Is Cuba’s Phone Company Celebrating a Pre-Revolutionary Holiday?

Dmitri Prieto

Photo: Raquel Perez Diaz

HAVANA TIMES — Cuba’s State telecommunications monopoly (ETECSA) has accustomed those of us who use its mobile phone services – there are no other options on the island, and we CubaCel users are already in the millions – to expect promotional offers (of the kind where any purchase of credit over 20 CUC is doubled) near socially significant dates, such as Mother’s Day, Saint Valentine’s and Christmas.

For Mother’s Day, for instance, any line credit purchased from abroad between May 12 and 15 was doubled.

The strange thing is that yesterday, for the second time this month, I received a message with a similar offer. What’s strange isn’t that the offer applies to credit purchases made at the “homestead”, as we affectionately refer to our homeland (they’ve been doing that for some time now), but that they should make two such offers in a single month. The latest offer is valid from May 19 to 22.

The question is: what important date falls within that span of time?

The answer sticks out like a sore thumb: in addition to the anniversary of Jose Marti’s death (on May 19), a very strange reason to offer a discount, as it is a day of mourning and not of celebration, the “patriotic date” that fits the bill perfectly is May 20.

May 20, 1902 is the date in which Cuba was “formally” proclaimed an “independent” State, and it was a national holiday until the first yeas of the post-insurrectional period (after 1959). The date was celebrated with the same gusto with which the 4th of July is still celebrated in the United States.

I use quotation marks because Cuba’s “independent” status came with a proviso that entitled the United States to intervene militarily whenever its leaders deemed it necessary, and to set up military bases on Cuban soil. It was the beginning of a neo-colonial period that would last more than 50 years and whose restrictions upon Cuban sovereignty were the reason the day was ditched as a festive holiday (and why “socialist Cuba” traded it for January 1st)

But there are those today who, with affection, nostalgia and even a wish for retribution or revenge, fondly recall the holiday of old.

Could Cuba’s State telecommunications monopoly be paying tribute to the 20th of May as well?

Note that the offer applies to purchases made “in Cuba.” What an interesting symptom of “normalization”!


Dimitri Prieto-Samsonov

Dmitri Prieto-Samsonov: I define myself as being either Cuban-Russian or Russian-Cuban, indiscriminately. I was born in Moscow in 1972 of a Russian mother and a Cuban father. I lived in the USSR until I was 13, although I was already familiar with Cuba-- where we would take our vacation almost every year. I currently live on the fifth floor of an apartment building in Santa Cruz del Norte, near the sea. I’ve studied biochemistry and law in Havana and anthropology in London. I’ve written about molecular biology, philosophy and anarchism, although I enjoy reading more than writing. I am currently teaching in the Agrarian University of Havana. I believe in God and in the possibility of a free society. Together with other people, that’s what we’re into: breaking down walls and routines.

7 thoughts on “Is Cuba’s Phone Company Celebrating a Pre-Revolutionary Holiday?

  • There was a policy to encourage or favour immigration from “the old country”, and racial issues were part of that motivations. But there were also the large landowners who wanted cheap labour for their sugar plantations and that meant drawing in immigrants, or at least migratory workers, from Haiti & Jamaica.

    The interesting feature is that up until 1959, Cuba was a popular destination for immigrants. After 1959, almost nobody moved to Cuba and about 20% of the population has left the island. Something about socialist utopias, I guess.

  • Thanks Griffin. My understanding is that the Government of Cuba had a policy of encouraging white immigration as they were concerned about the rising percentage of blacks. But, I’ll delve further and report if I find anything definite.

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