Every time we publish an episode we run through Olympic-level mental gymnastics to make sure we are not endangering people.
cuban-american content creators teikirisi
Photo: Startup Cuba, Karen Vierbuchen

As Cuban-American content creators with family on the island, and interacting with people on the island, we are very careful about what information we present in our podcast and how we do it. We are aware that due to our time away from Cuba, what we have learned about life on the island is by proxy, and that we can’t truly represent the interests of people on the island without letting them tell their story.

When we interview folks in Cuba for our podcast, we are constantly balancing between trying to get at the truth, publishing the truth and not too much of it. Every time we get a message from one of our parents saying that our latest interviewee must be crazy to be saying those things, or worse yet – in cahoots with the government to present it in a better light – we know we’re doing something right. 

Our journey as podcasters started one idle day in 2020, when Carmen received a Facebook message from her cousin in the rural countryside, an ordinary Cuban with novel access to the internet to privately connect to the outside world. That was pivotal because for the first time in our lifetime, and in over 50 years, Cubans were able to share their own experiences with the world and with each other. 

Just because we’re on this side of the waters doesn’t mean we know better, and it doesn’t mean we have any right to rob the people of Cuba to speak for themselves. 

That initial Facebook message moved us so much that we started a podcast, teikirisi, celebrating and educating on all things Cuban-American. That message reminded us that Cuba existed. Life in Cuba was no longer being served to the outside world through documentaries and tourism ads. Suddenly all of us on the outside got a seat – front row center – to the lives of people who’ve lived in a hermit state for over half a century.

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We started our podcast with the intent that at the core of everything we do and say, we wanted to be truthful, represent our people, but also challenge the social and political paradigms that we have grown up with: 

  • that pure capitalism is the antidote to the misery of Cuba
  • that voting GOP is the way to go (lest you side with the communists)
  • that José Martí can do no wrong 
  • that economic immigrants are not deserving of the same treatment as political ones
  • that, as immigrants to this country, we have to work hard, make money, and see no fault in the US of A.
Photo: Startup Cuba, Karen Vierbuchen

Every time we publish an episode we run through Olympic-level mental gymnastics to make sure that we are not endangering the people who are bravely speaking up. No, we’re not just paranoid – not too long ago Anyelo Troya, who worked on Patria y Vida’s music video was arrested and sentenced to prison. From where we stand, we are saddened that even speaking up, or making a music video is considered brave.  

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We see this all as two Cubanitas from the 305. Two women who have benefitted from the social programs that favored Cubans because “people must be saved from communism”. It’s a difficult line to walk – to remain critical of the country and system that has given us so much, the US, and to also acknowledge the pain and trauma that our community carries which creates a collective blindspot. We get it. 

But we also are aware that in many matters, we are removed enough from the life and history of Cuba, that it often behooves us to step aside and uplift the voices of people with lived experiences of Cuba, and who might disagree with our points of view. 

cuban-american content creators teikirisi
Photo: Startup Cuba

Just because we’re on this side of the waters doesn’t mean we know better, and it doesn’t mean we have any right to rob the people of Cuba to speak for themselves. 

With all that in mind, the people of Cuba are fighting for their lives – after a year of lockdowns, a pandemic, scarcity and inequality, people are out on the streets because there is truly nothing else left to lose. Cubans are seeing their lives at stake either way. So, now is the time to support them. It’s important to amplify their voices. 

Our community has been divided for a long time. We are already a loud, passionate bunch to start with, and even more so after July 11, we have many opinions on how to help. The first step is wanting to help. We commend everyone who begins with that intent in their heart. 

Whether on the island or outside, to be Cuban is to be resilient, loud, jovial, warm, generous, and big-hearted. 

The next step is asking yourself, “am I listening to the Cuban people? Or am I providing solutions based on my own lived experiences – and is that relevant to them truly?” The Cuba we left behind is not the same Cuba that exists today. If we forget that, we deny that progress is possible at all – call us idealistic but this is not a thought we are willing to accept.

As podcasters, you’d think that we do a lot of talking – and we do, but more than that we listen. We listen for silences in our community, we listen for misinformation, and we listen for opportunities to reflect and add context that is missing because we know it’s incredibly difficult to consolidate conflicting views. There is no topic too controversial. We grew up being hushed by our families because they worried that we would suffer consequences like they did. We don’t live in that world, thanks to them. We know our special sauce is being able to delicately untangle messy topics while still holding space for nuance.

startup cuba robin pedraja
Photo: Startup Cuba

On July 11th our hearts filled with a joy we know our parents and their parents may not have understood at first – the joy that comes with seeing our generation rise up and resist. We see a people who have left fear behind and want to charge towards a better future – even if the road is long, violent and nasty. We are also losing family members to COVID and the government’s lack of support for hospitals, causing us to orchestrate nearly impossible missions to send them medicine and resources. In the midst of all this, it has been very hard for us when our audiences in the US see all of this happening, and expect us to speak up.

It’s a lot.

We want to highlight Cuban people on the island and help to educate on this side of el charco about the strife in Cuba that led us here. To be Cuban is not to be republican, anti-communist, or anti-socialist. Whether on the island or outside, to be Cuban is to be resilient, loud, jovial, warm, generous, and big-hearted. To be Cuban is to help your people because you know que la cosa no está fácil. 

(Carmen y Fryda produce a podcast called teikirisi about all things Cuban-American. It can be found on Apple and Spotify.)

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Carmen & Fryda are two Cuban-born, Miami bffs who started a podcast called teikirisi to celebrate and educate on all things Cuban-american. Together, Carmen & Fryda spill the cafecito on Cuban-American identity, navigate Cuban-American culture, and tell stories about life in Cuba & the diaspora. Carmen studied political science and journalism at the University of Miami, and has spent the last 8 years working as a documentary filmmaker. She currently works as a producer for a financial media outlet, and moonlights as an oil-painter. Carmen’s toxic traits include making finance puns nobody likes, hating on Miami, and buying plants she doesn’t have space for. She loves reading, her cat, Isaac, and frolicking around Brooklyn, camera in tow, hunting down the best eats and drinks. Fryda studied political science at Yale University. She has 7 years of experience working in advocacy, community mobilization, and civic engagement. Currently, Fryda works as a consultant in data analysis, strategy, and technology for nonprofit & political organizations. She loves soaking up the sun on walks with her dog, Amelia (who she believes is her actual child), going rock climbing and hiking, and enjoying a delicious meal with a cocktail.

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