Cubarte: Cuban Culture on the Internet
Since its beginnings Cuban specialists have been concerned at not being up to speed with this contemporary technological revolution and its logical impact on international media and culture.
Neoliberal globalization imposes a banal and superficial sub-culture upon people. "News" bombarding responds to the imperial interests of the government of the United States and transnational corporations. Culture is suffering a commercialization, with international standards being applied in which their irresponsible assimilation has terrible consequences for national cultures.
It was imperative to become Internet-savvy as soon as possible. Before 1996, Cuba was unable to do this because of the limitations imposed upon it by the United States government.
Today, the blockade imposed by Washington includes the most dissimilar sectors such as cyberspace, and prevents the island from accessing the facilities offered by fiber optic underwater cables forcing us to use extremely costly satellite connection.
In response to the need to become part of the Internet, the Ministry of Culture created web portals, web sites and web pages for its cultural institutions thereby creating a national network that traverses the island and now reaches the world.
By 1993 the Ministry had created the "Cultural Computer Science and Applied Systems Center" that was the embryo of the "Cubarte" network which later became a website in 1998.
The web portal "Cubarte, the Cuban Cultural Website" was founded in 2001 and has since become a vital resource for accessing this nations culture in all of its manifestations.
The last five years have seen a very important extension of the Internet on a global level. The visits to the 2,500 existing Cuban cultural web portals, websites and pages have multiplied by 16.6% and this year account for more than 1.5 million visits a month.
In 2006 four web portals in particular received more than a million visits: Cubarte, CubaLiteraria, the José Martí National Library and La Jiribilla.
An analysis of the 24 main Cuban web portals show that 71% of them provide information on events, directories, publications, anniversaries and personalities on the island.
Almost half of Cuban cultural web portals have positioned themselves well on the Internet, sometimes outpacing similar sites in larger more populous countries with greater navigating use. The use of links between these web portals confirms that the majority deem it to be of great importance to maintain links with Cuban culture.
The use of Information and Communications Technology to bring to the fore the richness of Cuban culture on the Internet, has provided a universal, integral model with an emphasis on human capital, communal formats, synergies, and the articulation of a secure information web system within the particular conditions of our country.
A LOCAL CLICK GOES TO CUBARTES PORTAL
The Cubarte network has sites in 14 provinces, 169 municipalities and the majority of provincial and national institutions in the sector.
The Cubarte web portal daily publishes in three languages with 20 news items and 5 headlines. It has more than 60 recognized intellectuals and journalists who join a team of 17 translators to collaborate on opinion pieces relating to artistic expression on the island.
Prestigious Cuban personalities are columnists in the section "Letra con Filo" (Lit: Sharp Letter). Among these are Cintio Vitier, Graziella Pogolotti, Eliades Acosta, Lisandro Otero, Osvaldo Martínez, Fernando Martínez Heredia, Armando Hart, Ismael Clark, Rev. Raúl Suárez, Luis Toledo Sande, Pedro Pablo Rodríguez and Enrique González Manet.
Cubarte publishes three weekly cultural bulletins in Spanish, English and French for those users who prefer to receive their information over e-mail (more than 43,000 subscribers worldwide), while bulletins of a political character in "Entorno" (Surrounds) and "Por Cuba" (For Cuba) have some 10,000 subscribers each and count on the collaboration of 14 researchers and international commentators. A magazine in French, "Lettres de Cuba" (Letters From Cuba) at www.lettresdecuba.cult.cu is also published.
A Virtual Reference Center, which is a database of everything that is published by Cubarte, has been created with more than 115,000 items registered, providing an excellent resourse for those who seek information on Cuban culture.
Judging by the results, Cuban culture seems likely to reach a sort of record by maintaining 1.5 million visits a month, which is forecast to end this year with a total of 18 million - a 50% increase over 2006 in a world where the overall global increase is only 12%.
CUBARTE IN CUBAN NATIONAL LIFE
As with any collective immersed in Cuban national life, and with their untiring passion for prevailing over their adversaries, the 80 specialists and workers that form the central group of Cubarte have been given the important news that the Central Cuban Workers Union (CTC) has declared Cubarte to be in the National Vanguard for its work last year.
According to CTCs Lázara Aguirre, a key factor in the decision was the level of continuing education of Cubartes specialists who, through a program involving university, postgraduate, masters and doctorate course, achieved high academic results.
SERVICES FOR INTELLECTUALS AND ARTISTS
The general director of Cubarte, Carlos Más Zabala, comments that "in terms of orientation, workshops, debate and providing a model, Cuba has managed to provide access to the Internet to the majority of its cultural institutions".
Due to the work performed by Cubarte, Cuban intellectuals now have Internet access in all 169 municipalities on the island.
Some 2,000 people enjoy the free services provided by this computerized network that links all the countrys cultural institutions and which is growing every year. It is soon hoped to include the National System of Public Libraries so that every municipality will have a computer in its library.
As with all good Internet-based cultural information services, Cubarte also offers access to other cultural websites such as the Encyclopedia Britannica, the Real Academia de la Lengua Español Dictionary, digital news sites such as Rebelión, La Jornada, El País and The Washington Post, and radio broadcasts such as the BBC in London.
Cubarte also offers multi-media services in which it has produced CD-ROM editions on the life and work of people such as Alicia Alonso and Wifredo Lam, along with popular music from the island, Humanitys Heritage in Cuba, an ethnographic atlas, and "La Edad de Oro" (The Golden Age) by José Martí.
Source: By Antonio Paneque Brizuela; Cubanow.net