A few days ago I got a call from my friend Magaly; she and I had studied together in the University of Havana’s philology program. Though she was from Las Villas Province, located in the center of the country, she had had to move to the capital because they didn’t offer what she wanted to study where she lived. Because of that, we met and established a great friendship that has lasted to this day.
When she called, Magaly said that she had heard some news on the radio that had left her concerned in relation to cellphones. The information that was broadcast urged people not to be alarmed if their phones weren’t working; the problem was that communication had been interrupted across the whole network, and therefore their individual phones couldn’t be used until this was sorted out.
Immediately upon hearing those words from my friend, I too got worried since this was the first time I’d received a notice of this type. On the other hand I thought that, despite what was happening; at least they had the decency to make the news known to the public through the media.
However I commented to Magaly about another situation I’d been going through over the past several weeks. The electricity at my job had been going out for one or two full days at a time, and when it returned we kept having trouble reconnecting to the Internet. It seems that fluctuating high and low voltage creates problems for the server. The upshot was that we were spending more time cut off from communications than we were connected.
Magaly told me that her cell phone had been given to her along with some money by some of her family members who live abroad when they last visited Cuba. She thought this would have solved her communication problems to some extent, despite the costs involved, but now it turns out that new difficulties that she hadn’t counted on are presenting themselves.
“I thought,” she said, “it would be worth having a cellphone, but I realized that I don’t have any security due to the instability in the service they offer.” In addition to that, she told me that the messages were slow in coming. Yet, in her opinion: “You have to have a goal for maintaining a cellphone line in Cuba, and my main goal is to stay in touch with my daughter who lives in the United States?”
After listening to everything that Magaly was outlining for me, I realized that she was completely right. The truth is that we Cubans can, for the most part, say that we remain cut off and distant from world technological development.
Both my friend and I know how much damage has been done to us by the embargo/blockade and the international financial crisis that everyone is going through, but this doesn’t mean that a service offered to the public — a quite an expensive one — offers no guarantees.
Magaly is one of many people in Cuba who, despite being an excellent professional, hasn’t been able to get a landline in her home. At the same time there are many other people who — undeservingly — are able to get conventional lines either through favoritism or by bribing some boss or someone working for the telecommunications company.
I’ve always kept in the back of my mind the phrase that for years has identified the telephone network in my country: “In war like in peace, we will maintain communications.”