A ‘Weekly Package’

According to the ITU (see below), 61.8% of Cubans used the internet in 2019, though other sources have lower numbers (49.1% in 2020, according to Wikipedia; 40.3% in 2020, according to InternetWorldStats). Whatever the exact figure, there is no question that current levels are a sharp increase in a short period of time – doubling or more in the last five years.

There is also no question that a great many Cubans still do not have access to the internet and the access of those who are connected often leaves much to be desired.

In this context, Cubans have resorted to an interesting alternative: el paquete semanal (‘the weekly package’). Each week, 1 terabyte of internet content is downloaded onto hard drives and distributed, physically, across Cuba, from which individual Cubans can purchase select content on USB drives or downloaded onto their mobile devices. In that sense, the internet is to a large extent an offline phenomenon in Cuba.

We have been challenged to design our own ‘paquete’ as an exercise.

If I was to put together a curated package of my favourite sources to share, it would undoubtedly consist principally of e-text resources – below, I’ve divided those into ‘classics’, ‘politics’, and ‘science fiction and fantasy’. If we ignore that Cubans speak Spanish while I speak English, my curation would presumably be of greatest appeal to an audience of artsy-political-intellectual bibliophiles like myself. It would have a horrible deficit of telenovellas and K-pop. It’s quite possible that little in it would not already be available from other sources. But one might hope it could still find a decent audience.

What would be interesting would be what kind of political resonance it would have.

I do not blame the inadequacies of our society, of which there are so many, on ‘democracy’, but rather on the lack of democracy. In the same way, I do not blame the inadequacies of the Soviet Union (when there was a Soviet Union) or China or Cuba, of which there are also many, on ‘socialism’, but rather on the lack of socialism – which, for me, is just another word for ‘democracy’ in any case.

Of course, we are all encouraged (let’s be polite) to see ‘socialism’ as the problem in Cuba and China, and this is sold to us as solidarity with their people. This encouragement goes double for the Cubans themselves. Their government, like all governments, endlessly pitches how their country is the best place on Earth, a rose-garden of infinite delights, unsullied by suffering of any name (save perhaps the inexplicable ingratitude of the ruled). In Cuba, lauding the history of the state means rolling out much socialist-revolutionary rhetoric. Not surprisingly, Cubans are at best rather dubious of all this. And anti-democrats the world over, but especially amongst the Cuban diaspora, make no bones about where they think the problem lies.

The upshot being, sources of a radically left-wing bent are not as self-evidently aligned with dissent and opposition there as here. But I’m confident that the texts offered through the sites below are not ones that would offer succour to any state. The Cuban government undoubtedly prefers people to laud Che’s memory than imitate his example.

That said, here are some sources I would recommend (and would ‘package’ wholesale):

Of course, el paquete is not something bound by copyright laws and bogus paywalls. That being the case, scraping and sharing JSTOR, Wiley Online Library, ScienceDirect, SpringerLink, and Routledge/Taylor & Francis would be a worthwhile contribution.

It should be noted that I’ve been accumulating e-text repositories for decades, not all of which are still online. Some of the texts I have links for are for single works, not large repositories. So going through all of these and picking out a selection actually takes quite a while. I’ve tried to choose the items that would have the greatest breadth. Hopefully they’ll help others find material of interest!

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