Electronic Romance for Cuban Couples

Yenisel Rodriguez 

Cuban on a cell phone. Photo: Caridad

Nowadays, “caller paying” equals see how much I love you.  Assuming the full cost of a telephone call [in Cuba both the caller and receiver normally pay] is also a good way of showing affection to one’s partner.

When on the screen of their cellphone, the boyfriend or girlfriend who is called recognizes the code “00” (meaning “caller paying”), then cybernetics joins with the language of heart.  On that same screen will also be read: “You’re important to me, and note that I’ve invested 60 cents a minute to talk with you my love.”

But new romantic conflicts also arise.  To verify fidelity, inquiries are made to find out who’s paying the bill.  To a jealous boyfriend or girlfriend, suspicions are aroused concerning phone calls made to their other half by some “caller paying” who’s named Yolanda or Alfredito, people who don’t belong to the couple’s group of close friends.

Imagine the reaction if the number of calls made from some unknown person using the revered two-zero code surpass those received from one’s better half.  A sticky situation!

Also transformed are the identities of the rose-garden suitors of princesses.  Their old clothes and sorry looks have been replaced by “missed calls” or futile attempts to get women to respond to code “*99” (“collect call”).  The scornful gazes that beautiful princesses in the past used to shoot at hapless wooers have now been replaced by phone-call and message blocks.

Nostradamus, from the heights of his tower, foresaw how other toads in the neighborhood would miraculously transform into handsome princes before the aristocratic beauties of the community, all from the magic power of two zeros.

Things are starting to change here, more in form than in content.  Now things are also getting difficult for those excluded from good fortune to access the rituals of romantic conquest and digital passion.  Aspiring to be one zero is now a privilege, much more so achieving the status of two western zeros.

ETECSA advertisement. Photo: Caridad

ETECSA (the telecommunications company that manages Cuba’s digital telephone system) is identified with the slogan: “ETECSA: In line with the world.”  And it’s right!  Today First World technology transcends the initial utility that it promised us, allowing our feelings to harmonize with the well-being and development of the First World.

Cuba has incorporated the traditions of “Mr. Money measures everything.”   These are the new robes of inequality and distinction, ones of superficiality and egocentrism.

Right now, like the Mexicans say, we’re going to see handmade “minus signs” seeking to reduce personal values to zero at all costs.  With 99 to double-zero, we’re seeing ourselves forced to reduce our identities to be able to express our feelings of appreciation and passion.  In this way gaps are narrowing from where to escape the new forms of domination.

But like always, at the last moment recommence the cries of those who are displeased with codes and restricted accesses.  They’ll again come down from the remote hills to offer alternatives and resistance.  They will be boyfriends and girlfriends able to put their trust and security in qualitative and not quantitative codes.

We’ll celebrate in Shrek’s swamp with our cellphones without credit, but with princesses and princes, with garden suitors who will put love beyond zeros and 99s.

God willing!