HAVANA – While in other countries movies-on-demand platforms like Netflix and Hulu offer unlimited entertainment fare, poor Internet access and the ideological overload on Cuban television has encouraged the viewing of illegally obtained movies and TV series, which the island’s officialdom now hopes to substitute with “La Mochila.”
Launched last Dec. 27, La Mochila (The Backpack) is a free distribution system of films, TV series, documentaries, music, videogames and apps that are renewed weekly, so that Cubans can view what they could otherwise see only at the Youth Clubs, 610 state-run public computer centers around the country.
“La Mochila is a non-traditional television channel that allows viewers to program their own entertainment. It now offers 13 files with different high-quality productions suitable for all ages and for the whole family,” Youth Club Communications Director Anamaris Solorzano told EFE.
This project, promoted by the Youth Club – which is managed by the Union of Young Communists (UJC) and the Communications Ministry – imitates the basically illegal “The Package” format, a digital collection of audiovisual content, mainly foreign, that for $2.00 many Cubans acquire on a weekly basis.
Thanks to The Package, Cubans in recent years have been able to see internationally famed TV series and films not screened in the island’s movie theaters, and option which, though illegal with most of its content pirated, was tolerated by the authorities.
Though criticized by some officials for the “frivolity” of some of its content, La Mochila now seeks to compete with The Package by combining entertainment and culture in its weekly offering with documentaries, educational programs and cultural productions made in Cuba.
La Mochila seeks to fulfill that goal with a section called “Education for All,” which includes audiovisuals on subjects like Cuban architecture, national legislation, biographies of historic personages, traffic laws, and exercises to help students prepare for entrance exams to institutes of higher learning.
Just a little more than a month after its launch, La Mochila now has some 4,000 viewers every week.
When La Mochila premiered in late December, it was dedicated to the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro, with documentaries, books and films about the commander’s life, programs that were downloaded by more than 5,000 people around the country.
The project is part of the national plan to keep society informed and up to date on the latest technology in a country where Internet availability is among the most restricted in the world.
Internet connection in the home is only permitted for professionals like lawyers, doctors, journalists and academics, while the majority of the population can connect, for $1.50 per hour, at some of the more than 1,000 Wi-Fi areas that began to be installed in the summer of 2015 and now have over 250,000 users a day.