Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Gimme Cable! / Yoani Sánchez

Gimme Cable! / Yoani Sánchez
Translator: Unstated, Yoani Sánchez

Some of the boredom of the year 1983 was broken by the visit of Oscar
D'Leon and his performance at the Varadero amphitheater. Amid the
tedium, he came to the Island of the Salsa Devil, to interpret with his
voice our own son classics. Along with the shout of "siguaraya!"* which
he launched in honor of the banned Celia Cruz, the most memorable part
of his visit was the request, "Gimme cable," which he repeated over and
over during his concerts. He tugged on the microphone while demanding
that the technician "Gimme cable, gimme cable" as he plunged into the
dancing crowds, overcome by his music. On his departure he left us that
phrase which became a metaphor for demanding freedom. "Gimme cable," the
kids would say when the parents demanded they cut their manes or get rid
of the tight paints. "Gimme cable," demanded the illegal vendor when the
police confiscated his merchandise. "Gimme cable," asked the husband,
when the wife went through his pockets, consumed by jealousy.

The expression slept in some corner of my mind and has reemerged with
the "appearance on the scene" of the fiber optic cable between Venezuela
and Cuba. Promised since 2008, it only made it to our coast this last
February, and then lapsed into a silence quite suspicious for an effort
that already cost more than seventy million dollars. At first it was
announced it would multiply the data transmission speed by 3,000 times,
but now, absurdly, they declare that it won't provide broad Internet
access to nationals. After accumulating several corruption scandals, the
investigation of two deputy ministers, and official guidance to
journalists not to talk about the details, the controversial cable has
now become an urban legend. Some assure us that they've seen it, touched
it, and say it's already providing service to a few people. Others
assert that it's just a smokescreen to placate the discontent of the
disconnected Cuban Internauts.

The truth is that not a single kilobyte flowing through its modern
fibers has yet reached our computers. The prices for surfing the web
from the hotels continue to be prohibitive and the connections there
suffer from a slowness that borders on fraud. Not only that, the assault
on the social networks — such as Facebook and Google — has intensified
in State workplaces. In a desperate act to make us believe that this
phantom umbilical cord between Santiago de Cuba and La Güaira, Venezuela
really exists, Deputy Minister Boris Moreno swore a few days ago that it
would be working in the coming months. But many of us feel like that
Venezuelan singer trying to reach his Cuban public despite the controls
of the "sound technician." Gimme cable! we ask and demand. Gimme cable!
we think… as in that old metaphor for freedom.

Translator's note:
The siguaraya is a Cuban bush — considered an orisha in the Santeria
religion — which figures in the the title of a famous song, Mata
Siguaraya, sung by Celia Cruz and others. The expression "this is the
country of the siguaraya" means "anything is possible here." Starting
about 3:00 minutes in this video you can see Oscar D'Leon in Varadero
trying to get a longer cable, and, at 3:30 you can hear him singing
"dame cable" (give me cable) over and over, and watch with the efforts
of several sound technicians to meet his demand.


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