This fascinating 7 minute video gives insight into a ring of media smugglers based in Cuba. Data is trafficked into a secret location from the U.S. into a secret location based in Havana, where a 1 Terabyte hard drive is loaded with movies, TV shows, phone applications, and other digital content. This large collection of media is known as 'El Paquete Semanal' or 'The Weekly Package.'
It's quite a complicated operation, with many moving parts and countless people working together to bring information into this closed off little island.
The whole story is reminiscent of an article I read from WIRED Magazine regarding a slightly more infamous country – North Korea. Andy Greenberg's article, The Plot to Free North Korea With Smuggled Episodes of ‘Friends’ served as a fascinating look into the lives of men who risk their lives to bring USB drives – similar to El Paquete Semanal – across the North Korean border.
According to the article, the group, and it's leader, Kang Chol-hwan, "inject around 3,000 USB drives filled with foreign movies, music, and ebooks. Kang’s goal, as wildly optimistic as it may sound, is nothing less than the overthrow of the North Korean government. He believes that the Kim dynasty’s three-generation stranglehold on the North Korean people—and its draconian restriction on almost any information about the world beyond its borders—will ultimately be broken not by drone strikes or caravans of Humvees but by a gradual, guerrilla invasion of thumb drives filled with bootleg episodes of Friends and Judd Apatow comedies."
These little USB drives filled with American media have the power to completely shatter any illusion that people living in these Dictator-led countries have been fed. It's this exact realization that drives hundreds - if not thousands - of people to risk their lives getting this content in. The internet, and media itself, has literally become another means of supplying aid to foreign nations.
"The internet, and media itself, has literally beome another means of supplying aid to foreign nations."
While secular media may serve as a semi-effective savior in the political realm, it is not a sufficient one for the hearts and minds of these people. Lives have been risked to bring secular and sometimes sinful media into these areas, but the Gospel – the ultimate El Paquete Semanal, if you will – needs to be injected into these countries with even greater fervency. As Christians, we need to be intentionally prayerful and observant when it comes to finding ways to get the gospel into other countries, and supporting those who are already propagating it.
"As Christians, we should be encouraged by these stories. Not specifically because episodes of Game of Thrones are being viewed in these countries, but because these stories prove that there is no longer such a thing as a closed country.