Havana’s bustling nightlife went dark and silent as Cuba embarked on the post-Fidel Castro era.
The sale of alcohol was prohibited. Police and state security agents stood guard at street corners. During a long mourning period after Castro’s late November death, state-run television ran nonstop footage of his interminable speeches.
But outside of the Ambos Mundos Hotel in Old Havana – and at other Wi-Fi spots throughout the city – clusters of Cubans gathered to surf the Web.
Their faces illuminated by the screens on their devices, Cubans talked with family members and friends abroad. They laughed. Some cried. Others scrolled Facebook timelines – “liking” or commenting on photos and posts, catching up on news and gossip.
In a country in transition, such gatherings have become everyday occurrences. Similar scenes routinely play out at more than 100 Wi-Fi spots and parks set up by the government throughout the island, beginning in July 2015.
“We can’t drink rum, so we come here,” Raul Rossell, an engineer in his 50s, joked outside the Ambos Mundos, referring to the state-imposed alcohol ban.