Meet Wilfredo! Friendly neighbourhood newspaper salesman, rum connoisseur and all round good guy. We met Wilfredo on our first day in Cuba while we were walking around absorbing all the cultural delights of Old Havana. He approached us with a couple of newspapers for sale, we sparked up a conversation and became immediate buddies.
Wilfredo is like many older citizens of Cuba. Too far set back in their old ways to really change, but desperately trying to embrace modern developments and the recent influx of tourism that has taken Cuba by storm. Everyday he hits the streets with his multilingual versions of Cuba’s daily news, trying to make the odd peso from the intrigued tourist. Be it French, German, Spanish or English, he has a paper to cover all the main tourist languages that make their way through Cuba.
What’s interesting about Cuba’s media is that there are only a handful of newspapers (all government owned) and it only comes in print. There’s no easily available or affordable internet, so there’s no ‘in the moment’ digital news to tap into with fancy iPads or Macbooks. Cuban’s rely solely on the few government ran radio channels, TV stations and print newspaper to get their news. As a result, they get a very different perspective from our Western media sources.
Picking up a local copy of Granma or Juventud Rebelde is the perfect way to understand how Cuban’s perceive the world and what news they’re delivered. It also gives you insight into Cuba and what’s happening around the country. Over the weeks in Cuba, speaking to the locals and reading the news, we really started to development an understanding of Cuban life.
Whenever we were in Havana we made sure to pop past Wilfredo’s corner, drop in for a chat and talk about what’s in the news. He’d offer us a sneaky hip-flask of rum, which we’d thankfully decline at 10am in the morning, and then we’d keep chatting. In a city like Havana, where tourists are mostly viewed as a walking ATM, it was refreshing to meet Wilfredo, who was more interested in a friendly exchange of conversation.