Ana Olema: Startups Are My Art

How a Cuban Activist Walks the Talk of Free Enterprise

"No one in power need be the hero; rather, each free man has a role to be an agent of progress." (Ana Olema)

La versión en español.

When it comes to the defense of personal independence and liberal ideals, Ana Olema is undoubtedly a role model. Five years ago, she decided to travel through eight countries to enter the United States and ask for asylum, for liberty.

However, arriving in a country with more opportunities did not quench her thirst for freedom. On the contrary, she began a new adventure: starting her own business.

Ana Olema is an artist, information activist, video producer, and entrepreneur. She is an anti-feminist anarcho-capitalist, so she rejects cultural Marxism or any type of collectivism, and she believes in private property and free markets.

Some of her projects are Despierta Cuba (Wake Up Cuba), De Espalda al Poder (Turn Your Back on Power), and Chancleta Power Store.

What was your main motivation to become an entrepreneur?

The enterprise has been, above all, my contribution to art and a statement to the artist community. I lived in a communist regime, where the state shapes the cultural policies in a totalitarian way, as it imposes specific guidelines and represses any type of independent cultural practice.

Moreover, as I rose within artistic social groups, I realized how often artists ask the government for spaces to show their work, subsidies, grants, and more. This happens in Cuba, in Colombia, and everywhere else. These artists may speak about freedom, but they are parasites feeding off the monster that constrains them.

I don’t want to make a living that way from art. So this is my own way of doing art, in a truly liberated way. An entrepreneur is a new kind of artist, with capitalism as his moral compass.

My parents also inspired me, since both worked in the informal markets of Cuba. Their experience in that sector allowed them to understand the country’s problems, and they repudiated the dictatorship and its poisonous socialism.

As an entrepreneur, what were your main challenges?

“once we achieve more flexible schedules, we will become the queens of flip-flops..” (Chancleta Power)

My friend and work partner Annelys Casanova and I began Chancleta Power Store in 2015. Art and information activism brought us together, and we have actually called our creative work “Chancleta Power” since 2013. We chose that name because we wanted to combine pop and the media by making fun of the snob trend in art. The name was appropriate for the impact our creations have (just like the sound made when walking in flip-flops), and it represents the idea of working as a pair: one sandal is useless by itself.

As we wanted to make money, we decided to create a flip-flop online store — to honor the name of our alliance. We devoted a year to paperwork, preparing a website, and planning our marketing strategy. It is something that changed our lives. In Cuba, this would have been almost impossible, since the regime is a perpetual enemy of private enterprise.

Our main challenge has been a lack of time. Both of us have other jobs, so we do what we can with the time we have available. Of course, once we achieve more flexible schedules, we will become the queens of flip-flops.

Your life is a vivid image of adventuring towards liberty. Do you think being a woman influenced the outcomes of your battles?

No. If I were a man, I would be exactly the same but a masculine version. I would probably be a handsome Cuban man, almost like a stereotype (laughs). Both women and men experience terrible things under communism, including when they run away. Feminism is very popular in Cuba; it is even promoted by the state. Yet it is just another façade to perpetuate the romantic and sophisticated image of the left.

“If I were a man, I would be exactly the same but a masculine version.” (De Espalda al Poder)

Nevertheless, men have to comply with the obligatory military service, and they are the most incarcerated demographic of the population. They are at the top of the alcohol and drug addiction statistics, and suffer from more violent police aggression. Moreover, male prostitution is increasing in the island due to the low levels of tourism in the last few years.

The main problem is the Castro family and their power apparatus. Enrique García, a former agent of Cuban State Security, has asserted that the island has the biggest counter-intelligence apparatus of the world, relative to the population, with more than 100,000 officials, including plenty domineering women. However, for whatever reason, women seem to experience a higher level of targeted cruelty than men from the dictatorship.

Above all, liberty is not a matter of one’s skin color, gender, religion, or minority status; it is a concern for all humanity, and more precisely, for individuals.

What is the goal of De Espalda al Poder?

De Espalda al Poder is an online platform that uses data-based journalism as a tool for information activism. We consider ourselves the media dissidents of socialism and communism, trying to deprogram Cubans’ collectivist thinking. The project focuses on the production of audiovisual resources shared via social media.

The immediate impact of this has been the high-quality production of ten Facebook Live broadcasts, which have had over a million views. The project is still in process, so it might change in format but keep its initial ideas. We believe ideas and communication must be protected from the centralization of governments, politicians, and states.

The name of the project, “Turn Your Back to Power,” reflects our desire to open the door for individuals in a free-market society. No one in power need be the hero; rather, each free man has a role to be an agent of progress.

"Ley de Ajuste Cubano: Mitos y Verdades" (FULL)

"Ley de Ajuste Cubano: Mitos y Verdades" (FULL)#DeEspaldaAlPoder Especiales: Preguntas Frecuentes #1#Comparte(Ver HD)

Posted by Ana Olema on Monday, October 3, 2016

We must establish more effective and specific strategies. We wish to do deep research and studies, prove the veracity of the events, and other things like that… Opinion has replaced traditional journalism, and media outlets spread opinions as if they were concrete facts. Now more than ever, information has to be safeguarded. De Espalda al Poder arose from the need to transmit useful information and combat any type of cyber bullying or trolling.

What are the main strengths and weaknesses of information activism?

One advantage of information activism is that it does not have to be as impartial as journalism, although it still must report accurately on events. Massive social-media campaigns can actually save someone’s life by channeling information and opinion with citizen technologies. That feeling is priceless.

Moreover, while governments pay for trolls, info-activists are the army of the individual. With superior strategies, skills, and perseverance, we have the potential to combat and overcome deep-state squads.

One disadvantage or ongoing challenge is that technologies are in a state of rapid evolution, so what is effective today might not be tomorrow. Many people consider themselves information activists because they post their opinions on Facebook, but that is not activism, even if a post gets millions of likes. Information activism transforms reality, thus creating a tangible result beyond the internet.

Most of the time, an information activist acts without monetary support; therefore, few people recognize his job. My advice is to understand this and get used to it. An information activist’s most pleasant award is beating his enemy: ignorance.

Paz Gómez

Paz Gómez

Paz Gómez is the Antigua Report policy analyst. She is cofounder and academic coordinator of Libre Razón, a liberal think tank in Quito, Ecuador. She holds a bachelor's degree in international relations and political science from San Francisco University of Quito, with a minor in translation. Follow @PazenLibertad.

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