Daisy Valera

Cel phone in Havana. photo: Caridad

One news item that has been on the lips of all Cubans over the last few days concerns the rate reductions on cell phone calls.  In just two years Cubans went from not being able to access wireless telephones, to these being approved, and to now where calls on them will only cost 0.10 CUCs (about 12 cents USD) a minute after 11:00 p.m.

Since the purchase of cell phones was first allowed, the price per minute was 0.45 CUCs, which was charged to both the person who made the call as well as to whomever received the call.

This too has now changed.

The phenomenon of wireless phones is something that has expanded considerably across the whole country, and the new changes will help to make this type of communication even more widespread.

But the situation is not so simple.

One might think that the use of these phones is something common, that there’s nothing more than using them as faster more convenient forms of communicating.

But reality demonstrates us a different story.

At first people began desperately buying the phones, but never to speak on them, because to get a line for a cell phone cost $40 CUCs, a substantial sum for the Cuban household budget.

Consequently, the phones had other uses, like playing the games that came included, listening to music and the most important thing of all: showing off to society that you could own something so expensive.

After a while people began to get lines for their mobile phones, but still not so they could talk; they would only receive messages and head off running to look for a public payphone from which to return the call.

Right now it’s hard not to be near a larger group of people without seeing someone pull out their Motorola and explain all its features and advantages.

Conversations about these can go on for hours, which prove that cell phones have become a fetish for considerable segment of the population.

All this would be acceptable if the phones were a really viable means of communication in Cuba, something that’s yet a reality given their relatively high prices.

Because of all this, these have emerged as something ridiculous.  It’s sad to see how people —carrying something practically useless at the moment— have made these phones a necessity for being socially accepted and recognized.


Daisy Valera

Daisy Valera:Soil scientist and blogger. I write from Mexico City, where Havana sometimes becomes so small that it disappears. However in others, the Cuban capital is a city so past and present that it steals your breath.

2 thoughts on “Cell Phones: Fetish of the People

  • @grok
    It is very difficult reading your well thought response. You might as well write with Crayons.

    As for Capitalist countries making us pay a lot of money for cell service, these companies get to develop their networks and reliability. It allows the market to “grow” and not “stagnate” in development. The reason the Capitalist have better, nicer, and more expensive things, is that we are willing to pay for these. We pay for products that have brand names we can most likely to trust. Sony, Microsoft, Samsung, Google, etc are all in a free market system. They don’t have to rely on the government to grow, although the government can help subsidize cost, it also limits growth potential. What came after the last sentence was irrelevant and made me realized I completely derailed myself. Anyways, any government can work, ours just seem to work best. If I had my way, the US would have a Absolute Monarchy. It really sucks having our progress bogged down by bureaucracy.

  • It’s a rotten fact that the countries which 1st had soc. revs were the weak links in the imperialist chain; so material deprivation has 4 the longest time been linked with soc. in most people’s minds, in no small part aided & abetted by relentless & opportunist imp. propaganda 2 that effect. Matters R swiftly changing however, as we can C by developments like this: where mass-produced electronics can now penetrate into even the most impoverished regions, if still not fully yet.

    But along with this ‘consumer fetishism’ come the pathologies of capitalist mass false-consciousness; & it’s here where the soc. organization of a society should make the most difference: once e.g. cubans get past the unavoidable ‘novelty’ phase, & cell usage becomes more rationalized & useful. So cutting costs is definitely a smart move by the gov.; & constant reduction of costs 2 the citizenry should B a top priority — unlike in cap. countries, where gouging of “consumers” is paramount.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *