By Fabiana del Valle
HAVANA TIMES – I take a deep breath, put on my best face and minimize the document I’ve spent hours working on, trying to write a poem. When my dog starts barking, I know that I need to stop whatever I’m doing at the time. He’s like a kind of alarm, he warns me of the beginning of a routine that is barely ever pleasant.
That’s why I’m ready when my first customer comes. Yamile appears at my window with her Christmas tree smile. She greets me, pulls her mask down to her neck and gives me two flash drives.
Fabiana, are you recording?
I’ve had that same question repeated to me every day for almost six years. Well yes, I’m recording the Weekly Package! I’m a housewife, mother, painter and writer, but necessity has driven me to also do this job, which has been my only source of income during these pandemic times.
The Weekly Package is a collection of digital material that has been distributed across the country on the illicit market, since 2008. It’s a substitute for the Internet, and Cuban TV, of course.
Distribution is illegal, although tolerated, I guess that’s because there’s no material on it against the government, of a subversive, obscene or pornographic nature. Its content is just educational or for entertainment.
Even so, I live with the fear that the authorities will decide one day to punish those who record it and make a lesson out of me. I have quite some bad luck at times!
The Package has a terabyte of material, including videogames, apps for mobiles and the PC, cartoons, soap operas, series, movies, documentaries, anime etc.
Nobody knows who compiles this material, I’m just the last link in the chain. The one that deals with the public and has to live uneasy but necessary situations. I have enough stories to write a book and leave it behind to my grandchildren.
The government has criticized the banality of many of the shows on the Package, on more than one occasion. That’s why they created the “Mi Mochila” (My backpack) program in August 2014, developed by the Youth IT Clubs. This would become its official competition.
While the proposal could have been interesting, it didn’t really take off. It was poorly distributed and institutions weren’t very dynamic so it just stayed on the shelves.
When my brother and I decided to save some money and buy a hard drive, we didn’t think about the opportunity to set up a business. At that time, we were just looking for interesting content to fill our moments of boredom. But things began to flow, and I slowly found myself mixed up in this whirlpool that I’m in now.
My parents don’t hold this business in high esteem, anything considered “illegal” is dangerous to them. Just that after six years, they’ve learned to tolerate the presence of people coming in and out of the house with their flash drives full of audiovisual content.
I don’t like this job, nor does it give me a great source of income because I live in a rural area. But I’ve been able to help my parents and pay some bills with what little I make.
Now, with Yamile resting on my windowpane, I remember that day she came to me and, almost in a whisper, asked if I had a good movie. I began to list a whole bunch of the ones I think are great, but she just kept shaking her head. Her eyes opened and closed, sending all kinds of signals while she repeated:
“Nooooo, woman, a good movie. You know? That’s good. You know?”
“Ah, that! No, my dear, I don’t have those kinds of movies.”
Even though it’s been a while since then and I even find it a bit funny now, I still can’t get over that unpleasant moment. That’s why every time she comes, I need to take a deep breath, count to infinity while I put my show face on, the one I use to carry out this much-needed job.