HAVANA TIMES — I don’t know about you, but I still remember that game-show aired on Cuban television in the 1980s, “9550” (the exact number of kilometers separating Havana from Moscow), in which Yiqui Quintana, a sports commentator turned host, would give the top prizewinner a 15-day trip to the former Soviet Union.
I can even boast of remembering that a contestant by the name of Edel Casas won this trip by answering a whole series of difficult questions about baseball, and that this business of sending Edel on a trip to a place where no one had any interest in that sport was rather absurd.
I recall that Yiqui Quintana would set a clock running after handing contestants a big stack of keys. The contestant had to find the key which opened a treasure chest in under three minutes.
Now, after being introduced to the Internet in Ecuador, where I have been for over a month, I must confess I feel a bit like a lucky contestant in that 80s game-show, where, in less than three minutes, I was able to find the key to YouTube.
Yes, dear readers, this was the treasure chest whose “key” I was never able to find in Cuba, for the broadband one requires to enjoy the site’s contents is well beyond the reach of any mortal living on the island, no matter how badly they wish to access this portal.
Because of this, I had even gone as far as thinking that YouTube was mere eye-candy, a trivial Internet ads page. But I was wrong, and it took leaving the island where I lived for 37 years to discover, in the Ecuadorian Amazons, that YouTube does exist, and how!
Thanks to this Internet site, I have discovered a part of Cuba I had not been permitted to see, a place where academic gatherings with names as suggestive as “Cuba’s Futures” take place, and intellectuals like Rafael Rojas, Juan Antonio Blanco and Carlos Alberto Montaner hold serious debates about the days to come in the nation.
Through the portal, I have also re-discovered a whole world of Cuban culture I was denied access to, because of the whims of those who govern Cuba today.
Thanks to YouTube, I have also – proud Cuban that I am – reunited with illustrious figures of Cuban music, such as Celia Cruz, Olga Guillot, Ania Linares, Mirta Medina, Aime Nubiola, Albita Rodrígue and Gema Corredera. I have also discovered fresh new voices like those of Lena Burke and Vanesa Formell.
Every day, near the Aguarico river, I turn on a laptop that automatically connects to the Internet and, as if by habit, lands me directly on a functioning YouTube page. There, I have refashioned my views, not only regarding Cuba, but also about international political, cultural and sporting events, the details of which I had no access to before.
Getting back to Yiqui Quintana, I also still vividly remember that, on August 15, 1993, at the start of the sports program “TR Deportes”, then aired on Cuba’s “Tele Rebelde” channel, sports commentator Eddy Martin furiously “grilled” Quintana on the air, after the game-show host had left the country.
Could it be Yiqui was a visionary, and knew, back then, that the key to the yet-to-come YouTube was not in Cuba?
Just some food for thought.