HAVANA TIMES – Cuba has a long history of blackouts. Dating from the 1960s right up until our present day.
When I was a little girl, blackouts were so common that nobody used to question them. Back then, my mother would sit in the doorway and begin to sing. My brothers and sisters and I would huddle around her and sing too. We used to sing lots of Cuban songs, especially Boleros, until we would get sleepy and go to bed. We would get under the mosquito net and, dying of heat, fall asleep.
During that time, the electricity going “on and off” killed my mother’s fridge and an old TV that we couldn’t replace until we were all much older. I have never understood the reason for cutting the electricity and putting it back on several times, one after the other. Something that still happens.
While blackouts didn’t completely disappear in the ‘80s, the situation did get a lot better.
I don’t need to say anything about the ‘90s… we had so few hours with light that instead of blackouts, we had alumbrones (flashes of light). Then, I didn’t know whether we couldn’t sleep because of the summer heat, or climate change, but it was unbearable.
We would go out onto the balcony at our apartment. I would lay out my son’s bed with a mosquito net, so he could sleep like he was in the jungle underneath the moon. My grandparents, mother and I would tell stories or play cards under a lantern’s light.
One day, I was given a Chinese lantern and it was as if we had stepped out of the Dark Ages. It gave off white light, and would last all night. However, it had one drawback: it didn’t have glass around it. I took it to get fixed and to get a metal mesh cover around it. At night, we lit it and surprise! We had light.
We were all very happy. Until one night we invited some friends to come play dominoes, because my grandfather really liked to play. Suddenly, it caught fire and… we all jumped up and ran.
I remember my grandfather throwing a jug of water that he used to put to freeze for ice, and it was still a little cold. Between us all we managed to put out the fire that was already making its way out of the window.
The ceiling ended up completely black with soot, and my son, mother and I covered it in stars and planets that we made out of plasticine, that we put up on the roof, throwing them up with all our strength so they would stick and they would keep the shape we made them into.
I remembered all of this last Saturday, while watching a movie and the electricity went out. Ten minutes hadn’t gone by before it was put back on. A few minutes later, it went out again and so I gave up on trying to watch the movie.
My son says that it might be something like how annoying commercials can be on foreign TV programs. However, I can assure you blackouts, especially the electricity “coming and going” is a lot worse and humiliating. Believe me.