. I got five flyers.
– And you are not… A customer. I’m not their target audience.
It is not my thing. Are you an entrepreneur?
– Yes, since 2012, as an accountant. Me too. In Netherlands
I am a filmmaker and photographer. Could I have clients in Cuba? Videos are very popular here…
– Made by Cubans or foreigners? By Cuban companies
that use self-employed people. The number of independent professions
is capped at 157. You can only use those companies. In Cuba we are confronted
with limitations like that. If, in a country like the U.S… …there is no No U-turn sign
by the road, you are allowed to turn. Here you can only turn when it says
‘Turns allowed’. A fundamental difference. Independent accountants, like me,
can’t work for state-owned companies. Nor for foreign companies. If you wanted
to hire me for my services… …I would have to decline. Why is that not allowed, you think? They do not want it.
That is the only explanation. Yuri, why they do not want it?
Because since the Revolution… …the state controls
the activities of every Cuban… …and how they earn money.
Everyone owns everything. We can’t allow a few sheep
to escape the flock. Entrepreneurs can only have occupations
that the state has approved. The state, or the government, has made
a list of all the approved professions. I am a filmmaker.
I have read the list carefully… …but I can’t find my profession. Would I
be allowed to be a filmmaker in Cuba? Yuri would like to make videos
and short films like this in Cuba. But would the state allow that? Department of Employment
and Social Affairs Comrade Yuribert Capetillo, room 401. Good afternoon. Welcome to the Department
of Employment and Social Affairs. Why is there a list of new professions? Yes. Good afternoon. Before I answer your questions,
I would like to start by welcoming you. We are at the Department
of Employment and Social Affairs. We really should not say
that these are all changes. In fact, economically and socially,
we are really just updating… …the economic model of the 6th and
7th Congress of the Communist Party. Some independent professions
are not on the official list… …but people are performing them.
Is that allowed? Not legally.
If people continue their activities… …without a licence… …they are doing something illegal. Can someone be a vlogger? Make videos
and upload them to the internet? That is not allowed. I am a photographer,
videographer and filmmaker. If I were to return to Cuba,
would I be allowed to do that here? Is this it? Photographer: makes photos in or outside
a studio, edits them, makes videos… So, they call Yuri’s profession
photographer, not filmmaker. It is allowed. The definition is different. If a Cuban who has moved abroad… …decides to return, the person
has the same rights as every Cuban. You can work as a photographer here
if you want to. As long as you stick to the definition,
there is no problem. So, I can return? You can return here
whenever you want to. You are, and will remain, a son of Cuba.
We look forward to you return. So Yuri is allowed to work in Cuba.
Very nice. But what do Cubans who live here,
think of the new rules? All new laws benefit the government.
not the people. They don’t want to see content people.
There are no quieter people than Cubans. I think the new rules
and the changes are bad. In the Netherlands many laws are meant
to increase the people’s wellbeing. And they are also intended
to be economically beneficial. Aren’t they doing that right in Cuba? The state is implementing a very rigorous
system for payment and control… …to be able to completely monitor
self-employed taxi drivers. They must have a bank card
that the state monitors. They must have a taxi rank… …so the state can monitor what route
you drive and when you arrive. Don’t you think that the revenue
that is created… …is used for schools and hospitals? Nobody knows where that money goes.
– In Holland I pay a lot of taxes: 50%. But do you have good roads?
– I’m not a taxi driver, but I pay 50%. You know what I mean?
I know what the money is used for. Not here. We have no idea. You have seen the state of our roads.
Where does that money go? Easy.
Taxi drivers are always complaining. But they are not the only ones
who are unhappy. Since papa’s death… …Cuba has been going downhill.
– Papa? The supreme commander. The beard.
Since then it’s been going downhill. How long ago… Just a sec. How long ago was the Revolution?
– 59 years. Let’s say the Revolution
was 60 years ago. And look at the state of those houses. They are all on the brink of collapse. See all the garbage?
See the state of the road? See the flaky paint on those facades?
And no-one does anything about it. They have abandoned us.
The president really has to act. I sometimes feel… ….that I fear the state more
than the people here. Maybe because I was abroad… …and missed a lot of the changes
because I didn’t live here. But sometimes you see somebody
look at you, or follow you. And that reminds you of the old times,
of your own fears. You think:
Maybe he is keeping an eye on me. I now feel that that is just
my imagination, based on my fears. It’s like unresolved trauma.
Cubans who stayed… …have had more time
to cope with that trauma. Maikel, Yuri’s former neighbour,
is one of those who stayed. Yuri thinks his life, had he stayed,
would have been like his. While Yuri has a home and a family
in the Netherlands… …Maikel and his sister Yula still live with
their mother, Yuri’s worst nightmare. Maikel? Hello, Yuri.
– You alright? How are you, brother?
Give us a hug. And the little girl?
– Fine. I made this veranda myself. Just you?
– Yeah, just a matter of improvising. This will be the bathroom. This seems risky.
– Careful. No worries.
I installed all the electrics myself. I also constructed the ceiling
and the rest. Shouldn’t you put an outlet on this?
– I gave the one I had to my sister. I have regular outlets here. But my sister
didn’t have any downstairs, so… How long have you been building?
– Some 12 years now. Yes, I was 13 when I built those stairs. And how old are you now?
– 33. Yes, 33. Let’s go. As far as I can see,
nothing has changed. Yuri will help Maikel for a day
with his kitchen. But first they’re tile hunting. How far do we still have to go?
You walk a lot. How are you?
What’s the name of that ‘black guy’ here? He’s not home at the moment.
– He is not? This was only the first attempt. Yuri begins to understand you need a lot
patience when you re-model a house. Closed?
– Are you closed, mate? You might try down there… Brother, we have been looking for tiles
for two hours now, but no luck. It takes a bit of time, yes. I now see why it takes 10 or 20 years
to finish your house. And the prices… In Cuba construction materials
are hard to find. You have to search for tiles,
cement, or paint. Everything is scarce and expensive.
Many materials must be imported… …which is difficult
because of the U.S. embargo. Which do you like for the kitchen?
– This one. Yeah, it is nice. You want this because of the price?
– No, I like it. I really like the woodsy colour. Just feel it with your hand. Are you okay? Want to swap? Just take one.
– One. Hold on tight to the other two. Let’s go. Better? As a Dutchman I am done walking. Look where you are going. We’re full. Let’s make cement.
– I don’t see a sink. That is right. It has not arrived yet.
I will install it later. When?
– Later, Yuri. It’s beginning to take shape. Nice, right?
– Really nice. They are very different textures. This is quite dusty work. I am not a natural. Just empty it. Water?
– One bucket. Want me to get it?
– You can mix. Me?
– Just a sec. I’ll take it.
– Just pour it out. You don’t like to be helped, right?
– I am used to working alone. So, you do this all day long?
– Yes, brother. Do you work for a private company
or is it state-owned? A private cooperative.
Much better than working for the state. Why? Because of the salary. That is much higher. How much do you earn?
– Up to 200 euros instead of 25 euros. When you don’t work for the state,
you can earn up to eight times more. That is good when you want
to re-model. When you re-model in Cuba,
you have no money for food. Anything I can do?
– I am installing the titles one by one. Do they bond?
– It is curing already. Very nice. Not now, mum. Go and give her a hand. I am going. Mercedes? Come here.
– How are you? So nice of you to visit. The idea is that, in time,
Yula will live here? Yes, because when she has more kids,
she will need more room. Do you want him to have kids?
– Yes, of course. And she wants me to have another kid.
– Sure. Another?
– No. Maybe then she…
– Maybe then this will be finished. I do not want another kid. I am not in a relation yet, but well… I am working on it. I am doing my best. Maikel and his odd jobs. But this will be nice. One step at a time. When you took off your shirt,
I saw you have a tattoo. Could you show it?
– On my arm? ‘Holiday.’ You do know what that means, right? It means ‘party’.
– ‘Party’. No it means ‘vacation’.
– Vacation, Yula. Why that word?
Have you ever been on vacation? You have never been on vacation?
– This won’t go. Let me help you. When was the last time?
– In group 9. What did you do?
– We went camping. Since group 9. So you have
not been away for 20 years? Do you dream of vacationing?
You have that tattoo. Of course. Where would you like to go?
– I don’t care. Away from here. Away from Cuba?
– Yes. Yuri, Maikel is not rich at all,
but he is still doing quite alright. 15 years ago owning your own home
was unheard of for most Cubans. Now they can. Any capitalist would be rubbing his hands
seeing all these old buildings. Who knows how much
they will be worth in the future. Take your golfing mate Enrique,
your hero. He can make something out of nothing. Enrique.
– Out of breath after those stairs? What can I offer you?
After those stairs… What would you like?
– Anything cold. A beer?
– We have Sol, Heineken or Presidente. A Cuban beer.
– We don’t have any. No Cuban beer in Cuba? The best drink to recover a bit
is a mojito. Welcome to La Guarida.
– Thanks. A place that does not
welcome everybody. Was this building originally yours?
– No, more families lived here. Originally there was one owner.
Later 15 families lived here. But it really is my home.
I was born here. I started in that room
with three tables. With my wife and my nephew.
– Could you show me? I will explain the whole history
of this place. This was my house.
It consisted of these two rooms. I had one table here, and three there… We have four rooms.
These were the two original rooms. One day my mother and I thought:
Why not use that space? Private enterprise was not yet allowed. What year are we talking about?
– I am talking about 1995. So, during in the economic crisis?
– Right. A very difficult time for me.
– Is that a question? I had a very difficult time.
– I’ll explain. I had just graduated
as a telecommunications engineer. I worked very hard and…
You know all about the salaries. My parents gave me everything
you can give your child. I had a good education. But I had
a different hunger, different needs. Hunger. I wanted to advance in life. Excuse me for laughing,
but I recognise that. When I say ‘hunger’, I mean the need… To advance in life.
– Exactly. I thought: Let’s start a ‘paladar’. Private
restaurants were becoming a trend. We had this opportunity… Do you recognise the skinny one?
Mick Jagger. Bon Jovi. I used to be a rocker.
That is Beyoncé. No. Is that Madonna?
– It is. She celebrated her birthday here.
She’s really great. That is Steven Spielberg. Here you see how Cuba could be… …if we as Cubans could realise
our projects and our dreams. You are a real entrepreneur. When I hear you talk like that,
I start wondering… …whether my choice to leave Cuba
was the right one. It now feels as if I have
missed a party, you know. I would dearly like…
I am actively committed… …to giving more Cubans the ability
to realise their dreams here. I think it is necessary that people
like you, my friends who studied… …many of my colleagues… We are developing a new Cuba,
and I want those people… …to get opportunities
to develop themselves. I want our economy to be attractive
enough for people to return here. When I see stories like that,
and talk to people like that… …my opinion is… In the beginning
I was quite sceptical and negative… …and I am still not entirely positive.
But my opinion is changing. I see a bit of hope, I see a tiny point
of light at the end of a dark tunnel. I have a bit of hope… …that very slowly, and I mean at a
snail’s pace, the situation will change. I hope it is changing. Enrique is not the only one who profits
from the economic developments. The housing market is also moving.
Abraham is an estate agent. This profession did not exist in Yuri’s
time. He is selling a special house. They should have removed that sign.
– What does it say? That they are opposed to… Want me to remove it?
– No, no. They can be themselves
in this documentary. Ah, it is propaganda of the church
protesting gay marriage. Yuri… Hello, how are you? You have to ask them about that.
– Pleasure to meet you. I am Yuri. The house dates back to 1948. Was it your parents’?
– I inherited it. This is the living room. How many people live here?
– Five, at the moment. When I lived in Cuba,
we had one room with five people. This is the kitchen. Want me to stay here?
– No, you want to sell this house, right? And the other bedroom. I am interested.
– Seriously? Great. How much is the property?
– He wants to hear the price. Very smart. Do you have money?
– No problem. Do you take cards?
– You can pay with a credit card, yes. You can also write a cheque. We are asking 550,000 dollars. But the price is negotiable.
We can go down. 550,000 dollars? These are our new rich who sell our
national heritage to the highest bidder. Who are the potential buyers
for this property? People with a lot of money. No, kidding. But I do not know anybody in Cuba… …with that much money. But a Cuban who lives abroad,
who owns his own company… …people who want to buy it together,
or a foreigner. Since when are you allowed
to own your own house in Cuba? You always were. You were always allowed
to own you own home. What does this mean? It says: ‘I am for the family
as God created originally.’ We are, as you can see,
not in favour of same-sex marriage. We condemn gay marriage.
We accept gays… …as they need to be rescued,
but we condemn their behaviour… …like we condemn alcoholism,
prostitution, theft or murder. Okay, sure… It looked like gay marriage
would be legalised… …but after protests,
for example by Christians… …the government
quickly withdrew that plan. Where is the driver’s seat?
– Inside. I’m refurbishing it. Thank you.
– My pleasure. I’ll consider it.
– With your credit card. See you soon. But what percentage of those 550,000
dollars will go to the estate agent? I don’t even want to think about it. I get
a percentage. I get two to three percent. That is at least 14,000 dollars. Not bad. That is about 39 annual salaries
of a government employee. The class differences
will continue to grow. You are doing well, right? Is that gold?
– No just metal. We just love our bling. Economically we are doing better. Entrepreneurs earn a bit more
than government employees. But they have to work very hard. They create a bit of capitalism
within socialism. Is capitalism within socialism possible?
– It is. Quiet, you. I don’t think it is. But it is possible in countries like China. A socialist country that economically
complies with capitalist laws. That is why they do so well. Cubans are smart and resourceful. Those who work, have what they need.
But is that always enough? There are many ways to look at it… …but ultimately we strive
for a better world here. I love you, Holland. There is hope, Yuri. But how do we get all of this
to a satisfying conclusion?

3 thoughts on “Cuba: the wifi generation | VPRO World Stories

  1. I feel so bad for Cubans. I mean, they are really tenacious people, I have to hand it to them. They are amazing! But the Cuban government is still WAY behind the times, that's for sure. As a U.S. citizen, I just want to apologize to the Cuban people for my deeply asinine government. Barack Obama opened relations with Cuba, and then that man-child … and ever so infamous piece of human excrement … Donald Trump shut it all down again. The United States is the BIGGEST terrorist nation on planet earth. Par none!

    I'm watching the video and they mention that they can't find the same regular imported goods that we find easily here in the U.S. because of the U.S. embargo on Cuba. The United States TRULY IS the biggest fucking TERRORIST nation on planet earth. Cuba is absolutely NO threat to the United States WHATSOEVER… and yet, the U.S. CONTINUES to place an embargo on Cuba. That is the most DISGUSTING piece of political BULLSHIT I have EVER seen in my life!!! I think my own government is literally, the SHITTIEST fucking government in the WORLD! Par none!

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