Senior thesis: Exploring the emergence of Cuban consumerism

A small shop in Havana. Photo by Dennisse Calle.

Dennisse Calle found the topic for her senior thesis along a Havana street, in the back of a stall that sells pirated movies and music.

Cubans pay the equivalent of a few dollars, insert a flash drive into the computer at the back of the stall, and get access to El Paquete — a weekly, one terabyte compilation of popular TV shows, movies, music, computer and phone apps, and advertisements that serves as an offline Netflix, YouTube, Craigslist and more in a country where Internet access is slow and expensive.

Calle, a sociology major at Princeton University, spent two weeks doing research in Cuba during January and interviewed 50 users and distributors of El Paquete — which means "The Package" — to learn about the service and the way it fits into the lives of everyday Cubans.

"I focus on how El Paquete is transforming how people view themselves as consumers," Calle said. "This is one of the first forms of consumer culture that is being normalized in Cuba, in part because it's cheap and easy to pass around."

Read the full story on News at Princeton.