Last November, the very first TEDx event in Cuba was held: TEDxHabana. Below, we’ve chosen three outstanding talks from that event — TEDxHabana 2014 — to prep you for even more great talks from this year’s TEDxHabana.
“When did the sexual rights of LGBTQ people become truly visible here?”
In May 2015, Manuel Vázquez Seijido walked the streets of Havana among crowds of Cubans brandishing gay pride flags, homemade signs and T-shirts, calling out for equal rights and fair treatment of LGBTQ Cubans. Same-sex couples held hands and kissed in public, a sight out of the ordinary for even Havana. This was the city’s eighth annual March against Homophobia and Transphobia, organized by the National Center for Sex Education of Cuba, where Vázquez Seijido is legal adviser.
Seven months earlier, Vázquez Seijido gave a talk at the first TEDx event in Cuba — TEDxHabana – on the evolution of LGBTQ rights in the country since the 60s, as well as the first march eight years ago, and the need for the more change to come.
“We need to further our activism,” he says, “I wish I didn’t have to be here. I wish there would be no need to organize meetings against homophobia. I wish we, activists, didn’t have to keep on fighting against these realities. As long as there are people who, however unwittingly, continue discriminating against and infringing upon the rights of other people, we will have to keep on trying and moving forward.”
“It wouldn’t just be a restaurant; we’re going to turn it into a cultural project. We’re going to build a space where people can come and find the best of Cuban art, and where they can enjoy good local Cuban music. Let’s try to change the image of the unfortunate, Cuban catering industry, an old image of Cuban cuisine.”
In the 1990s, the Cuban government made it legal for citizens to open and run restaurants — small family-owned paladares — which operated under complex regulations, including how many people they could employ, which food they could serve and how many seats they could offer.
Enrique Núñez is the owner of one of Cuba’s most famous paladares — La Guarida — operated out of his apartment building in Havana. La Guarida is iconic for its feature in the film Fresa y chocolate, bringing visitors from all over the globe to see this tiny restaurant tucked into a Havana housing complex both grand and crumbling, still home to families and pets.
At TEDxHabana, Núñez shares his vision for La Guarida as a celebration of Cuban culture and how he managed to run a famous restaurant under strict government limitations.
“[In Cuba] everybody wants to know how much a house a car, a TV set, or anything costs. And the problem is that nobody knows. Here nobody knows exactly how much something costs.”
Four years ago, the Cuban government made it legal for citizens to sell cars and homes themselves — at prices dictated by citizens. Though exciting for prospective buyers and sellers, this change in policy brought with it a difficult question — how much should homes and cars cost? And then: How much do homes and cars cost?
The latter is almost always answered by checking online classified ads, says Havana-based computer scientist Yudivián Almeida, despite the very limited access to Internet in the country. Revolico.com, a classified ad site known as Cuba’s craigslist, is known throughout the country, Almeida says, even to those who’ve never seen its homepage.
“You can find people who never went online, but no one who hasn’t heard of Revolico,” he says in a talk at TEDxHabana. “You may have a friend, an acquaintance who gives you all the info and uploads your classified ad for you on Revolico, Porlalivre, Cubísima, or on any other classified online portal,” Almeida adds.
Frustrated with the scattershot availability of real estate and auto market information in Cuba, Almeida took it upon himself to analyze thousands of classified ads and mine the data to create and share trends, averages and more on Cuba’s public goods market.
Almeida published these findings in Cuban media, and as he explains in his talk, is working on new solutions to make information about buying and selling in Cuba more open, accessible and streamlined, to Cubans and foreigners alike.