By Erasmo Calzadilla
HAVANA TIMES — Reading an article written by Warhol P., a “pleasant” experience, which I had the honor of playing a part in, popped back into my mind.
A group of Cubans who have settled here in Dallas, organized a kind of welcoming party. It was the holidays at the end of the year.
And what kind of music did they play for several hours? You guessed it, thumping reggaeton, non-stop reggaeton. You could say that I left Cuba, fleeing from reggaeton culture more than from the Castros, so you can imagine how I felt for the first half of the “party”.
However, when the party had reached its peak and everybody had had a couple of drinks, I discovered that I could use my smartphone to change the music and I got ready to get my revenge.
I began with some shamanic songs from North American indigenous people, moving onto la nueva troba cubana, I traveled through the soundscapes of old country music from Texas, Deep Metal, Psychodelic Rock, Inuit folk, “Las Ballenas” by Roberto Carlos, Paisaje Con Rio… I was slowly achieving my aim, to get people bored so that they would leave, but things were moving too slowly.
Those who remained started shouting for another DJ or used their own phones to put on reggaeton… By this point, nobody had remembered that this was MY welcoming party. And a hurrah for Cuban punks, the neighborhood’s flashiest, players, the cult of violence, of money, and women being treated like sex objects.
However, a great idea came to me to piss them off: Music from the Islamic State! The result was explosive – while it may appear redundant – like a bucket of ice cold water thrown on the heat of a rampage. The party came to a complete standstill.
Somebody said: “Now we’re all going to be closely watched by State Security (the National Security Agency) for being somewhere where these crazy people’s music was played.” Another friend with brains tried to convince me that it wasn’t only about people’s fear of the vigilantes, but especially about their disagreement with the extremist Islamic movement: These people oppress women, hate freedom, kill gays and everybody who doesn’t share their religion… The atmosphere became quite serious.
I don’t approve of their modus operandi either, nor do I defend their values – I replied – but I understand that the law of attraction/reaction doesn’t only work in physics. It only takes a few words to understand somebody who explains themselves well.
I lost the right to put on music for the rest of the night and I was left with a bitter taste in my mouth for having taken the game too far. The reggaeton loving people in Dallas have forgiven me even though they will never invite me to one of their parties again.
However, the moral of this story isn’t my phobia of reggaeton but of the fear that the National Security Agency awakens in nearly everyone here. Thanks to E. Snowden, the world knows that THEY have easy access to information collected by Etecsa* – I mean Google, Facebook, Microsoft and the rest of the companies which monopolize our private information – and can consult this without having to ask for a legal warrant. Nobody would like to spend some paid holidays without a return date, “snorkelling” in Guantanamo Bay.
Talking about this subject with Cuban emigres in the US, one of them even told me: “I don’t mind that they check my private documents, I have nothing to hide. THEY are protecting me from the bombs.”
On the other extreme end of the spectrum, I have a friend who is truly afraid about the total control they have of our information and our lack of privacy.
These are radical standpoints which reflect the tension there is in the current political climate, an anxiousness which reminds me of what it was like to be in Cuba in the ‘80s (I was born in 1975); when we used to whisper to criticize the government and we used to suspect that there were hidden microphones everywhere.
Somebody here who knows Cuba very well, told a good joke about the subject: “In Cuba, State Security goes to great lengths to install secret microphones, in the US, we pay a lot of dollars to get gadgets which they then spy on us with.”
The number of US citizens who die every year because of terrorism is much less than the number of gun-related deaths**. However, efforts to keep people’s private lives under surveillance with the pretext to prevent terrorism receive a lot more government funding than those to try and put controls on selling guns. I wonder why that is…
- *ETECSA: Cuba’s Telecommunications Company. It’s a state-owned monopoly.
- ** Statistics and the graph about US deaths caused by terrorism and gun-related murders were taken from this article published on CNN.