Cuban Podcasts Thrive Because Cheap to Produce and Hard for Communists to Censure

(p. 4) There has been little to laugh about in Cuba lately. But on a recent episode of El Enjambre, a weekly podcast produced on the island, the three hosts were howling at the latest form of censorship by the state-run telecommunications company.

“If you send a text message with the word freedom, the message doesn’t reach the recipient,” Lucía March told her incredulous co-hosts, referring to the Spanish language word libertad. “It evaporates, vanishes! I’m serious.”

The exchange was funny, informative and lighthearted, traits that have made El Enjambre one of the biggest hits among the scores of new Cuban-made podcasts that are now competing for residents’ attention and limited internet bandwidth.

Cubans began having access to the internet on smartphones only in 2018. Since then, podcasts about politics, current events, history, entrepreneurship and language have upended how Cubans get their information, expanding the middle ground between the hyperpartisan content generated by government-run media outlets and American government funded newsrooms that are highly critical of the island’s authoritarian leaders.

. . .

“It’s very difficult for a government to censor a podcast because there are many ways of distributing it,” said Mr. Lugones, who believes the new audio initiatives are stirring nuanced conversations on the island. “Podcasts spark debates in society all the time. They cause people to reflect.”

A desire to do just that prompted Camilo Condis, an industrial engineer who has opened a few restaurants in Havana, to launch El Enjambre — Spanish for swarm of bees — in late 2019. The heart of the show is a spirited, spontaneous conversation among Mr. Condis and his co-hosts, Ms. March and Yunior García Aguilera.

No subject is off limits.

El Enjambre provided detailed coverage of the remarkable July 11 anti-government protests in Cuba and searing criticism of the ruthless crackdown that followed.

The hosts also dissected the dismal state of the health care system as Covid-19 cases surged on the island, mocked the sputtering initiatives by the government to allow some private sector activities, such as garage sales, and attempted to read the tea leaves on the future of Washington’s relationship with Havana.

Each episode includes a short, humorous, scripted drama, a segment called History without Hysteria and a lengthy conversation that tends to focus on the issues Cubans have been arguing about on social media over the past few days.

“The objective was to create a conversation like you’d have on any street corner in Cuba,” Mr. Condis said. “But we provide only verified facts, because it matters greatly to us to never provide false information.”

. . .

But the format is the rare media venture that requires little training or capital, said Elaine Díaz, the founder of Periodismo de Barrio, a watchdog news site that covers environmental and human rights issues in Cuba.

. . .

Podcasts in Cuba are labors of love at this point, said Mr. Condis. But he hopes that one day they can become profitable.

“In the future, I want to have advertisers,” he said.

For the full story, see:

Ernesto Londoño. “New Podcasts Add to the Conversation in Cuba.” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, September 19, 2021): 4.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Sept. 18, 2021, and has the title “Despite Censorship and Poor Internet, Cuban Podcasts Are Booming.”)

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