Give Me Light

Daisy Valera

Graffiti agaist blackouts. Photo: Angel Yu

HAVANA TIMES — This past Saturday the lights went out at home, so I had to wish my husband a happy 26th birthday as he woke up in bed soaking in sweat.

The fan had gone off at 7:00 a.m., which made me think that this was due to some transformer having melted down or a car having hit a utility pole.

I was hoping that it would only take a couple hours for whatever it was to be fixed.

In any case, we left the house to buy some food to share with friends who would be coming over that night to spend some time with us.

But after four hours of being without power, the water also went off and I picked up the phone.

I learned that several areas in the Alamar neighborhood were without electricity that morning. Over in Santo Suarez they had been without electricity since the previous night.

This all made sense of the recent statements by the Spanish oil company Repsol concerning their having come up dry in their first attempt to drill a well in Cuban waters.

What also came to mind was a recent message in Mujeres magazine that read, “For energy conservation, your opinion is important – and your actions even more so.”

The word “conservation” inevitably refers to the word “shortage” and the scarcities then lead to hoarding.

I thought about candles, and hoarding candles, since I can’t afford a rechargeable lamp.

I found some less expensive candles on Arroyo Street. The saints of African religions apparently aren’t so demanding, so practitioners can buy candles at their religious stands for only three pesos in national currency (about 12 cents USD).

I got in line and joined in some light hoarding, picking up three white candles.

When I got home I tried waiting for the return of electric current by reading a book by Virgilio Piñera: Pequeñas maniobras (Minor Maneuvers), but I couldn’t concentrate.

The memories of blackouts throughout my childhood and adolescence were too close.

Memories came to mind of suffocating heat, mosquitoes (dengue-carrying ones or not), water shortages, reeking bathrooms in multifamily buildings, warm drinking water and being unable to quench one’s thirst.

Playing around making shadows on the wall isn’t enough to serve as an escape strategy when you’re 24

Twelve hours passed without the orderly flow of electrons, we prepared the food, and used up the last bottle of water.

Night came and so did our friends, while I continued to be nervous.

My worst memory of blackouts is waking up in the middle of absolute darkness and feeling trapped, unable to locate myself in space, not knowing if I was blind or dead.

At 8:30 the lights finally came back on, therefore we were able to eat and have a few drinks in peace.

Now I’m trying to stop thinking about some pending nighttime blackout, but the fact that they’ve begun to spread throughout the city daily doesn’t help much.


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.

4 thoughts on “Give Me Light

  • Daisy, I have the same memories. Fortunally, I have not experience a power lost for 23 years after living in a “capitalism system”; Therefore, I dont know which capitalism system is Grady bragging about. Anyways, now that we can set aside the Mark and Engels vague and unrealistic comments, lets focus on the real issue. Unless there’s a complete restructure of old electrical lines and transformers ( most dating in the 50’s and 60’s) the problem will just continue to emerge, of course let’s add the failure of the cuban goverment to provide sustainable electricity to their citizens due in part to a poor economic growth. Thank you for your post Daisy, and Im sorry to hear your struggle with blackouts.

  • Thanks for the slice of life under state monopoly socialism, Daisy. Ironically, your experience in this regard tends to prove that Cuba is not a “state capitalist” country, because these sorts of electricity problems would have been been exceptional, not routine, under any sort of “capitalist” system.

    It is fairly plain that state monopoly socialism, where markets forces have been discarded along with private productive property rights, and massive bureaucracy comes in to run things, is a non-science-based, unnatural system. What is not so plain is how some older leftist leaders refuse to acknowledge that this unnatural system was stipulated by Marx and Engels under the false claim of being “scientific.” Even so, the stipulation is right there in the Manifesto, in black and white, for anyone to see.

    I suppose that to acknowledge it would destroy their secular gods, and therefore their secular religion. On the positive side, they would then be free to use their brains in support of socialism, rather than looking high and low for other Marxian scripture to cover up the truth. Stay cool!

  • but moses, whenever there is a rare blackout in america there`s looting and riots and a complete breakdown in laura norder. i love laura. i was in cuba for 2 months and there were 3 blackouts for 1 hour approximately. 2 in the morning and 1 in the evening. would you call that regular? with companies like enron thieving from the customers in the kleptocracy, plutocracy, old people can be thankful that they are still alive with cheap heating oil from the venezuelan oil company. there should be accountability for 1 hour blackouts. off with their heads. just like the red queen in alice in wonderland. 1 american president was talking about exploitation in africa by a european country and i was reminded of the walrus and the carpenter. which one is the worst, alice? the carpenter was crying for the poor little oysters and pushing more into his mouth under his handkerchief !

  • During my visits to Cuba, blackouts are a regular occurence. No surprise there. What surprises me is how Cubans just accept these outages without a whimper (OK, maybe whimpers) . I tell you that if the lights in my middle-class San Francisco neighborhood went out all day there would be hell to pay. First, electric customers would jam the electric company switchboard to find out what was going on. Second, if the reason was human error, heads would roll. Somebody would be fired. Finally, in the next montly statement, some sort of corporate apology would be issued. In Cuba, it appears to me that there is no accountability demanded for these occurences. No one complains. At least not to anyone who matters.

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