Surviving Cuba’s Blackouts

Lord, give us light. Photo: Angel Yu

By Pedro Pablo Morejon

HAVANA TIMES – I wake up in the middle of a blackout, it’s a couple of minutes to 6 AM when the fan stops working. Dawn is breaking and I get out of bed in the darkness. It’s hot. I go to the bathroom and enjoy the cold embrace of the water from the shower on my body. 

Obviously, I can’t switch on the small electric stove, so I open the fridge, take out a bit of powdered milk and stir it with some water from the tap. It takes me a little while to dilute it, but I’m finally able to have breakfast with my rationed bread roll, and I’m comforted by the thought that I’m not in such a bad situation, that lots of people don’t even have milk to give to their children.

It’s Saturday, the day I’m with my daughter. Just before leaving the house, I see the electricity bill. The collection agent might have thought I wasn’t at home and had slipped it under my door. The back of the piece of paper ironically reads: “Save for Cuba” and “Only switch on the lights you need.” 

I leave the house, I take just a few steps before a truck stops, asks where I’m heading, I get in and think “what a nice guy”. On the highway, there are a dozen people trying to hitch a ride, but he passes them by.

“Mr. Lawyer, let me ask you something” and then I realize that the driver knows me, although he hasn’t heard (like the majority) that I’ve not practiced Law in a very long time and that I don’t want to have anything to do with it.  I clear up his queries, that are connected to his rights after a divorce and I understand why he picked me up. “He’s not such a nice guy,” I reflect.

I’m finally with my daughter, I take her a few things and we talk a lot. She tells me everything and what she tells me both scares and impresses me because of her maturity and ability to understand our reality, despite her only being 12 years old. I say goodbye to her in the same way we said hello: Soaking each other in in a long embrace, full of love. She’s a little sad but resigned, it’s always like that.

Getting home is an odyssey though, a long wait. I get onboard a horse-drawn cart towards the highway and then I get on a private truck. Two hours to get home and I’m happy, because it could have been a lot worse. 

Luckily, the electricity is back, the neighbor tells me that it came back at noon. I heat up my lunch, finish and take advantage to make some beans and some dinner. I don’t have a gas stove so I have to be prepared, the blackout might come back at any moment.

It’s 4 PM when the electricity cuts out again, but my meal is ready, and I feel like a visionary.

On the news they said that there had been some damage to the power generating plants and repairs were going to take a while. I haven’t believed in what they say for a long time now, they lie so much… I guess the power plants are out of play because they have outdated machinery and because there isn’t enough fuel – at least for the general population – electricity back-up generators aren’t working.  A drama with no solution.

Before night falls, I decide to take a shower and eat. My cellphone is almost out of charge and I can’t find a goddamn candle in the house. Neighbors kill boredom and the heat by talking outside about different issues.

I lay down and I manage to fall asleep despite the heat. I’m worried about a piece of meat and some beans in the fridge. They could go bad. I guess it’s around midnight when the electricity comes back on, at a time when I’m about to explode in sweat and exhaustion.

I charge my cellphone and manage to sleep until the fan stops. The clock marks 4 AM, another blackout, it’s Sunday and it promises to be another regular day, just like any other.

Read more from Pedro Pablo Morejon here.

One thought on “Surviving Cuba’s Blackouts

  • es Cuba! Wonderful description of the reality! Imagine what can be achieved in the next 63 years!
    To renew a previous comment, I look at my lovely intelligent stepdaughter now aged 11, and wonder what the future holds for her? What advice can one provide?
    In Cuba nothing changes!

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