Cuba’s ‘Weekly Packet’ is Caught in the Crossfire / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar
14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 23 December 2016 – “Over my dead body!”
echoes across a living room in Florida, Camaguey, Cuba, the day Jorge
Angel discovered his family absorbed in the weekly packet. Now the wife
sneaks to watch the reality shows that come in the weekly audiovisual
compendium so as not to annoy the family’s Communist Party militant.
Criticized by officialdom, and in ever growing demand among customers,
the packet is caught in the crossfire. After several weeks of
programming on national television marked by tributes to the recently
deceased Fidel Castro, demand for movies, TV shows and documentaries has
skyrocketed in the informal market, while institutional hatred against
the packet has intensified.
In Central Havana, the most densely populated municipality in Cuba, the
impact of the packet is everywhere. Outside La Candeal bakery, two women
were talking this Thursday about a Colombian telenovela that arrives in
one of the 40 folders included in the popular compilation.
“This is the zone of satellite dishes and the packet,” explains a
messenger for Copypack, a place that sells the product put together by
an enterprise calling itself Omega. The young man says that over the
last three weeks the number of clients has grown, as they “come looking
for anything, so long as they don’t have to watch [state] television.”
Distributors have avoided including in the latest compilations material
critical of the former president and the popular programs on South
Florida channels. “There’s no reason to stick your finger in the eye of
the beast,” says the employee.
The caution of the informal producers and distributors has not prevented
the authorities from renewing their offensive against the most important
competitor to official programming.
This Thursday the newspaper Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth) published an
article on the subject, signed by journalist Miguel Cruz Suarez under
the title The Sweet Poison In The Ostrich’s Hole. The author
acknowledges that “thousands of Cubans” prefer audiovisual content that
is distributed on flash memories and DVDs, a practice that exposes them
to the “disparate scenarios of capitalist entertainment,” he says.
The reporter also points out the dangers of “cultural naiveté” opening
the doors to “the guest of banality and consumerist egotism,” although
he acknowledges that there are already “some manifestations” of this
scourge on the island.
Among the bitterest enemies of the packet is Abel Prieto, Minister of
Culture, and Miguel Barnet, President of the National Union of Writers
and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC). Both have complained about the poor quality
of content consumed, versus that of the state television programming, is
content they consider “junk” and “pseudo-cultural products.” Prieto
recently warned that the phenomenon could end up expanding in the
country “the frivolity of the culturally colonized,” people who “have
already given up the pleasure of intelligence.”
However, among ordinary people on the street there are other critics
whose voices are also being heard. “The packet has become very cowardly,
I don’t watch it,” says Jonathan, who has a degree in History. He
explains that “it used to include more interesting and controversial
topics, but now it is a little lightweight.”
Wilfredo and Niurka, a couple residing on Monte Avenue in Havana, share
this view. “We decided to buy the satellite dish because we want
to watch the news and Miami programs that no longer come in the packet,”
the wife says. Both believe that the compendium “has become annoying,
it’s already as ‘controlled’ at the (state) Cubavision channel.”
Source: Cuba’s ‘Weekly Packet’ is Caught in the Crossfire / 14ymedio,
Luz Escobar – Translating Cuba –