Fabiola Santiago

Cuba-sanctioned TV arrives in U.S., sugar-coated for Yanqui viewers

During his visit to Cuba, President Obama dropped in on TV comic Pánfilo
During his visit to Cuba, President Obama dropped in on TV comic Pánfilo © US Embassy in Cuba

The age of rapprochement with Cuba has moved into the realm of the absurd.

We’re not doing so well exporting democracy, but the famously propagandist Cuban television is making a debut in America.

De Cuba a la Yuma,” boasts the DishLATINO sales brochure that arrived in my mailbox, peddling in Cuban street lingo a new channel of state-sanctioned Cuban programming aimed at the U.S.

“CUBAMAX TV has arrived….”

Missing: quality artistic production and freedom — to be expected from an entity with direct connection to the ruling Communist party.

The U.S. satellite television provider and its partners, however, insist that the Cuban programs aren’t a boring tool for indoctrination veiled as entertainment. What my fellow Americans and I will experience is “an open window into Cuban culture via movies, novelas, documentaries, music and children shows.” If there’s any doubt about authenticity, the silhouette of a vintage convertible — the signature of time-frozen Havana pre-engagement and an overused visual cliché these days — is juxtaposed against the twinkling Miami skyline at night.

“Pure entertainment from Cuba, y más na’,” DishLATINO promises. That’s it, the only guarantee that there’s no dogma in your package.

It’s not worth much. When I checked out the thin offerings, with the exception of some films we’ve already seen in Miami, what I saw are productions of official institutions like CubaVisión, which bills itself as “Fidelistas por siempre.” Fidel supporters forever.

The politics are pretty blatant.

The police show “Serie Policíaca Uno” features the feared forces of Cuba’s Interior Ministry, who repress the population, as heroic protagonists and crime-solvers. “Young professionals who go after the criminals, face appalling situations, as well as personal issues that mark their lives, integrated into a team assisted by intelligence and science and supported by the experience of the National Police system,” according to the synopsis.

The marquee comedy, “Vivir del cuento,” a double entendre title that means living off fantasy or surviving by your wits, stars Pánfilo. He’s the Cuban comedian President Barack Obama catapulted to fame by appearing in a skit with him to promote his Cuba visit on Cuban television. I sat through some YouTube episodes. Mostly, the 80-year-old character is what we call in Spanish un bofe, a drag, and his humor is codified with inside-Cuba stuff that seems critical but pushes the government’s agenda.

The actor who plays Pánfilo, Luis Silva, visited Miami recently to promote CUBAMAX TV, and guess what he did for thrills? While boating on the city’s Intracoastal, he made a video poking fun at rafters who risk their lives at sea fleeing Cuba.

Nah, no politics.

For the bargain price of a $34.99 per month subscription, DishLATINO will import into your home 24 hours of this low-budget, badly acted dramas, soft Commie porn propaganda, and Cuban children’s programming.

Now, you too can raise your kid to be a good soldier of the Revolution like Eliancito.

Fifty-seven years of dogmatic fidelismo and Cubans are still fleeing the island anyway they can — and in record numbers, post-engagement. Back home, to get away from drab Cuban TV, they paid for a viewing “paquete” circulated in the black market with American shows and Cuban Miami fare. Now that they’re here, they’re pursued as… Cuba television consumers! Fertile targets for the sale of products from the state they fled — so Kafkian.

Viva la Yuma, lucky land of the uncensored, where you can subscribe to all the junk TV your brain cells can stand.