Thursday, April 23, 2015

Social Justice Event - "Blogging Dissent Under a Dictatorship? Alternative Art and Civil Society in the Era of Renewed US- Cuba Relations"

   My history class today was in the Forman Center, where we had to listen to a Cuban Dissident, Blogger, Writer, and Photographer, Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo (Disclaimer: his blog is in Spanish, so you would have to translate it, unless you do know Spanish) talk about Cuban Society. As soon as I  read the description of the event, I knew that I would be able to connect it in some way, shape, or form, to our class, our authors, and the themes we have been talking about all semester long.

The first thing he started talking about was his photo blog. He noticed that the more pictures he posted and talked about, other Cuban citizens who were living abroad began asking him to go to certain places in the city of Havana, and take pictures of certain things and places. The more he did this, he began to cross the line of what was accepted in his society, what was allowed and what wasn't. The first connection I see here is with Delpit. Fidel Castro, the dictator of Cuba, has very much established the Culture of Power. Every single citizen knows the rules and the things they can and cannot do. His blog, his pictures, challenge this culture. He talks and posts about things that are not supposed to be talked about. I guess this would also kind of be an "Anti- Johnson" moment. Where Johnson talks about how things are bad but nobody talks about them, here you have an author talking about them knowing that he could get in trouble for these things. The Culture in Cuba is designed to keep every single person where they are. The status quo is designed to stay exactly where it is, and not change. I think this is very much something that Finn would agree with. Finn's idea has to do with education, but I think you can make an extension from education, to society very easily.

One topic he talked about that really intrigued me was the topic of the Embargo in Cuba, and the importance of United States to Cuban society, and how seriously reliant Cuba is on the United States. He made a point of saying how the definition of
what a "Civil Society" really is, is totally different in Cuba than it is in the States. I did not know this, but the Cuban embargo is seriously harming the Cuban economy. I would not say that Cuba is a poor country, but it is not extremely wealthy either. The embargo is forcing Cuba to rely on mostly themselves for any source of money. But they cannot survive on this. Maybe this is a stretch, but I see a connection to Ullucci here, specifically the Bootstraps Myth. Because of the embargo, most Cubans don't have an option besides just working as hard as they can to hopefully become successful and move up in society. However that will not happen because moving up in class and becoming wealthy is more complicated than just "picking yourself up by your bootstraps and working hard" and just becoming richer. This is why it is a myth. And, what i learned in this talk, this is something that most Cubans do not like. They realize that they cannot function the way they would like without the help of the United States, the European Union, etc. Here is a pro/con list about the Cuban embargo if you want to learn more about it, and its effects.

Before 2008, Cuban citizens were not able to buy and sell their own phones, their own houses, their own cars, or get their own licenses. Again, I think this is definitely a connection to Finn. Those who could not have these things were meant to never get them. Those who could get them, were lucky to be able to have them.  The government didn't even allow all of its citizens access to the internet. But, when they finally did let citizens have internet, the Cuban Government made sure to keep an extremely watchful eye on everything that they did. In 2009 he was harassed by Cuban security agents. Dressed in plain clothes, these agents forced him into a car, without an arrest warrant, and beat him...Later on, the Human Rights Foundation made a comment saying it was a "blatant attempt by the Cuban government to silence independent thought and speech". For anyone who wants to learn more about the topic of racism in Cuba, here is an article from the New York Times:

One last thing that he mentioned that really struck me was how much racism goes on in Cuba. 65% of the population in Cuba is white, according to Cuban censuses. Outside sources, however, say that only 25-35% is white. That being said, the discrimination against non-whites is rampant. In his talk, Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo talked about how he was arrested one time, but was eventually released because not only was he well known throughout the country, but because he was white, while another Cuban dissent blogger, just like him, but she was: a woman; not as well known; and lastly, she was black. They did not release her in a timely manner like they did with him.  Black Cubans, more often than not, "have a very low political, economic, and judicial representation in contrast to the numerous prevailing black penal population. This situation is never publicly manifested by the government but it is a component of Communism's subtle politics of segregation". This can definitely connect to McIntosh, because of all the white privilege all over the country, and for the most part, based on everything I heard today, most of the whites in the country do not even realize it exists.

Overall, this was a really interesting talk to listen to. It was shocking to see all of the things that Cuban citizens have to go through. So many of the things that we, as Americans, have are things that Cuban citizens would fight for tooth and nail. It's crazy to see how many things we take for granted. I know that I definitely take the internet, and the fact that I'm allowed to research anything without fear of the government coming in and taking me to some place with a hood over my head, or the fact I have my own phone, and can buy my own car or my own home when I choose to. But in Cuba, the citizens couldn't do any of those things for years, and even now, when they can, they are being carefully watched all day long.

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