A few days ago while walking down Obispo Street, near the Plaza de Armas, I decided to go in the “Goldsmith Museum.” Its windows had always caught my attention, but I had never stopped for a tour. Of course I know why: I don’t care much for jewelry.
While I recognize that there are exceptions, most of the time the designs are too repetitive and outdated for my taste, at least that’s what I see when I look at sales tables or in establishments that display jewelry for sale.
Nevertheless, that day I found something different.
There was an exhibit by a goldsmith named Abel Camejo, who was showing off his rings, brooches, piercings, necklaces and earrings, all made with pieces of old clocks and obsolete computer parts.
As I was looking at microprocessors converted into earrings and USB cables turned into necklaces, I thought how this was a good idea for recycling of materials (though I have no idea what health implications this idea might have). I also considered the implicit claim of the dependency of humans on technology, and I even thought about how this could be a good story for Havana Times.
Notwithstanding, I was immediately overcome with a feeling of ambivalence, not for the exhibit per se, but about me writing a story about this. Why? Perhaps for foreigners who might read such a story or to some Cubans this exhibit wouldn’t mean anything special, but how could I tell any of those in the majority in this country that old PC parts are being used to make jewelry if few of them even know what it is to own a computer.
The vast majority of us Cubans see purchasing a computer as something exotic or abstract, even though the government “liberated” the sale of them back in 2008. But this was a liberation of words and a few deeds since these sales are done in hard currency CUCs while people’s monthly wages are paid in another currency. Moreover, one almost doesn’t have to mention the prices: just a chassis with a 450 w power supply costs 110 CUCs, to cite just one example. What the government did was formally allow something that was previously forbidden, though still without giving everyone real access to it.
One has to wade through the black market to acquire this desired tool of work or study, even though one still runs into the brick wall of the still high — though somewhat lower — prices and the lack of guarantees offered by these clandestine vendors. Nonetheless, it’s the best option.
“New Line,” the name of the exhibit by Abel Camejo, seemed clever to me. I thought that it gave a modern twist to the Cuban goldsmith, but it still reminded me that we suffer from technological backwardness.
We often demand the right of everyone to have access to the Internet, but before that, we would all need to have the instrument that allows this.
What’s more, we would all like to be able to pay for these with results of our labor, and that computers not be affordable only for a privileged few.
I imagine that some people will think I’m exaggerating, especially if they already have a computer. To them I can only say that I’m speaking from experience. Many of those who write for this website don’t have one, and others have spent years assembling what they do have, putting their machines together part by part – like Frankenstein’s monster.