The Cuban art market was completely closed during the pandemic, leading the community to turn to digital markets to survive. However, artists say they continue to be censored due to US sanctions against Cuba, with US-based platforms like Open Sea going to extreme lengths to delete content and accounts linked to the country itself.
The censorship began in January with the sudden closure of the account of Fábrica de Arte Cubano, an art gallery that showcased emerging artists.
As the Cuban visual artist and founder of the CryptoCubans project, Gabriel Bianchini, explains: “The sanctions of the embargo are so vague that the platforms prefer not to risk and close our accounts.”
This type of censorship is common for Cuban artists who exhibit their work on the Internet. Ernesto Cisneros, musician and NFT artist, recounted his own experience as tragic after losing all his earnings on Patreon due to the embargo during the pandemic. This experience led him to web3, not knowing that the same story would repeat itself. He told it:
“I helped get a lot of artists onto Web3. But then OpenSea started blocking Cuban artists one after another. I stopped using that market entirely when I found out they were censoring because of the embargo.”
In addition to the consequences of censorship, they believe that Cuban artists are more likely to be victims of hacking. Such is the case of Avinro, an NFT artist from Havana. “There are antivirus programs that don’t work properly because I’m in Cuba,” he says, alleging that the lack of adequate digital protection allowed an attacker – posing as an interested buyer – to send him a virus through a Zoom link that , otherwise it should have been detected by the software. Avinro claims that this oversight allowed the attacker to take over their Metamask wallet, leading to the theft of their earnings and the loss of their user profiles on various NFT platforms.
However, it seems that advances on the technological side are taking place through official channels. The Cuban government recently announced that it is open to the use of cryptocurrencies, which has raised hopes that they will be adopted at a rapid pace. However, even if this happens, it will still be highly regulated for citizens. Now, the arrival of blockchain smart contracts is a game changer for Cubans looking to send their messages to the world. Bianchini said:
“There is nothing more independent than a smart contract. Once you know how to program them, there is nothing that can stop you. What happened with Fábrica de Arte was an alarm to show the community in a new direction. I think we are going to build our independence, because now we have that opportunity.
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