Cuba: A Census in ‘Sotto Voce’

Dariela Aquique

Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES — A Census is the official lists of the inhabitants or citizens of a state, as well as their assets or properties. A rather unusual census is being carried out in Cuba right now, one in sotto voce (a hushed voice).

It is one of the wildest things I’ve heard in recent times (keeping in mind that wild things are commonplace on our island when it comes to social issues). This census is seeking to survey the number of people who have computers and cellphones.

Of course State Security has ordered that this “task” to be carried out by the neighborhood Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDRs), which will employ their usual strategies of gossiping and probing into the lives of others through seemingly naive questions such as:

“Neighbor…does Jane Blow own a home computer?”

To which the response might be: “Yeah, brother, and her daughter has a cellphone.”

So, as if they don’t want those things, they begin making lists or providing such information through the so-called “appropriate channels” (what a horrible phrase).

I think it might be easier to establish this control through the files of Cubacel (the nation’s only cellphone service provider), which has the names of every individual who has ever had a cellphone contract.

Perhaps control over those people with PCs will prove more difficult, given that most of them have acquired their machines on the black market. This is because the government supply, in addition to being woefully inadequate, is extremely expensive – considering the miserable wages paid in this country.

This type of census — though no official information have been given about it, and it’s shrouded in terms that are almost  subterranean — is a response to the panic being experienced by the government, which feels that the threat of inevitable collapse is hanging over its head.

The information revolution, cellphones and satellites are out of its bounds of control. The proliferation of information has shortened distances and accelerated analytical processes to speeds such that immediacy has become a key operational factor.

To quote Faisel Iglesias from his article “Por una nueva concepción de la Sociedad, el Estado y el Derecho cubanos (For a New Conception of Cuban Society, the State and Rights), published in the Hispanic cultural journal Otro Lunes (January 2010), he says:

“A movement known as “new epistemology” or “alternative epistemology” helped change the idea that until then was held by science and the mechanisms that shaped it. This transition from one epoch to another is also linked to a range of social, political and cultural factors that have helped shape the times: the struggles for civil rights, for the environment, etc.”

This is known by the Cuban leadership, which is why they are so afraid of technology and its use. This is why an explanation has never been given about what really happened with the famous fiber-optic cable linking Cuba to the world via Venezuela.

This is why most Cubans have no access to the Internet. And this is why they appeal to resources so ignoble as neighborhood gossip to carry out their underhanded census of those who do and don’t own cellphones or PCs


Dariela Aquique

Dariela Aquique: I remember my years as a high school student, especially that teacher who would interrupt the reading of works and who with surprising histrionics spoke of the real possibilities of knowing more about the truth of a country through its writers than through historical chronicles. From there came my passion for writing and literature. I had excellent teachers (sure, those were not the days of the Fast-track Teachers) and extemporization and the non-mastery of subjects was not tolerated. With humble pretenses, I want to contribute to revealing the truth about my country, where reality always overcomes fiction, but where a novel style shrouds its existence.

9 thoughts on “Cuba: A Census in ‘Sotto Voce’

  • July 22, 2012 at 3:45 am

    Hello from NYC, NY! So here’s another entry I am going to save. If Cubacel does not share it’s information with the people who are announcing the census, then this is very much like what goes on here in the USA.

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