Marissa: Learn How This Influencer Is "Bringing Everyday Cuba To The World"
“Before social media, the only marketing of Cuba’s image was created by the government. Only they told the Cuban story.” -Marissa Daniela
Forget what you thought you knew about Cuba: Marissa Daniela (@mimaincuba) is using social media to expose her version of the modern Cuban lifestyle. Marissa has a following of over 21-thousand on Instagram, but she is quite different than your average “Influencer.” Yes, she uploads stunning photos in front of scenic Cuban backdrops, but according to Marissa, her photos are just a way to draw attention to what’s written below, in the caption. Unlike most content creators, whose thirst trap photos and a song title captions often dominate the explore page, Marissa is using the power of social media to correct common misconceptions about her home country.
I spoke with Marissa about growing up as a Cuban-American, the most common questions foreigners have about Cuba and how she is using her social media platform to give Cubans a voice in popular media.
Erika: Did you grow up in Cuba?
Marissa: I was raised in Los Angeles and consider myself Cuban-American. I’m very much both. I came back to live in Cuba three years ago.
Erika: On your Instagram, you seem to be very educated on current events in Cuba, as well as its history. Is this something that was spoken about a lot in your home growing up?
Marissa: In Cuba, politics is a topic that consumes most conversations everyday because of the everyday struggles we go through. But it’s also shunned away when talked about too much. Most people tend to be apathetic and do not participate in political discussions, because at the end of the day, nothing you do will change anything at all.
Erika: Your Insta bio says you are “Bringing everyday Cuba to the world.” Why is that important to you?
Marissa: Social media to me has been a way to give my perspective on a place that has been highly politicized from both angles. On one hand, before social media, the only marketing of Cuba’s image was created by the government. Only they told the Cuban story. And on the other hand, at least in the U.S., Cuban- Americans who fled during the revolution told a story of a Cuba they hardly now knew. I wanted social media to be my voice, and my commentary on what was happening from an individual perspective, because no one else owns that but me. Social media is just the medium that delivers it to the masses.
Erika: Your Instagram account is very different than most influencers. Yes, you have beautiful photos, but your captions speak even louder than your photos. You really take the time to write well-thought-out captions.
Marissa: I use pictures to grab attention about what I have on my mind that day. I see so many Instagram accounts with substance-less content and a just a quick one-liner—Boring. I think most people want valuable content, and valuable content creates an authentic following and community.
Erika: You’re also a blogger, and you have your very own tour company wherein you provide tourists with a “local Cuban experience.” Can you tell us more about the inspiration behind that?
Marissa: We (my partner and I) provide an experience that was lacking in the Cuban space: a young fresh and ethical company that gives back to Cuban people. It’s a very real and authentic way to see the place I love. It’s important to show them [the tourists] Cuba like we are friends, because that’s how Cuban society treats everyone: like friends! But it goes further than that; Travel companies in Cuba only cover the basics, and often sugar-coat things that are happening, like the many struggles and economic challenges we face. By treating you as our friend, you can ask questions and get a deeper understanding. Plus, we always keep in touch with our travelers!!
Erika: What are the three most common questions you get from tourists visiting Cuba? And what are your answers?
How do people survive if they only make $40 a month?
Black market inventions and constantly finding a way to make money on the side. Plus, pooling money with family members to buy food for the month.
How much do I tip?
As much you’d like. There is no general rule, but if you’re being treated well, please tip.
Can I go to Cuba?
If you’re American, yes you can still come. And yes, it’s still legal and safe. Cuba is the safest country in the Western Hemisphere!
Erika: What are some of the biggest misconceptions foreigners have about Cuba?
Just because Cuba is a poor country, it doesn’t mean it’s cheap. Take more money than you think you will need if you want to enjoy yourself.
We don’t have everything you would normally find in our markets…. Trying to find anything here is a nightmare. Bring everything you will possibly need on your vacation yourself.
That all Cubans are poor—They’re not. Many Cubans are struggling, but not everyone. There are many ways to make money and ways to invent jobs.
Because of American propaganda, most people think Cuba is very unsafe and has this overlooming North Korea-type feel. Not at all! It’s very free here, and no one is following you around.
No one dances salsa on the street. It isn’t Dirty Dancing Havana Nights
Erika: What is a big issue facing Cuba right now that you wish got more attention in the media?
Marissa: The biggest issue facing Cuba is the embargo The U.S. places on Cuba. It means that any nation doing business with Cuba, including the U.S. of course, is penalized. It makes things very hard economically on the Cuban people. The embargo discourages foreign trade and investment: something that I believe every country needs in order to prosper. Everyday we have food rationing and there’s a huge challenge for 99 per cent of Cubans to find basic food items.
Erika: When did you realize you could become a full-time blogger? Was there a specific moment where you realized you had found success?
Marissa: I realized I could make an okay living when I launched the website and got tons of request. It has changed my life completely, and forced me to be an entrepreneur, when I never knew I could be one. It’s been the most challenging (especially here) and rewarding thing I’ve ever done.
Erika: What advice would you give others who want to start their own blog and have their own voice online?
Marissa: My advice is to be real and authentic. You don’t need to Photoshop your butt, or dress sexually, to have a meaningful audience. Focus on something your passionate about—anything really—and create your own little niche. Once you do that, and be real, you can create meaningful content that people will enjoy. Stay consistent and always remember it’s just the internet. Not real life.