Access to Media
    I was surprised to find HBO, Discovery, CNN, MTV and the Disney channel on the TV -- hotels that cater to foreign guests tend to have satellite. I guess I just expected there to be stricter constraints on the media.

    Although the average Cuban would never have access to satellite TV, surprisingly, the local channels do carry a lot of American media. When we visited a family in Santa Clara to deliver a letter from family members that Mike knows in Bloomington, they were watching "Riding in Cars With Boys" on one of the local stations. And in Havana I came across a video store that had all the new releases -- even stuff like "Matrix Reloaded". I'm sure that American movies are subject to some sort of censorship -- for example the Cubans we met had never heard of "Azucar Amarga (Bitter Sugar)" a "Cuban" film made outside of Cuba that was very critical of the government there -- but I don't know what those criteria are.

    Books are also pretty unpredictable... it seems that fiction doesn't have many restrictions -- I saw translations of everything from "The Color Purple" to Roger Zelazny. But no Harry Potter... Obviously I never saw anything politically or socially critical of the government.

    The Internet is tough to get. Not that they're forbidden it or that they're forbidden to own computers -- both are legal -- but it's just very difficult to get access to either because of cost. I don't think that they block access to specific IP address like, say, China (I believe) does... Also, and this I don't really understand, we heard several people report that they had access to e-mail, but not to the web. How that's possible, I don't know, given how integrated web access is into recent versions of Windows (which they use).

    So although it doesn't appear to be as restricted as I expected, it's still not free. You can't say what you want, or read what you want, and of course that's one of the really big negative aspects of Cuba. (Although, we should remember that that's not an inherent aspect of communism -- it has just happened in practice.)