|Jesus Martinez (l) and Internet pioneer Vint Cerf|
From: Director CENIAI/ Jesus Martinez/IDICT(The Forum Martinez refers to was a group of network leaders from Latin America and the Caribbean who held annual meetings sponsored by the Organization of American States and the US National Science Foundation).
Date: Mon, 9 Sep 1996 20:22:41 -0300 (EDT)
After so many days, years of sacrifice and vigilance, I have great satisfaction to announce that our beloved Cuba, our "Cayman of the Indies," has been connected to the Internet as we had desired. We have a 64 Kbps link to Sprint in the U.S.
Many friends helped us and it would be unfair to mention some because of the risk of overlooking others. To be honest, major recognition goes to the Forum of Latin American and Caribbean Networks, first convened in Rio and most recently held in Lima. The Forum gave us the opportunity to meet, share strategies and estimate the size of our tasks to better plan our work. The Forum helped us achieve our connection to the Internet through technical teaching and solidarity.
Our greatest thanks go to my young colleagues at CENIAI, who had full confidence in our ability to make this historic connection.
A new era has just begun for us. We will soon announce our Web site and value-added services to do as much as we can to help develop our region and our culture.
A good Caribbean greeting,
I'm posting Martinez' announcement because it conveys the spirit of the small, international networking community he belonged to. He thanks The Forum for their assistance and solidarity. They did more than meet annually -- they collaborated year around using their new tools like email, threaded discussion, file transfer, Gopher (a limited, text-based precursor to the Web), remote login and eventually the Web. They were among the first to form what networking visionary J. C. R. Licklider had predicted thirty years earlier -- a community "not of common location, but of common interest."
Martinez was clearly proud of Cuba, but he also shared the values and enthusiasm of the international networking community, who believed, correctly, that the Internet would profoundly impact individuals, organizations and society. Cuba (CENIAI) had been among the leaders in pre-Internet networking. They came to the Internet a little late, but were confident of their ability to help develop the region and culture.
That ambition has been achieved to varying degrees around the world, but Cuba has fallen far behind. That's the bad news. The good news is that times are changing, and Cuba has a well educated population ready to use, shape and be shaped by the Internet. When the time comes, they will bring a Cuban perspective to the task, and will develop and use it in Cuban ways.
For example, Cuba has invested in medical education and health care for years and they are poor -- might that prepare them to invent new applications and devices for low-cost, decentralized medicine? Or, might they show us ways to fund the development of the Internet without heavy reliance on advertising and consumer sales?
Yes, I know I am being a Pollyanna, but humor me -- Martinez' vision will eventually be realized.
Much of the early history of Latin American networking is captured at the Network Pioneer site. You can browse the site or focus on The Forum or on Martinez' contribution. Links to reports of the seven annual Forum meetings are here.
For a short article on CENIAI written four years before their Internet connection, see Press, L. and Snyder, J., A Look at Cuban Networks.
Here is Martinez' email in Spanish.
From: Director CENIAI/ Jesus Martinez/IDICT
To: email@example.com CC: firstname.lastname@example.org Date: Mon, 9 Sep 1996 20:22:41 -0300 (EDT) Queridos amigos; Despues de tantos dias, annos, de sacrificio y desvelo, tengo la gran satisfacion de comunicarles que nuestra querida Cuba, nuestro caiman antillano ha podido ser conectada a INTERNET como habiamos deseado. La conexion a 64 Kbps por el momento, se realiza a Sprint en E.U. Muchos son los amigos que nos han ayudado, apoyado y seria injusto el mencionar a alguien sin correr el riesgo de olvidar algun nombre, creo que para ser honesto mi mayor reconocimiento lo voy a dirigir al FORO DE REDES LATINOAMERICANAS Y DEL CARIBE,desde Rio hasta Lima. El FORO que nos dio la oportunidad de conocernos, de compartir estrategias, de dimensionar nuestras tareas, de proyectar mejor nuestras misiones y nos ensenno que lograr conectarse a Internet no se hace solo con la tecnica, tambien se hace con solidaridad. Nuestro mayor agradecimiento a mi joven colectivo de CENIAI, que ha confiado plenamente en nosotros y que ha sabido concretar este hecho. historico. Una nueva etapa acaba de comenzar para nosotros, pronto comenzaran ha conocer de nuestros WWW y de nuestros servicios de valor agregado, de nuestra realidad y de lo mucho que podemos ayudar al desarrollo de nuestra region y de nuestra cultura. Un saludo bien Caribenno. Jesus
In a chat with some friends lasts week, Jesus described events surrounding that first Internet connection. Their goal was to connect on his birthday, July 22, but finalizing the agreement with Sprint and testing took longer than expected. The actual connection was made on the afternoon of August 22. Jesus was out of the office in the morning and when he returned the workers were waiting with the news that they were online -- it was a "great thing that one can never forget."
My friend Luis Germán Rodríguez found a Wired Magazine article on the Cuban Internet, published about a year and a half after their connection was established. It includes a visit to CENIAI and an interview with Jesus Martinez (below) in which he says that "The problem of the Internet in Cuba has never been technical or economic. As in any country, it's 70 percent political."