Being YouTuber in Cuba: A daily challenge
Being YouTuber in Cuba: A daily challenge
It's not easy being a YouTuber in Cuba. A Nauta card to get online, in a park with WiFi, still has a prohibitive price per hour; in addition, young entrepreneurs don't find a way to earn money for the content they produce in the largest video socialization platform in the world. Despite all this, every day new people appear in the country willing to show their lives and express their opinions. PanamericanWorld spoke with six Cuban youtubers about their goals and motivations.
Lester Acosta and other theories of how minions will conquer the world
Lester Acosta started with his channel MinioVlog, "for entertainment, for the freedom of generating your own content, and to be able to talk about what I wanted in my videos". With about 800 subscribers, this "fan of YouTube's numbers and statistics", meets people on the street who "stare at me, strangely, but funny".
In addition, he is happy to see an increase in his videos consumption by the Cuban public: "I honestly needed it. Very few of my visits came from Cuba and now there are people who get online to watch our videos. I value that a lot". In his videos he talks about life in school, exams, teachers, and recently, how he misses all that, being in a new stage: Military Service.
On several occasions he has encouraged his audience to send him questions, to which he tries to give answers in his videos. Among the most recurrent is Why MinioVlog? This is due to a nickname he had during his adolescence. His friends called him "Lesterminio", an analogy of the Spanish version of "The Extermination" (El Exterminio), which was reduced to only Minio. In the same way, yellow fictional creatures in animated films frequently appear in his videos. In one of the last he speaks to them and summons them to dominate the world.
Wendy Mariam, a beautyvlogger
For Wendy Mariam, "being a youtuber is not an easy task, although it seems very funny, it also has its moments of stress". In her channel she combines "love for makeup, for photography and my desire to create". Fifth year Art History student, at University of East (Universidad de Oriente), she has adjusted her schedules with her youtuber life. Although she doesn't have a fixed day to upload the videos to the channel, "every weekend I record and edit, sometimes I record several, I usually like that the videos not to be with so many days of lag".
Wendy doesn't write scripts, since she bets on spontaneity. As a professional, and at the level of any other international youtuber, for her makeup tutorials she organizes everything: "I put the artificial lights, the tripod, the background and I take at least five hours. I take recording about two and editing three hours, depending on the videos duration. This effort will be reflected in an about-five-minutes-long video.
He has collaborated with several Cuban youtubers, inside and outside the island, she says. She lives in Holguin and "through this platform I have managed to get along very well with almost everyone, we haven't had the opportunity to meet each other, and I have them as my friends". On the subject of challenges and collaborations between them, he recognizes that it's not a matter of being fashionable, "but trying to get into YouTube's fashions, in that way we would achieve greater visibility, not only in the Cuban community but also in a world level".
Her videos are focused mainly on makeup. How to get it? How to present a haul of products? What happens when they are finished? What is the relationship with makeup brands? These are some of the questions that could be asked by someone who decides to do this type of content in Cuba. For Wendy they are a challenge. "Despite the difficulties, I have achieved a small collection".
The main thing, she acknowledges, is "being yourself and trying to give your best because you can influence the person who is observing you, and when the time comes, you can even become a role model or a paradigm. I feel it's a very big responsibility ".
Evelyn, Charito and their Miradas Habaneras
There was a time when EvestardMusicSoul was only for Evelyn's songs. It was a time when Rosario was behind the cameras. They appeared videos of songs covers such as Amy Winehouse's Back to Black.
"With Miradas Habaneras (Havana looks), we decided to change the channel perspective and draw up a strategy that would allow us to continue in part with the main goal of showing Evelyn's talent in music, but expanding on other art manifestations". Now, together, they visit clubs, projects, deal with amateur artists, although Evelyn can still be seen singing. They contribute, from art, to show the Cuban reality. They also contribute to the promotion of young talents who, "like us, from a different perspective, try to create new things".
Evelyn learned about YouTube and its platform to publicize and promote the contents, when she was studying at the University of Havana's School of Communication, along with Rosario. She decided to create the channel in 2015 and start uploading videos of her presentations at the Culture Festivals, during her university period.
Then she met other Cuban youtubers. Collaborations began. The group appointments in which most of them tried to be present to exchange with the public. The both recognize that it's not a simple task. "YouTube requires a lot of effort, time and responsibility. We find it a little complicated to find time between work, school (of English), family and everything else. But in the end it's achieved, not always the day we think, but we still do it ".
Being two, they share the tasks.
Javier Cabrera or MinvaShows' El Javico
That people identify themselves with the stories he makes was the main motivation to upload videos to the MinvaShows channel. Today it could be said that real life has merged with the character's one in the channel. "I am more El Javico in my daily life than Javier Cabrera. Everything that surrounds me is very directly linked to my channel, my friends, my family, my work, my colleagues, my partner and even my neighbors. Most of the time, the people around me help to fulfill my dream, they serve as a team to design the scripts, to contribute topics for the videos, new perspectives and sometimes they even participate".
In general, MinvaShows has changed. Javier has better conditions to record: "a new camera, a tripod and better lighting. I also feel a little looser on camera and I think the content is getting more serious". Although from the beginning, it was always clear to him, "my channel's main line is to deal with Cuban issues in search of having a follower who feels identified with what I speak". As he knows that Cuba and related searches are in trend, he tries to add it to his tags. Showing the Cuban reality is the reality of several of his videos. The drugstore, parties and recreation options, transportation, and obviously, the topic of connectivity. Javier has dedicated several videos to explain how to be a youtuber in Cuba and all that implies.
"I continue my efforts to talk about national issues, because I like that Cubans feel identified with my videos and that those from abroad know a little more about Cuba. I also use a viral topic and I try to do it in the most Cuban way". For MinvaShows' El Javico, "the biggest problem is the inability to establish any contact with Google or YouTube officially. Not being able to create a PayPal account prevents me from putting the channel to generate incomes and there is still no way to solve that issue other than the support of someone abroad to whom I can trust my work and my incomes".
On the other hand, many of the channel followers have become part of his everyday life: "My current partner met me in that way. Personally, I love receiving emails every day from people who see my material and respond to it. We have very productive conversations and they are very supportive".
Adriano López and Comepizza's neutral character
The Comepizza Online channel, created by Adriano López, is now one year old. This young man from Havana acknowledges that, since he is a youtuber, he takes on life in a unique way. "I see everything differently. Everything that happens to me at school, at home, on the street, gives me ideas to create a new video. To that is added the fact that many people recognize me anywhere".
His channel, which is called that way because of a song created by himself, has gained so much popularity that it has reached the point that "people who years ago didn't look at me in school, today they say they remember me and talk to me as if the whole life we had been better friends. Perhaps it will be because they think that now I am a famous, millionaire and with a car, which is not true because I continue living a very normal life".
After a year, he identifies among the main changes that, "my videos were dedicated exclusively to my friends. Today they are dedicated to my 2.600 subscribers and the rest of users who come to my channel or watch my videos". However, the quality or content hasn't undergone major changes. "Since I started, until now, I recorded, edited and upload the videos always with the same tools". Adriano says that something that has changed is his behavior in front of the camera. "If you compare my first video, with the last one that I uploaded, you can notice a high increase in the level of shouting".
In his videos, he doesn't address issues of which "in one way or another it wouldn't be correct to speak, either because of political, religious or other issues". He accepts suggestions from his audience, but with moderation. He also avoids the use of copyrighted music, not showing sexual or terrorist content, because of the YouTube censorship issue that "is not very radical, I would say, it's enough to know well how to do things". He doesn't want to hurt the feelings of a certain group of people or a specific person. "I like that my "character", (so to speak), in the videos has a neutral character before all kinds of controversy".
So far, he has never lacked topics, but he has had ideas to spare. "I had to separate it in several videos so as not to exceed the 4 or 5 minutes that usually last. Rather what I have done is talk about the same topic three weeks in a row". His videos show his surroundings, for instance, the school's things, vacations, the professors". Coincidentally, my last video is entitled "Transportation in Cuba", in which I only talk about taxis, but I promised next week to talk about the buses".
Dina, YouTube and a close relationship with her audience
The first video that appeared on the DinaStars channel talked about outfits and customize. Then it showed a family vacation. Today assumes a new challenge. "I set myself the goal of proving that a youtuber girl doesn't necessarily have to be about makeup and fashion, but can cover much more and achieve the same audience and the same acceptance as any other".
She has her audience, her dynamites, adapted to two or three weekly videos. "These days are Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Although not every week I can meet all three videos, but I try to upload at least two". YouTube has become an important point in Dina's life. "It's one of the things that motivates me the most, for instance, when I go out I'm always thinking about my channel and doing vlogs, or when I'm at work, in the free time , I start writing ideas for upcoming videos".
"I am always in contact with my audience, by all possible means, whether by Facebook, Instagram or by mail, I like that people who take the trouble to congratulate me for what I do feel that in one way or another I appreciate that. I try to answer all the comments". She acknowledges that she depends on them and tries to satisfy them. Dina recognizes as positive the "avalanche of Cuban youtubers". Many people write to her asking her to explain how to subscribe to her channel, "I gladly explain and sometimes they can't because they don't have Gmail, and they apologize. I can only say that it doesn't matter that they aren't subscribed, the simple fact that they take their time to download their video, that support is not paid with anything".
Regarding the preference for certain topics, Dina points out that, "Cuba is something that is very interesting to foreign audiences", and although this may be a great strategy, "if I talk about Cuba, I'll take its beautiful and nice side in my channel. I wouldn't like my channel to be based on complaints about my country".
Very close to completing a year with the open channel, DinaStars has grown. "It has immensely changed. My channel improved in editing, in content, in everything. I am very happy with what I have achieved by having decided on a more varied and new content for me. I show my reality, day by day, and I am happy as I live and I think that is what my audience likes the most".
Brisbany and his rare people
Ifrit subscribers don't know he also gets nervous when they write or speak to him. Some of these have become his friends. Now Brisbany Recio is studying Journalism at the University of Camagüey and finds it difficult to bring together the channel with his daily life. "You have to learn to manage your time masterfully, plan very well, sacrifice yourself. But it's enjoyed. Personally, I like to be as multifaceted as possible in life". For now, "I carry both, without mixing them". Although he recognizes how both spheres of his life are fed back. "It helps that I am a youtuber, for instance, in that my posts have greater scope and visibility. In Journalism I also learn several tools that I can use in my channel".
This Cuban youtuber doesn't have a fixed day to upload the videos to his channel and he prefers to do it "from the computers in the navigation room, which are much faster than in the WiFi, I also edit with the Sony Vegas (having a lot of patience with my laptop's performance)".
In his channel, there are videos of challenges, of collaborations, but also of traveling. Ifrit shows its reality and its surroundings. You can see how he receives and gives "a special affection to his people", to which "I try to influence in a positive way, without ceasing to be as natural as possible. I am always myself, with my virtues and defects. I call my subscribers Rare People, because I want to defend that we are all special in our own way, we shouldn't let society mold us, we should be ourselves and accept ourselves with our particularities. Be weird and be proud to be it".
Text and photos: Cinthya García Casañas