Attended CubaConf in beautiful La Habana, together with an international group of technologists, academics, media producers, and organizers to learn from Cuba’s free/libre open source community about how they build technology.
It was great to spend more time in the city, to get a sense of the daily rhythm of the streets, and to feel what had (and had not) changed since my first visit eight years ago. There are a few streets in Habana Vieja which feel a bit Disney-fied, and I found my share of touts trying to separate me from my money, but the whole Centro area is still full of beautiful facades in their decaying glory.
Spending time with Cuban technologists and people who know the region well helped me understand more of the current context and challenges. Wifi is now prevalent in parks, metered by time instead of bandwidth, so you have to wait in line to purchase a card by the hour. Like any well-regulated system, it’s egalitarian and occasionally frustrating. We also braved the Copellia queues and were rewarded with piles of lovely helado in the flavors of the day, guava and plantain. Classic cars still roam the streets, and samba and mojitos flow from bars.
While we were there the US visa restrictions were tightened, making un-guided people to people trips once again illegal. This time I had a professional license, but I look forward to the day when we can exchange knowledge and people freely with Cuba, without destroying its unique character and economic values.