Life, Culture and Travels from the perspective of a Cuban
Rampa Arriba, Rampa Abajo (Up and down Rampa)

I was having a fun Sunday, sitting outdoors and playing board games with some friends when I realized that one of my friends from Cuba was calling me from “Mexico”. Instantly, my Sunday got better.

I know this friend is currently in Havana, using the Viber account he once created in Mexico and that allows him to reconnect from anywhere. I don’t think he could create a Viber account with a Cuban phone number.

I picked up the phone right away, hoping to talk to him and perhaps to my mom too as they were out for lunch together. It turned out they were on 23rd Street (Rampa) connected to the famous Wi Fi that all Cubans are talking about these days. You can purchase a card for $2.00 CUC ($50.00 Pesos)/1 hour. I quickly found out that the cards are almost never available because people buy them from the government to resale on the street for $3. Of course, they had to buy it for $3.

The magic lasted a brief time. I was happy with the surprise but the connection was so terrible that we had to repeat the call many times. The street was crowded with people trying to use the connection but also with people trying to see what they could steal.  Havana’s 23rd street has always been a noisy street with a lot of traffic but now you have to add the hundreds of people who approach the area to connect to the internet, mainly to talk to their families. This picture of Cuban misery deserves at least one play, a book and a song. For them it was hot, stressful and strenuous.

We wanted to see each other but the images were abstract art. We forgot the video mode and tried to just talk to each other. Viber was not working for them. I could hear them at times but they could not hear me at all. My friend asked me to download IMO. We managed to talk a bit through IMO app but the whole thing was a struggle. Every couple of minutes we had to repeat the call.

My mom has not been working her entire life to see a pixelated and frozen picture of me while standing under the sun on a smelly street, afraid of my friend’s iPad being stolen. We are lucky to have the technology to do it, not everyone in Cuba has an iPad. We are also lucky to have the $3.00 CUC and even the possibility (and the health) to get to that street by foot. The fortune of having all this did not come from my mom’s  or anyone’s hard work in Cuba, it came from the Cubans who live abroad.

I was glad to hear their voices and decided to enjoy the moment and not to complain. We even made some jokes, like good Cubans do to treat all their traumas. After the call, I processed what needed to be processed in order to feel happy and left the rest for this post.

This is the pathetic solution that the Cuban government has found for the lack of connectivity on the island. I wonder what is next.

Also published on Medium.

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