Electricity Blues in Cuba’s Homes

Rosa Martinez

Photo from Bayamo, Cuba

HAVANA TIMES, Nov. 2 — The bad news came my co-worker Magdalena, who arrived to work early that day, the same as me, since we had the first shift of classes.

“Did you hear the latest, Rosi?” she asked me, laughing incredulously.

“No, what happened?” I asked, full of suspense.

“The price of electricity went up again,” she whispered.

“What?” I said shocked.  That must have been a bad joke.  “Magdalena, don’t play like that; it’s not funny,” I said to her in all seriousness.

“It’s no joke.  I heard it on the radio early this morning.”

I couldn’t believe it.  I had spent two months fighting with the Electric Company over my being way over-billed – and now this.

At home I’ve duplicated all possible measures to save energy: we practically live in the dark, I wash and iron every fifteen days; when a lot of clothes pile up, I wash some by hand; I defrost the refrigerator religiously every five days and I only use the electric burner when I have absolutely no other alternative.

I believe I’ve exhausted the ideas about how to save any more.  So, just when I thought I had won that battle, they launched this new attack.

If I have to pay more than 200 pesos for electricity, I think my lifestyle will slide back to the Middle Ages: no more TV, no more refrigerator and zero DVD.  We’ll light the home with candles or lanterns, and cook with firewood or coal; but pay 300 pesos – NEVER!

It’s true that the public notice printed in the Granma newspaper says that the new electricity rate aims to encourage energy conservation and the rational use of current in homes that consume more than 300 kilowatt/hours monthly, which they say represents only 5.6 percent the population.  But I believe that figure has to be higher than that.

I’m a witness to the number of consumers who go to the offices of the Electric Company daily to complain about high bills.  Most think their meters are damaged or that problems exist in the lines.  Others even believe that some neighbor has taped into their line and is stealing current, or that the technicians are intentionally reading the meter wrong, though they don’t know how to prove that.

Most think the old rate was already unfair

What’s certain is that the majority think the present price of electricity is unfair.  Imagine a worker who is only paid 400 pesos a month and having to pay 120 pesos or more just for that service.

The latest edition of a local newspaper published an article related to cases of hustlers who come up with a thousand gimmicks and gambits to use electricity without ever having to pay.  I don’t approve of these types of schemes, but I realize that among the cases cited there must have been some person who was forced to commit one of these misdeeds in order to subsist.

I say that because for those accustomed to air conditioning it’s bothersome to do without this,but it can be done.  In Cuba the summer is eternal, but you can also shut off fans during non-sleeping hours and turn off the majority of the lights in homes, but no one can live without eating.  And it turns out, now all the stoves, ranges and pressure cookers we use to prepare food are electric.

Mothers who work outside of the home have to cook early in the morning to avoid peak-hours when the demand is greatest nationally.  Though they select other alternatives when possible, there is no other choice than to use the electric appliances sold to us by the government, the same one that seemed not to notice that this would trigger greater electrical consumption in the whole country.

Of course there should be the continued encouragement of conservation in our houses, and not only of electricity but of all potential resources.  It’s just that I don’t believe that jacking up the rate is the solution.

If we presently live off an average wage of 350 pesos ($17.50 USD), we’ll have to be doing some Cirque de Soleil juggling to address our most basic needs.  I don’t want to imagine what will now happen to the 5.6 percent who will be affected; I only I hope that I’m not in that group, not even by accident.

One thought on “Electricity Blues in Cuba’s Homes

  • rosie its like this all over the world and as we all are aware the hydro cost in cuba are more expensive than in other parts of the world but we here in canada pay up to 9.98 cents a kw and our bilss are also very high as we just received another notice recently that the rates will grow to almosr 16 cents or more a kw
    the roommate you speak of > was she ever in toronto canada in 2008 its very important i find out because i have a trip planned for your country in march 2011 if she is that women then shes in for quit a shock tell her im the man she meet on the bus that day
    if it is her tell her i will see her again soon
    lawrence t gates
    647-8885699 est 706pm nov 04/2010

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