HAVANA – Following close behind the timid opening of the Internet in Cuba is the emergence of a small community of YouTubers, young Millennials who share their lives with humor online despite connection difficulties on the island, where they are nonetheless reaching a rapidly growing audience.
A year ago, Kevin, Jose and Anel, three 18-year-old pals, created “Palanganeando” (Showing Off), an audiovisual project of Cuban humor, fun and irreverence made up of sketches, parodies, interviews and monologues.
“We made a video a year ago as a joke, but got such wide distribution that it got out of hand. People greeted us in the street and pushed us to do another one. So we decided to take it all a little more seriously,” Kevin told EFE.
Strangely enough they became something similar to YouTubers – without having that actual social media outlet available. They shared videos online via what was called “The Package,” a distribution system for digitally stored offline content that for years took the place of the absent Internet.
Home connections in Cuba are not widespread and most Cubans surf the Web in one or another of the almost 1,000 public Wi-Fi zones that were established two years ago, though few can afford the Internet cost of $1.50 an hour.
The Package opened its doors to the “Palanganeando” boys in all the island’s provinces, where they set about building up their audiences. It has only been a couple of months since the actual YouTube has been available, but they have already accumulated an international audience that writes them fan messages from Spain, Argentina, the US and France.
Their popularity among Millennials on the island led the island’s independent news site “El Toque” (The Touch) to invite them to do their free and easy stand-up acts on social subjects like military service, fashion and youthful leisure pleasures, videos that get more than 500 visits.
The Black Box production company and the ad agency High Vista promotes the teenagers’ work, who are now even signed up to host events. Meanwhile they hope they can make being YouTubers their lifelong profession.
Others on the island have begun to share that dream.
With more than 400 followers on YouTube, Alex Deben, 18, has been posting for a year his weekly monologues – edited with special effects and music – in which he satirically dissects the idiosyncrasies of the island.
“Being a YouTuber in Cuba isn’t easy. Sometimes you can spend two hours uploading a 5-minute video, but we do it because we love it,” he said.
Meanwhile professional dancer Lia Rodriguez went on YouTube a couple of months ago to promote her career. She does it by sharing her daily life, rehearsals, favorite Havana restaurants and by giving beauty tips.
Lia, known as “The Cuban Insider,” posted a video showing her dancing through the streets of Havana to the hit salsa number “Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars,” which got 6,000 visits in just two weeks.
Aware that Cuba is in fashion, its YouTube site seeks to be a window on the former “forbidden island.”