A New Year in Cuba: What 2019 Means to Cubans

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To start the year off with a bang, we caught up with some of Cuba’s top thinkers and creators to find out what they expect and hope for in 2019. From entrepreneurship, the arts and design, to the economy and relations with Cubans abroad, there’s lots of optimism for 2019 -- and there's a clear recognition that it could be a defining year for the island.


Yissy Garcia on Cuban Music

"In 2019, I hope that Cuban music continues expanding worldwide and that it keeps being a language of peace, love, and connection between people."

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Liber Puente on Cuban Tech

"In 2019, I hope that there is more participation from all of society in the process of computerization and automation of social service processes. I hope the Ministry of Communications reactivates, motivates, and regulates the computer programmer license. I hope to see electronic commerce grow, and I hope to see an increase in audiovisual spaces for learning and teaching about the use of media and information technologies."


Esterio Segura on Cuban Art

“Our history is unarguably defined by a ‘before’ and ‘after.’ We had, we achieved and we have many good things from that 'before' and we did, have and achieved many things in the ‘after.' I hope we, all Cubans, artists or not, will be able to mix all of the positive from more than 500 years of history and make a new, better ‘before’ for the next ‘after’…”


Idania del Rio on Cuban Design

“I hope that Cuban design will be recognized globally and that the aesthetic, functional, and philosophical values of Cuban design will be a part of the future of global design. I hope that more designers step up and become inspired to create businesses like Clandestina, Fresko, El Encanto, Dador, Cris Cris, La Marca, Wasasa, Zulu, and others. It’s always difficult but it’s necessary, for us, the creatives, and the community that supports us. I hope that freshness and humor continue to form part of our visual legacy. I hope to continue ‘luchando,’ and that 2019 will be a year of success for everyone, a year of community and mutual support.”


Yondainer Gutierrez on Cuban Apps

“In 2019, I hope that Cuban apps that exist and that will soon exist help resolve the everyday life of Cubans. I hope, more specifically, that apps developed in Cuba will be able to access payment mechanisms so we can commercialize our products and services and have access to large media outlets. I hope we’re able to have different a legal status beyond the current cuentapropista license, for example, as small and medium size businesses. I hope there are more more events that incentivize and help us detect necessities and common problems that can be resolved through technology, like StartUp Weekends and MeetUps. I hope we’ll have co-working spaces with internet access in which we can work together and socialize as a community of Cuban developers.”


Robin Pedraja on Independent Media

“2019 will definitely be the year that defines Cuba for the next 20 years. The private sector will need to gain more terrain, and as more people leave the state sector in hopes of higher salaries, cuentapropistas will have more strength to influence the economy of the country. We made an independent magazine when it wasn’t possible. We did publicity before it existed in Cuba. It’s been almost five years, and 2019 will be the year VISTAR gains its place on Cuba’s cultural map.”


Marta Deus on the Cuban Diaspora

"There’s a relationship between families and friends who have stayed on the island and those abroad. We’ve seen in the private sector how those abroad have financed many businesses that we now see on the island. Nevertheless, I hope that in 2019 the relationship will be stronger. The government took a big step in the immigration reform law, allowing Cubans abroad and their children to repatriate. I think that is the way to achieve a closer relationship with our diaspora, to create opportunity for those wanting to invest in Cuba, for those wanting to reconnect with their roots, and contribute their ideas and vision of the world to the future of Cuba."


X Alfonso on Cuban Culture

“In 2019, ‘I have faith that everything will change,’ whether it’s for the better will depend on us, on our dreams and sacrifices. Changes don’t happen by themselves, nor do they depend on a few little things. Today, there is a lot to work on, and to perfect. We need to see this country as ours, we are the ones that need to change it, not only for us, but for our children, to have a better country, with a bright future. When I say this, it’s not just for Cuba; it will be an example for the entire world.”

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May Reguera on Cuban Photography

“This year, I hope it will be easier for photographers to become accredited, as artists who don’t come from schools don’t have channels to legitimize their work. I also hope for more exhibition spaces for photography, and that the galleries that do exist are more inclusive. I would love to see more spaces for exchanges between photographers and young creatives who would like to follow the path of photography.”

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Harold Cardenas on Cuban Blogs

"I hope Cuban blogs represent better the diversity of our nation. We must move beyond the usual tribalism and learn to embrace our collective experiences and capabilities. This is not possible without creating links among blogs, alternative and more traditional media in Cuba. Building bridges and not walls, seems to be the goal for 2019."


Inti Herrera on Cuban Film

"Our film, like life itself, should be diverse. I hope that our stories amplify the view of all strata of society and they extend bridges beyond our borders. I hope Cuban film will be nonconformist, critical, but above all, happy. Happy because it dreams and only those who can dream are free... Not like the freedom vaunted in the newspapers, but that which conforms the simple things. I hope Cuban film learns and enriches itself from past experiences in order to head towards the present future, 2019."

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Karina Valero on Cuban Modeling

“This year I have many aspirations tied to the world of Cuban modeling. I hope that new and better events emerge with higher quality runways, stages, and selections of models. I also hope new faces are incorporated in events like Havana Fashion Week. I hope more designers become known, keeping in mind that many talented creatives exist across the island, many of whom are affected by ‘fatal geography.’ I hope models have more options on specialized representatives and managers, which would result in more competition and a growing number of opportunities for those already in the fashion world, and for those with lots of talent but haven’t been discovered yet.”

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Oniel Diaz on the Cuban Private Sector

"The unusual elimination of the most controversial aspects of the regulations for self-employment sought by the Cuban authorities and the words of President Diaz-Canel at the last session of the parliament seem to indicate that the animosity towards the private sector has come to an end. Although there are still fundamental issues that continue to affect our performance, I believe that what has happened raises hopes that next year will be a new starting point in our relationship with the government. In 2019, I hope that coherent policies are implemented to integrate ourselves into the domestic economy and that we are taken into account for the construction of a new regulatory framework that incorporates small and medium enterprises into the national scenario."


Marycet Carmona on Cuban Journalism

"The unstoppable presence of new alternative media outlets and a young generation of journalists have given another voice to the island’s reality. That has definitely changed the face of Cuban journalism. I hope that this year through a new Media Law, not just a ‘new communication policy,’ these voices outside of the official press are recognized, respected, talked about and brought together, in a space where we can open a dialogue and construct a consensus. At the same time, I hope the discourse of official media outlets tells stories that highlight and resemble more the people and society, recognizing its plurality, heterogeneity, diversity and difference."

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Lauren Fajardo on Cuban Fashion

"My hope is for Cuban fashion to position itself in the global fashion consciousness through well-crafted, thoughtfully designed, locally-made goods. In 2019, I want to shine a light on the creative output of an emerging group of talented Cuban designers bringing a modern take to Cuban fashion."


Lizt Alfonso on Cuban Dance

"The last years have been about total dedication and no rest. That’s what it's all about, it's the only way to be alive and to keep growing, because once you start you always feel that you can do much more and each goal reached leads you to create new ones. 2019 will be similar. More creativity, dedication, innovation, inspiration, goal setting and accomplishments for Cuban dance. The rich traditions of the country and the cultural melting pot that Cuba is will be once again be represented and made proud through Cuban dance."


Ricardo Torres on the Cuban Economy

“2019 will bring even bigger challenges for Cuba’s economy. After the referendum on the new Constitution scheduled for February, I hope the government can put back its attention to the economy. There is a lot to be done on several fronts including but not limited to the monetary and exchange rate systems. It is urgent to confront restrictions that affect state-owned companies and prevent the private and cooperative sectors to reach its full potential. We need to bring real competition and meaningful autonomy to Cuba’s productive landscape. Solutions to our troubles will not come from abroad; development is essentially an endogenous process.”


Collin Laverty on Cuba in 2019

“Cuba is blessed with incredible talent. Year after year, Cubans find a way to innovate and create, resulting in world class art, dance, design, fashion, film, music and more. Openings in the private sector, telecommunications and alternative media have put the entrepreneurial spirit of Cubans on full display. Each day more Cubans abroad are participating in life on the island and Cubans in Cuba have more connectivity with the world outside. This past year proved to be a difficult one. The challenges are huge, but so too is the potential to overcome them. I agree with my friends that 2019 is bound to be a special year for Cuba and could very well determine the country's path into the future. It’s going to be a great year.”

Collin Laverty