For Cuban youths, revolution means more free expression
Many believe Fidel Castro's resignation will allow more space for debate.
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Youths play a key role in this new environment, she continues, adding that technology will help them circumvent government control. She, for example, writes her entries at home, copies them on a memory stick, and then visits Internet cafes. She, like others in her generation, finds out about world events from news that is copied from illegal satellites and distributed on the black market.Skip to next paragraph
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Still, bold moves like hers or Omni Zonafranca's are more the cutting edge than the status quo. Many students say they still fervently accept the system. Mariet, a young law student at the University of Havana who declined to share her last name, says that revolution is a constant series of changes toward improvement. This country "is not perfect," she says. "But if we criticize we should try to be positive and constructive."
Students across campus say they believe in change – but that it should happen within a government framework. Jorge and Yahisa, two cybernetics students at the University of Havana, say limited Internet access is their main concern.
"To be students, and not have access to something so amazing, especially as cybernetics students, this worries us," says Yahisa. "But we have to voice concerns within official channels. Our responsibility is to be knowledgeable about what is going on, but we are not prepared politically to know what is best."
Today's youths came of age during the extreme austerity of the 1990s after the sudden loss of Soviet largess. Hardship has been their generation's dominant theme. Many have emigrated. In a 25-month period from 2005 to 2007, 77,000 Cubans fled to the US – an even larger exodus than the "rafter" crisis of the '90s.
Observers say the government has tried to address growing disillusionment among those who stayed. In recent months, the Raúl Castro administration has gone to great lengths to seek, and publicize, citizen complaints, often via state-run media.
But controlled criticism, many say, is not a true form of expression. "There is either pluralism, or it is a monologue," says Sanchez.
And it cannot always be contained. In February, a group of university students took Ricardo Alarcón, the president of the national assembly, by surprise when they publicly demanded to know why they could not vacation abroad. A video of the event was widely circulated.
"Young people have lost their fear," says Carlos Serpa Maceira, an independent journalist in Havana. He flips through photo albums chronicling a student movement seeking more university autonomy. The group collected 5,000 signatures that they presented to the Education Ministry. "They were prepared psychologically to believe in the revolution, but they can see reality," he says. "They want to be in style, read other publications, travel, surf the Internet."
Like almost all of the young people interviewed for this piece, Mr. Cabrera, the artist with Omni Zonafranca, says he has no desire to veer from the socialist system. All he wants, he says, is a space to express his voice. To that end, his group's work includes poems and songs about Cubans jailed for selling marijuana, corruption, women's inequality, and racism.
"Our goal is not a direct confrontation with the state," he says, but adds, "that is always the indirect result."