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Report of Cuba visit

I was able to visit Cuba on late past June. Maykel Moya, my main contact
with the Debian and free software community, had invited me several
times to the island, trying to build a bigger effort on free software
initiatives there. So I accepted telling I was going to ask for some
financial support to the DPL himself.

So, I came to the DPL asking for sponsorship and he briefly came with
the 2IC, Steve McIntyre, to try to make it happen. The money couldn't
get out from SPI because of the US embargo issues, so they sponsored my
flight from Mexico City with Debian UK Society support. I paid for my
lodging on a well-placed hotel, since, in any case, I couldn't get to be
hosted by some local because it's illegal for Cuban citizens. Maykel and
his very nice friend, Medardo Rodríguez, agreed happily to feed me
during my staying.

The first idea I conclude from my visit to Cuba is that most of the
things are not as they are expected. Most of the things and life itself
is widely different than what we have been told, mainly by the US
government. I had a fake idea on how the people live, on how the people
feel about the revolution and on how they think about it. I enaltecer
the innocence of people, Cubans are some of the nicest people I have
ever met on my whole life, without prejudges, well informed on what's
going on with the outter world and artistically and scientifically

The first day I was in Cuba I had the chance to meet some of the active
members in the free software community, precisely and as it was
expected, at least as I know it, most of them are a bunch of good and
big friends. We had the chance to drink some rum and to taste to nice
black Cuban coffee, besides that Medardo cooked his worldwide famous
spaghetti with a sauce which I still keep a wonderful memory because of
its incomparable aroma.

Because my visit would be short, the next day we already have some
scheduled activities and in the afternoon I offered a workshop on
package creation and maintenance, with the participacion of around
twelve or fifteen persons. It was held on the Mathematics and Computing
Faculty in the University of Havana. With examples such as Liferea, I
tried to guide the assistants on how a Debian package is created and
what are the important parts to have present. The people became
interested and intervened several times, having the chance to clear all
doubts present. I have to admit that I thought people in the room would
have a very basic level on free software matter, but I was certainly
with a malformed image on Cuban prejudges, which are sometimes present
if you haven't visited the island: Lots of the people are really
immersed on the free sofware world.

We changed rooms the next day, because the heat was unbearable in the
Maths Fac. rooms and we achieved a room in the Philosophy Faculty, where
we had air conditioning facilities and which became a very nice place to
work and chat in such a hot weather, for most of us. Because of the
great interest that there is in Cuba on bringing Debian in some
government dependencies, Maykel had planned some talk about Custom
Debian Distributions, since that'd be where some work, which has been
intended until now, would go on. I had the chance to talk about what I
know in the matter and about SimpleCDD, on which the guys became greatly

In the afternoon, we had a talk on translation, internationalization and
localization. Most of the current initiatives of the Debian community in
Cuba is to bring more people collaborating in the project, and from some
sort of point of view (which I share), translating is a nice way to
begin to be involved on Debian, obviously, by non-native English
speakers, like us in Latin America, and also when not having strong
technical skills on packaging or on Unix in general. We showed how the
website is organized from the CVS, so that it happily coexist with
translation teams, and things like that. 

A dinner was organized the next day, where Medardo cooked his fabulous
spaghetti again and a cake was baked with the Debian swirl in it. I
really thank you all guys for such a nice detail, it is really beautiful
to see how a project like Debian can get so inside in hearts' people, no
matter if they are Chinese, blondes, black, Latin, Europeans, Africans
or whatever, only a few times we realize of such a thing. Enjoying some
nice black tobacco and some strong Cuban coffee we started a discussion
around mathematics (since most of them were involved with them) and how
they impact on our ordinary life. In the gatherings of free software
folks in my country what we mostly do is to get drunk or something
similar and we forget about real-life discussions, not only around free
software but of life itself. It's wonderful for me to get into these
kinds of social circles with a great knowledge level and where the
analysis of life is an everyday thing.

The very last day, I had an small health problem, which didn't allow me
to assist to the last of our meetings: May this report be helpful for me
to apologize for the people waiting for me on that day, these were
issues a bit against my will which made me remain in bed.

Cuban free software effort and community, just as most of the
communities around Latin America, is going up. Everyday, more free
software has been adopting on government instances and interest is
rising on urban communities. Lots of Cubans are into computing careers
and building even stronger social bows while using free software and
adopting Debian. This has been being a reality on Latin America, which
is expected to keep going up.

In the afternoon I took a taxi saying goodbye to Havana by visiting
Plaza de la Revolución (where you can see the image of Che Chevara in
the Ministerio del Interior main wall). I said goodbye watching the
revolution in the streets and smelling the beautiful perfume of the
Cuban freedom.

Thanks, really thanks to all the nice people I met in Cuba. You guys,
rock, and are rocking from my heart. Thanks also to aj and Sledge for
supporting this (and others) proposals (I owe them an apology since this
report took several "manyanas" to be released). If you are curious on
looking at some pics, have a look at my gallery (with Spanish captions,
though): http://www.damog.net/gallery/v/cuba/


David Moreno Garza                                <damog@damog.net>
 http://www.damog.net/                     <damog@ciencias.unam.mx>

Yo mastico algoritmos.

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